Four Types of Docks

While visiting one of my listings on Lake Superior’s Madeline Island last summer, I noticed a type of dock that’s different from anything in my neighborhood.  We’re on a smaller inland lake where most people use either floating docks or pipe docks.

So they won’t be destroyed by ice, inland lake docks are usually removed every winter and then put back out in the spring.  Some are on wheels so they can be rolled in and out of the lake in just a few minutes.  In contrast, many of the docks on Lake Superior are massive, permanent crib docks filled with granite boulders.  They’re not going anywhere.

In his book The Dock Manual, Max Burns describes four types of docks: pipe, floating, permanent, and specialty (cantilever and specialty).  (If you’re thinking of purchasing, building, or repairing a dock, I highly recommend this book from Story Press; it’s pretty much the definitive guide.)

Which type of dock is right for you?  It depends on the lake, the shoreline terrain, the depth of water, the current, and how much the water level fluctuates.  Here’s the short version: for shallow water, a firm lakebed, and water levels that don’t fluctuate much, a pipe dock is usually the best choice.  For deeper water and fluctuating water levels, go with a floating dock.

If you’re on on, say, Lake Superior, you’ll be dealing with a firm lakebed, constant water levels, and big waves from which you’d like to shelter your boat.  That makes a crib dock the best choice.   You’ll want to orient it so it provides maximum protection from waves being created by the prevailing winds.

For more details on choosing and building the dock that’s right for you, check out The Dock Manual.

If you are planning to buy a lake home or cabin this year, check out my current lakeshore listings in NW Wisconsin at

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