Boating is a great way to pass the time, get outdoors, and soak in what America’s lakes and waterways have to offer. However, given the current worldwide health pandemic, many boaters are unsure of the rules, restrictions, and regulations that are currently in place when it comes to using boating access areas, and getting out on the water in their state.
Across the country, parks and recreation areas, including many of the country’s boating access areas, launches, docks, and marinas are closed or restricted – but that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy some time with your family on the boat. We’ve broken down restrictions and boating opportunities across the Country, to provide easy access to boating information in your state.
First up – how to stay safe and healthy while boating this summer
If you’re planning a boating trip, be sure to follow health guidelines, and physical distancing. To keep things simple, we’ve put together some quick tips to keep you safe:
- Before you head out, check for boating access restrictions that may be in effect, and don’t try to use boat launches or access areas that are closed to the public. You may get a fine.
- Only go boating with your immediate household – those who you’ve been in isolation with throughout the pandemic unless your state regulations permit otherwise. Although it may seem like a nice gesture to invite your friends and extended family, it’s not worth the risk.
- Wash your hands often, and keep hand sanitizer onboard your boat to prevent any spread of germs. And don’t touch your face.
- Operate with extra caution – even though boat traffic may be a bit lighter than usual, that doesn’t mean that accidents can’t happen. If you’re involved in a boating-related emergency, you’re not only at risk of injury from the accident, you’re also putting yourself at a higher risk of exposure to others, not to mention the font-line health workers who may need to be on the scene. Stay safe out there.
- Keep your distance from other waterway users and don’t anchor or moor your boat close to others.
- Check your fuel levels! Make sure your boat is fuelled up before you head out, and check the opening hours of fueling docks. Many fueling areas for boaters may be closed, so don’t assume you can gas-up at your usual spot.
- Stay local. Now is not the time to explore new areas of your state by way of boat. Keep to areas you’re familiar with. This will increase your safety, and reduce the risk of getting lost or being involved in other boating-related emergencies.
- Get certified. Boater Education Courses are still available online, so be sure that you’re properly certified to operate a boat within your state before you head out.
Hopefully the overall message here is clear – stay local, stay safe, and avoid any undue strain on your local emergency services. They’ve got their hands full.
Most of Alabama’s state parks, recreation areas, and public boating access areas remain open. Boaters should remember that physical distancing should be practiced in public areas. Additionally, in recent weeks, the number of COVID-19 cases has been increasing significantly in that state. Boaters should keep this in mind when in public spaces, including boating access areas, docks, and marinas.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural resources has compiled a list of all boating access areas that are open for use. Check it out here.
Alaska has seen fewer COVID cases than many states, and the state has re-opened to pre-pandemic status, meaning all parks, recreation areas, boating access areas, launches, ramps, and marinas are all available for use. Fishing charters within the state are now also permitted to resume operations, however various protocols have been put in place to ensure the health and safety of staff and guests.
Residents of other states are also permitted to enter the state, however they are required to complete a traveler declaration form, submit proof of a COVID test, self-quarantine for 14 days and follow any required work-orders submitted to the state by an employer.
While some state parks, recreation areas, and boating access areas within the state of Arizona reopened June 1st, many remain closed. Residents who make use of campgrounds, parks and public facilities including boat launches and access areas are reminded to practice physical distancing, and to not gather in large groups. For more information on recreation opportunities within the state visit the AZ State Parks website.
Many state parks and recreation areas within California remain closed, however, within parks in which physical distancing guidelines are feasible, the opening process has begun. Boaters who wish to use launch areas within re-opened parks must practice physical distancing, and avoid crowded areas.
Residents of the state should remember that they may use their own private docks or boating access areas to hit the water. Just remember to practice good personal hygiene by washing your hands, and avoiding contact with others who are not within your household. For more information on available recreational activities and which parks and recreation areas are open or closed, visit the California State Parks website.
Colorado’s Safer at Home order permits boating access within state parks. Angling and hunting areas also remain open, however both groups are reminded that they must follow restrictions that may be in place within the area where they’re fishing or hunting.
Boaters are reminded that they should remain within their local area, and must follow all CDPHE orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19. For more information on recreational activity availability and restrictions, visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website.
The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Conservation (DEEP) confirmed on April 20th that boat launches managed by the department are open. The department manages 117 boat launches across the state, meaning three ar plenty of boating access areas and opportunities across the state.
