Date of Award


Publication Type


Degree Name



Earth and Environmental Sciences


Chris Houser


Ali Polat



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Wind waves and wave-generated currents are known to contribute to shoreline change, but there is increasing evidence that vessel-generated waves (i.e., boat wakes) may be responsible for erosion of shorelines in fetch-limited environments. Depending on vessel type and speed of operation, boat wakes have also been shown to be capable of resuspending sediment, degrading habitat, and water quality, and causing damage to shoreline infrastructure. The number of cottages and recreational boats on inland lakes has been steadily increasing in recent decades in Ontario, Canada, which has resulted in a growing perception that boat wakes are detrimental to the environment, infrastructure, and the shoreline. The Muskoka Lakes region (i.e., Lake Joseph, Lake Rosseau, and Lake Muskoka) is colloquially known as the center of “Canadian Cottage Country,” with approximately 7,000 cottages along 480 km of shoreline. Using low-cost wave and water level sensors developed and built at the University of Windsor, the purpose of this study is to assess the relative contribution of boat wakes to total wave energy at ten sites across the Muskoka Lakes and to assess the perception of boat wakes among the region’s cottage owners. Results collected from the ice-free cottage season of 2022 (June - September) suggest that on average 66% of the total wave energy at the shoreline is due to vessel-generated wakes. The relative contribution of wake energy to the total wave energy is inversely related to the fetch length, while the length of time that wakes are present at the shoreline is directly related to the fetch length. While boats wakes have been linked to shoreline erosion in many environments, results of this study suggest that the impact is perceived or assumed, further research is required to determine when and where they may be detrimental, and not simply a nuisance.