Water Vessel Safety

Canoes and gear parked on shore near lake

Mattson, NPS

Boating, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, rafting, jet skiing, paddleboarding...national parks have plenty of water activities for you and your family and friends to explore! If you do not have a boat of your own, guided trips or rentals may be available within the park.

Visit the ‘Plan Your Visit’ page on the park website or call your park to find out what water vessel activities are allowed. A ‘vessel’ refers to anything that transports people in water: most people call them boats, but they also include stand up paddleboards (SUP).

Your vessel must be registered and licensed according to the laws of the state where the vessel originates from or primarily resides in. Check with your local and/or state boating office before you go to make sure your vessel is properly registered and licensed.

Keep in mind that boating laws and regulations may vary between states and between national parks (e.g. aquatic invasive species protection, fees). It is important that you are aware of and follow the laws and regulations of the state and national park in which you are visiting.

Research the location of launch facilities, marinas, and refueling stations so you know where to put your vessel into the water and obtain supplies. Many parks have this information available. Visit the “Plan Your Visit” section on their park website. If you would like to learn more about planning a trip to a national park, check out our NPS Trip Planning Guide.

Your safety is your responsibility on the water.

Failure to follow boating laws and operating your boat in an unsafe manner can result in a citation and your trip potentially terminated by federal law enforcement officers (NPS Park Rangers and the US Coast Guard) or state/local law enforcement officers.

Check out our articles for more information on how to be prepared for boating before you go and during your visit to the park, and what to do if someone goes overboard.

Last updated: August 7, 2020