Boaters should remember that there are several guidelines in place for those who wish to use boat launches managed by the department including physical distancing guidelines, limitations on gatherings, and restrictions around boat passengers. For more information
Marina’s within the state of Delaware were permitted to open as of May 1st. Additionally, boat launches and wildlife areas within the state remained open though the state’s stay at home order. Now that restrictions have begun to loosen, boaters can feel free to hit the water.
However, boaters and waterway users are reminded that restrictions may be in place in certain areas. Additionally, further restrictions may be implemented in the event that parks and recreation areas reach capacity, or if social distancing measures aren’t followed.
Several counties within the state have opened boat launches and access areas, additionally boaters with access to private launches, ramps and docks can head out on the water. However, boaters within several regions of the state have drawn warnings from local authorities, as social distancing and health guidelines are not being followed by some residents.
Boaters, other water users, and beach goers are reminded that they must practice social distancing and follow health guidelines. This includes not gathering in large groups, maintaining physical distance from others who may be using recreational areas and are not in your immediate household, and following all restrictions that have been put in place within these areas.
For more information on boating access areas, restrictions and regulations, visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation website.
While many of the state’s parks and recreation areas have remained open, or have re-opened, there are still a variety of restrictions in place. As many of the state parks have been seeing an increase in crowds, and visitors, many parks are reminding visitors that if parking areas are full, then the park is at capacity. Visitors are not permitted to park outside of designated spaces. Click here for a list of closures and restricted areas.
Some parks are also limiting access and hours of operation to ensure that social distancing measures can be maintained. Additionally the state is encouraging visitors to dawn personal protective equipment, and are reminding wearers of masks, gloves, etc, to dispose of these items properly.
As of June 4th, the Hawaii Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR) re-opened its facilities. Additionally, many of the emergency rules imposed during the height of the pandemic within the state for boating and commercial ocean recreation are being revised and/or lifted.
Residents should remember that although many facilities and boating access areas are open, restrictions remain in place for many. These restrictions may include social distancing guidelines, a reduced number of visitors in certain parks, recreation areas, and facilities, and/or requirements for visitors to wear personal protective equipment (PPE). Be sure that you’re familiar with the regulations and restrictions that apply within the area.
So far, all boating access areas, parks and recreation areas within state parks are open, and have remained open throughout the pandemic. While this is good news for boaters, anglers, hunters and outdoor enthusiasts, all visitors to State parks are reminded that restrictions and closures may be implemented at any time if gathering restrictions and social distancing guidelines are not followed within the parks. For more information visit the Idaho Department of Fish and Game COVID information page.
As of May 1st, State parks in Illinois re-opened during daylight hours, however many local parks, recreation facilities, beaches, and other recreational facilities remain closed.
While there are still plenty of boating access areas available within the state, there are still restrictions in place around the number of passengers permitted on board. Initially, only 2 passengers were permitted to be on board a single vessel, however this has recently been loosened to permit up to 10 passengers.
Boaters should also keep in mind that while boating access areas across many regions is permitted, certain cities may still have restricted access, including the city of Chicago.
Indiana residents are free to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, including boating, paddling, hiking, fishing, hunting and more, so long as social distancing guidelines are observed.
State parks, forests and fish and wildlife areas are also open and accepting visitors entrance fees have also been temporarily suspended meaning that access to these areas is currently free. Residents who plan to visit these areas are reminded that while the parks are open, certain facilities within the parks remain closed including many campgrounds, playgrounds, visitors centers etc.
Like many states, State parks, including boating access areas, remained open throughout the pandemic. However, the state has seen a rise in visitors to these areas, including crowds. Residents who are using facilities are reminded that only one boat/household group may make use of a single boat ramp at a time. Physical distancing guidelines must be adhered to, and groups must be kept to a number of 10 or less individuals. For more information, visit the Iowa DNR website.
All Kansas state parks, fishing lakes and wildlife areas are currently open to the public. The state is reminding visitors to these areas that they must adhere to health guidelines and social distancing recommendations.
Boat owners are also reminded that vessel registration requirements are still being enforced. Registration forms are available for download and can be mailed, with required fees to the KDWPT Pratt Operations Office.
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife (KDFW) has kept it’s boat launches and access points open to the public throughout the pandemic. However, the department stresses that this is only possible if physical distancing guidelines are maintained by the public.
It’s also important for boaters to remember that not all boat launches and access points are managed by the KDFW. Operators who are looking for a location to launch their boat should check ahead of time to determine if specific restrictions are in place (ex. Day access only), or if the launch is operational. For more information on boat launch and state park access and restrictions visit the KDFW Website.
