Boating information in Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park has many places to go boating that offer a wide that offer unique opportunities. If you need a boat launch ramp, you’ll find them on St. Mary and Two Medicine Lakes on Glacier National Park’s east side and at Bowman and McDonald Lakes the park’s west side.
If you didn’t bring your own boat, no worries. Glacier National Park boat rentals are available at Many Glacier, Apgar, Lake McDonald Lodge, Rising Sun, and Two Medicine.
For the many smaller lakes that dot Glacier National Park, you can bring your own canoes and rafts. Also, the Flathead River on the the south and west sides of Glacier have opportunities for white water rafting.
You’ve been warned
Rivers and lakes in this Glacier National Park freezing cold much of the year. Anyone entering the water in Glacier National Park should know that there is a risk of hypothermia year round.
All sail and motor boats 12 feet or longer in Glacier National Park have to be numbered and registered by State of Montana regulations. Boats from other states or countries may be used on a temporary basis without Montana registration. Canoes and other human-propelled watercraft are exempt.
- Stay to the right in Glacier channels (when safe, use common sense).
- When approaching other vessels in Glacier head-on, stay to the right.
- Motor boats must stay clear of vessels propelled by oars, paddles, or sails.
- Yield right-of-way to vessels on to your right in crossing situations.
- Give right-of-way to vessels that you pass.
Where boats are permitted in Glacier National Park
Human-propelled vessels (canoes, kayaks, etc.) are allowed on all Glacier National Park water bodies, with the exception of a section of Upper McDonald Creek. This area of Upper McDonald Creek between Mineral Creek and Lake McDonald is closed to all watercraft for the protection of nesting Harlequin ducks.
Private motorboats are only allowed in the following areas: Lake McDonald, Sherburne Lake, St. Mary Lake, Two Medicine Lake, and the Waterton Lakes (no boat launch ramps exist on Sherburne Lake; only hand carried motor vessels are allowed).
Motorboats and motor vessels are allowed on Bowman and Two Medicine Lakes but are limited to ten (10) horsepower or less.
Boating may be restricted in any area for safety or the protection of sensitive wildlife habitat. Signing and/or marker bouys will be placed to designate closures.
For the safety of the general public using beaches for swimming and other similar activities, the segments of the south shoreline of Lake McDonald described below are closed to the beaching of any motorized watercraft.
The section of shoreline beginning at the outlet of the lake and extending eastward approximately 60 yards west of the existing concession boat docking facility. The section of shoreline beginning at the Apgar Amphitheater and extending eastward to the point the shoreline meets the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Furthermore, motorized watercraft are prohibited within an area extending into the water 300 feet perpendicular to the shoreline.
- All people aboard a water vessel must have a wearable personal floatation device, Type I, II, III, or V.
- Throwable (Type IV) floatation devices, such as a cushions, are no longer allowed as a substitute.
- A flame arrestor (approved by the USCG) must be on each carburetor on inboard gasoline engines.
- You must have fire extinguishers (B-1 type) or a fixed fire extinguisher system for all outboard engines with enclosed fuel compartments and all inboard engines.
- A horn or other sound producing device for is required for motorboats 16 feet or longer.
- Navigation lights for motorboats and sailboats must be used between sunset and sunrise.
Absolutely prohibited in Glacier National Park:
- Reckless or negligent boat handling that endangers or is likely to endanger the lives of others.
- Boat handling by anyone under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Overloading vessels.
- Installation of any obstruction in the water.
- Use of personal watercraft on any park waters.
- Operating a vessel in excess of 5 mph within 100 feet of a diver’s marker, downed water skier, or swimmer.
- Depositing trash, toilet waste, or debris of any kind in the water.
- Riding on transom, gunwales, or foredeck while boat is going more than 5 mph.
- Swimming from boat while underway.
- Interference with other vessels or with proper and free waterway navigation.
- Leaving a boat unattended for more than 24 hours without authority from the superintendent or his/her authorized representative.
- Using trailers to recover or launch vessels anywhere other than at a designated boat launch.
- Jet skis are currently prohibited.
In Case of Accidents
Any boating accident in Glacier National Park resulting in property damage, personal injury or death must be reported, by all boat operators involved, to a Glacier National Park ranger no later than 24 hours after the incident. Boaters should render assistance to all persons needing help.
Supply in writing the boat operator(s) address and name of the along with the identification information for the boat to any person injured or to the owner of any property damaged.
Water skiing is permitted only on Lake McDonald and St. Mary Lake from sunrise to sunset.
While water skiing in Glacier National Park, you must have at least two competent persons in the towing boat, one of whom (other than the operator) constantly observing the person being towed.
Each person being towed must wear a lifesaving device. If device being worn is not approved by the USCG, an approved device must be readily available in towing boat. Anyone water skiing must wear personal floatation device – ski belts are not USCG approved and are no longer acceptable.
Towing skiers is prohibited within 100 feet of any person swimming or diving.
Federal regulation prohibits the use of watercraft that exceed 82 decibels of sound within Glacier National Park. Anyone operating high-powered vessels should check their engine decibel levels to be sure they are in compliance, as this rule is strictly enforced.
National Park Service boating regulations will be 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.
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