My parents bought our lake lot in 1966, cleared the land, drove a well by hand, got a mobile home and it was great — except for the muck and lake weeds, or “seaweed” as we called it.
We pulled weeds out literally by the tons — literally!
The weeds were thick and creepy. And if you put your foot down, you’d sink up past your knee in muck. The boat motor prop was always getting tangled in a mass of weeds.
Dad owned a construction company — he was tough — and wasn’t going to put up with lake weeds. He brought in a giant hay rake with long chains. — Using a tractor, he pulled weeds out by the tons — literally!
We’d load the huge piles of weeds into trucks and trailers and haul them off. It was back breaking work, but the beach was clear… for a while.
And then — the weeds grew back
The weeds grew back, even thicker than before. We didn’t know then, but the more weeds we pulled the more new weeds were created from pieces of weeds that broke off.
So Dad brought in a back-hoe, dug out the muck, dumped in stones and covered the area with sand. It was a great beach — for about a year.
And then… the next year the sand and stones sank in the muck, the silt washed in on top of the sand…and the weeds grew back, thicker than before.
And the weeds grew back even thicker
We tried landscape fabric on the lake bottom, held in place with bricks (he was a mason, by trade) and dumped more sand over the fabric. Except for stubbing our toes on the bricks, it was a great beach — for about a year.
And then the landscape fabric sank becoming a tangled mess, the silt washed in and the weeds grew back, thicker than before.
After that, Dad shifted focus and started building amazing swimming rafts with diving boards and slides. He anchored the rafts out past the weeds in deep water so we could swim.
If you can’t beat ‘em… build a nice swim raft.
The swim rafts Dad built were terrific, but they didn’t change the fact the weeds had won. Though my dad had grown up farming hundreds of acres (with horses) and built huge, commercial buildings, he hadn’t conquered the lowly lake weeds.
Eventually, he accepted defeat. He’d cut one narrow path through the weeds to get the boats in and out, he stopped building swim rafts and retired at the lake. He said he liked it best in the winter when the lake was frozen over.
I asked him why he liked the lake when it was frozen.
“No weeds,” he said.
I poisoned the weeds — it didn’t work either
Years later, I had three young kids of my own. They wanted to bring their friends to the cottage and swim. By this time, it was a new era in aquatic weed control for me. It was the age of “aquatic herbicides.”
A supplier sold me some crazy-expensive herbicide, assuring me it was safe for fish and humans. I treated the weeds, followed the instructions to the letter, and waited patiently. It didn’t work at all.
So, I raked out as much “seaweed” as I could and told my kids, “Walking through lake weeds is like walking through a lovely field.” “
Yuck,” my kids responded.
So I built a nice swim raft for them.
The nuclear option — professional weed treatment
The next year I went back to the lake management company and told them the chemicals didn’t kill the weeds. They said I should have the whole lake “professionally treated.” Great idea!
We met with all the neighbors. They were very enthusiastic — until they found out the price. That was the end of that great idea.
So, I bought more expensive herbicide and put it on double strength. And it killed about half of the weeds.
Meanwhile, a neighbor called the DNR about aquatic weed killers. When he found he needed a pricey permit and what it cost, he protested that I didn’t have a permit.
Then, the DNR called me.
The DNR called me — not happy at all. “Sorry, I didn’t know I needed a permit,” I said, and promised to get one next time. Except I didn’t, because by then, the weeds had already grown back.
I wasn’t about to waste more money on chemicals that didn’t work. I haven’t used them since.
Years went by, my kids grew up. I watched new neighbors battle their muck and weeds. They’d rake and pull, sinking in the muck while they worked. Some used chemicals. Of course, nothing worked.
One new neighbor put down a tarp over the weeds and held it down with rocks. It was slippery to walk and after a few days it bubbled up and floated to shore, leaving the rocks in their beach for people to stub their toes on.
The tarp didn’t work well, but it killed the weeds where it had laid.
Dad, why don’t weeds grow under the boat?
That same year, my youngest son asked why weeds didn’t grow under the boats tied to our dock. “That’s because weeds need sunlight, just like any other plant,” I said, “the boats block the sun.”
Then my son added, “It would be a good idea if there was a snowshoe for lakes, so a person could walk around without sinking in muck.”
(Lightbulb goes on in my head!)
What could I put on the weeds to block sunlight and keep us from sinking in muck?
I could see a large mat, made of something that kept weeds from growing and kept us from sinking. That image was the beginning of what would become LakeMat Pro and later, MuckMat Pro.
It took a few years, but in time I found the right combination of materials that blocked sunlight and supported people on soft, mucky lake bottoms while being environmentally safe. There’s no chemicals, no cutting or raking.
That’s how it started. Today, after more than 50 years of fighting muck and lake weeds, we have it (mostly) figured it out. I’m sure Dad would love it.
— Doug Fast