Glacier National Park Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Prevention Program

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Date: May 18, 2011
Contact: Ellen Blickhan, 406 888-5838
Contact: Brian McKeon, 406 888-7976

WEST GLACIER, MONT. –  This summer Glacier National Park will step up its boat inspection and permit program due to the rapid westward migration of Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) on recreational watercraft. The consequences of an AIS infestation in park waters could be devastating to ecosystems and the local economy.  Visitors can still launch most motorized and trailered watercraft in the park, however, a thorough boat inspection is required upon every entry to the park. Hand-propelled watercraft are not required to obtain a permit, though park managers encourage all boaters to thoroughly clean, drain, and dry their watercraft and/or fishing equipment before coming to the park. 

During the summer of 2010, plankton samples collected from Flathead Lake contained organisms appearing similar to larvae of exotic zebra/quagga mussels.  Further analyses determined these organisms to be a native plankton species. In February of 2011, a live quagga mussel was found on a sail boat prior to its launch on Flathead Lake. These incidents, as well as the recent discovery of mussels on two boats in Idaho, highlight the risk of unintentional introduction of AIS to area waters, including Glacier National Park, and represent a clear warning to park managers that the park's existing permit program was not adequate to protect park waters from potential AIS infestations. Following are the features of the 2011 inspection program:       

  • A free permit is required to launch any motorized or trailered watercraft in Glacier National Park. Hand propelled water craft and passive floatation devices such as float tubes do not require a permit.  
  • A new permit is required upon each entry into the park.
  • Permits are no longer valid for 14 days. A boat may launch multiple times provided the boat does not leave the park between launches.
  • A thorough inspection is required for each permit. Though exempted from the permit requirement, park inspectors will gladly inspect hand propelled watercraft on a voluntary basis.
  • Inspections may take upwards of 30 minutes, depending on the complexity of the boat. Boaters should plan on additional time for inspections. 
  • To receive a permit, boats must be clean, drained and thoroughly dry (including bilge areas and livewells) upon inspection. 
  • Though launch hours are not restricted, inspection hours are limited. Hours vary throughout the park and will be adjusted seasonally. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, permits are available from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. at Park Headquarters and 7:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at all other locations. Permits are available the rest of the year between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at various locations throughout the park. Please call ahead for specific locations, (406) 888-7800.
  • Permits and inspections are available at the following locations: Park Headquarters at West Glacier, St. Mary Visitor Center, Two Medicine Ranger Station, Polebridge Entrance Station, and the Many Glacier Ranger Station. 
  • Boaters on Waterton Lake must comply with permit and inspection requirements of Parks Canada.
  • Boats with internal ballast tanks or other enclosed compartments that exchange water with the environment and that cannot be readily opened and fully inspected are prohibited within Glacier National Park.
  • Boats failing inspection will be denied a permit. Boaters may re-apply for a permit after their boat is thoroughly cleaned, drained and dried. 
  • Boats found with infestations of AIS species may be quarantined until they are fully decontaminated. This may take up to 30 days.  

Park managers realize that recreational boaters will face added time and inconvenience while recreating in Glacier National Park, however, the consequences of AIS species becoming established in park waters are dire for both aquatic ecosystems and recreational opportunities. Park officials urge all boaters to clean, drain, and dry their boats and boating equipment after every outing.   

For rules and regulations on boating and aquatic invasive species, please visit the park's web page,


- NPS –

Last updated: September 11, 2023

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