Dock Requirements

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The placement of docks, hoists, buoys, and swim platforms in the sovereign water of the State of Iowa is regulated by Iowa Department of Natural Resources. In some cases cities or counties might have additional requirements for the land adjacent to a dock and there are special regulations for dock management areas using state owned land.

There are four classes of dock permits:

Class 1 - Standard Private Dock - no fee required

Class 2 - City or County Authorized Dock - no fee required

Class 3 - Non Standard private Dock - fee required

Class 4 - Commercial Dock - fee required

A Dock Clarification Matrix that will help determine the class of dock permit required. CLICK HERE

This short summary does not include all of the provisions of the new DNR Chapter 16 dock rules. The DNR Dock Permit webpage is  CLICK HERE

All docks must have a sign with the owners’ local 911 street address, city, and permit number affixed to the end of the dock, with a minimum of 1” high letters. The name is not required.  This information is of great assistance to the Lake Patrol along with fire and rescue services when they are trying to locate an emergency. Suppliers of dock signs include: Amy’s Sign Design 332-7007 in Arnolds Park, Lee Nation Signs 336-5242, Tri-State Litho 336-2476, & Okoboji Graphics 336-2420 in Spirit Lake, Remillard Signs 712/ 836-2470 in Dickens, and Woodworkers Shop 712/ 209-0563 in Estherville.

A five-foot offset between neighboring docks, hoists and slips is required for all docks on each side of the property line. There are exceptions to the offset, dock length, number of hoists and slips, and platform size requirements.   

Even with a dock permit, the public cannot be prevented from using water areas around the dock and hoists, nor can they be prevented from stepping on or over a dock to walk or wade parallel to the shore.  Otherwise, a lawfully permitted dock is the property of the permit holder and is reserved to the legal use of the permit holder.

Dock Management Areas in Dickinson County include: East Okoboji Beach, Triboji Lakeshore, Triboji Lazy Lagoon, and Pillsbury Point.

There are special electrical safety precautions that should be used when installing electricity over water CLICK HERE

Local information on DNR requirements for docks, hoists, buoys, mooring buoys, and swim platforms along with application forms can be obtained from the DNR Fish Hatchery at Spirit Lake, telephone 712/ 336-1840.


Iowa Great Lakes Water Safety Council PO Box 232 Spirit Lake, IA 51360