Rules and Regulations
National Park Service boating regulations are found in Title 36, Part 3, of the Code of Federal Regulations and are available at park headquarters and staffed ranger stations. It is your responsibility to know and obey the U.S. Coast Guard and State of Montana regulations for boat operation and safety. Park rangers may inspect or board any boat for the purpose of examining documents, licenses, and/or other permits relating to the operation of the boat and to inspect the boat to determine compliance with regulations.
All sailboats 12 feet in length and longer must be registered and numbered according to State of Montana regulations. Hand propelled boats are exempt.
One U. S. Coast Guard approved, wearable, personal floatation device, of the appropriate size for the intended user, readily accessible, and in good condition, must be carried on board. All children 12 and under must wear a personal floatation device when vessel is underway.
Navigation lights for motorboats and sailboats must be used between sunset and sunrise. Non-motorized boaters should have a light if out after dark.
Rules of the Waterways
Keep to the right in channels and when approaching another boat head-on or nearly so. Yield right-of-way to vessels on your right in crossing situations and to vessels you overtake or pass. Boats propelled by oars, paddles, or sails have the right-of-way over boats propelled by motors.
Regulations Prohibit the Following:
- Reckless/negligent boat handling that endangers or is likely to endanger the lives of others.
- Boat handling by any person under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Riding the gunwales, transom, or foredeck while boat is moving faster than five mph.
- Swimming from boat while underway.
- Interference with other boats or with free and proper navigation of waterways.
- Leaving a boat unattended for more than 24 hours without specific authority from the park superintendent or his/her duly authorized representative.
- Using trailers to launch or recover vessels.
- Overloading of boats.
- Installation of any obstruction in the water.
- Operating “airboats.”
- Personal Watercraft Vehicles (Jet Ski, Wave Runner, Etc.)
- Operating a vessel in excess of five mph within 100 feet of a diver’s marker or swimmer.
- Discharging toilet wastes into the water.
- Depositing trash, refuse, or debris of any kind in the water.
Operate your boat in a safe manner so as not to disturb or endanger others.
Accidents and Reports
Report any accident resulting in death, personal injury, or property damage to a park ranger no later than 24 hours after the incident. Boaters should render assistance to all persons needing help.
The operator of each vessel involved must complete a written report. This report needs to include the name and address of the boat operator and the identification of the boat to any injured person or to the owner of any property damaged.
Camping and Overnight Use
A Backcountry Use Permit is required for all overnight backcountry camping. Between June 1 and September 30, a per person per night fee will be charged at the time of permit issuance. An additional fee will be charged for confirmed advance reservations. Please check Glacier’s Backcountry Camping Guide for details.
Undesignated camping is not allowed on lakes or lakeshores. Overnight camping on a vessel/boat within Glacier National Park is prohibited.
Pets are allowed in developed areas, frontcountry campsites and picnic areas, along roads, and in vessels on lakes where motorized watercraft were permitted (Bowman, McDonald, Sherburne, St. Mary, Swiftcurrent, Two Medicine, and Upper Waterton Lakes). Pets must be on a leash no longer than six feet, under physical restraint or caged at all times, including while in open-bed pickup trucks. Pets are not to be left tied to an object when unattended. Pet owners must pick up after their pets and dispose of waste in a trash receptacle. Owners must not allow a pet to make noise that is unreasonable.
The rivers and lakes in this mountainous region are very cold. All users (boaters and swimmers) should be aware of the dangers of hypothermia at any time of the year. Hypothermia can occur even at temperatures above freezing. People in poor physical condition or who are exhausted are particularly at risk.
Avoid hypothermia by wearing water-resistant or moisture wicking clothing and dressing in layers. Minimize wind exposure and if your clothes become wet, replace them.
Currently all waters within Glacier National Park are closed to boating.
White water canoeing, kayaking, or rafting can be enjoyed on the Flathead River, which forms the south and west boundary of Glacier.
Boaters operating on Waterton Lake, who land in the United States, are subject to U.S. customs regulations and are required to check in at Goat Haunt Ranger Station.