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 & 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.
One U.S. Coast Guard approved, wearable, personal flotation 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 flotation device when vessel is underway.
Navigation lights must be used when boating between sunset and sunrise.
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.
Operate your boat in a safe manner so as not to disturb or endanger others.
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.
- 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.
- Overloading of boats.
- Using trailers to launch or recover vessels.
- Installation of any obstruction in the water.
- Discharging toilet wastes into the water.
- Depositing trash, refuse, or debris of any kind in the water.
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.
Use of Watercraft in Glacier
Motorized or trailered vessels are prohibited from launching in Glacier National Park. Hand-propelled boats and sailboats are permitted on park waters with the following exception: from April 1 through September 30, the section of Upper McDonald Creek between Mineral Creek and Lake McDonald is closed to all types of boating and floating to protect nesting Harlequin ducks.
Boating may be restricted in certain areas for safety or to protect sensitive wildlife habitat throughout the park. Marker buoys and/or signing will be placed to designate the closures.
Pets are allowed in developed areas, frontcountry campsites and picnic areas, along roads, and in boats on lakes where 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.
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.
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