State park campgrounds also reopened for regular use on June11th, however certain restrictions remain in place to protect staff and visitors.
State managed parks and boating access points are open within the state. Restrictions within these areas include social distancing requirements, and limiting gatherings to groups of 10.
According to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries, State parks are currently open to the public within the state. The Department has stated that fishing is permitted, and boating access points are open and available. Some parks within the state are seeing large numbers of visitors – guests within parks are reminded to maintain their distance from others. When parking, please park within designated spaces and do not block roads. If parking is full, the park is considered to be at capacity.
Boating and fishing access points were re-opened within the state on May 7th, however state parks may still have restrictions and regulations in place to protect the safety of staff and visitors to the park. Boaters who are launching within the parks should only boat with their immediate household, and should maintain their distance from other vessels on the water.
Marinas have also now reopened within the state, in addition to boat pump out stations. All boaters are reminded that regular boating rules and regulations still apply.
The Massachusetts Office of Fishing and Boating Access provides access to, and maintains over 290 coastal and inland boat and canoe launch and fishing areas across the state. These access points, launches and fishing areas remain open to the public, however the state has implemented guidelines for boating and various other marine activities that must be followed in order to reduce the spread of COVID 19. These guidelines include face-covering requirements, limits on group size, how to stay safe when using public boat ramps and launches.
Motorized boat operation was initially prohibited early in the pandemic, however this order has since been revised, and motorized boats are permitted to operate.
Boating access sites managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are currently open. These sites will remain open so long as visitors follow social distancing protocols. Additionally state harbors and marinas re-opened for public use on June 10th.
For more information on boating access sites and restrictions within the state, visit the Michigan DNR website.
Minnesota’s state parks, recreation areas, and boating access points are open. While the Stay Safe MN order does not restrict boating, boaters are reminded that they should follow social distancing practices when using public launch areas and while on the water. Boaters are also encouraged to boat only with members of their household.
Those visiting state parks should keep in mind that certain areas of parks may be restricted or closed, including beaches, visitors centers. Scheduled programs within parks are also cancelled.
Most boating access sites within the state of Mississippi are open for use, although some may have specific restrictions in place, including reduced hours of operation. While state parks, recreation areas, and boat launch sites were closed for a short period, these sites also reopened for day use as April 20th.
All Missouri Department of Conservation managed conservation areas, trails, and boating access points are currently open for normal use.
The State has reminded visitors to parks who are taking advantage of any outdoor public space, that they must follow health and safety guidelines including social distancing, gathering in groups of only 10 people or less. Additionally visitors are encouraged to avoid overcrowding popular areas, and to avoid congregating in public spaces. For more information visit the Missouri Department of Conservation COVI Response page.
State Parks in Montana, including boating access sites and fishing access points are open for use. Visitors centers within the parks are also open for normal summer hours. All parks visitors are reminded that social distancing measures must be followed. Camping is also permitted within almost all state parks, except for Camp Baker within Smith River state park. For more information visit the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks COVID Response site.
Beaches and swimming areas which are managed by Nebraska Game and Parks reopened for use on June 4th.
All boating activities including skiing and tubing are permitted, however the agency recommends that visitors and those using public spaces, including waterways, continue to practice social distancing. Social distancing should also be practiced on boat launch ramps.
Guests who are mooring boats near sandbanks to socialize should keep away from other boats in the area and maintain distance from others using the area.
State managed parks within Nevada are currently only open for day use. Outdoor recreation within the state is currently not being restricted, however there may be restrictions in place within specific areas.
All visitors to parks who are making use of facilities including boating access areas, are required to practice social distancing.
The Lake Mead National Recreation Areas has also begun a phased in re-opening process which will grant further access to the area, however the visitor center remains closed. Boats are not permitted to access the park and lake, but must obtain a vehicle pass and vessel pass.
Most boating access points within the state are currently open for use, including those within State parks. Some ramps and launches within the parks may also have restrictions in place including facilities closures such as restrooms.
Additionally, docks within state parks will not be installed until social distancing restrictions are lifted. For more information visit the New Hampshire Fish and Game COVID Response page.
State and county parks within the state reopened as of May 1st, cinlduing boating access areas and fishing areas. Visitors to these areas are reminded that they must practice social distancing.
Additionally chartered boats, and boat rental business were permitted to reopen, with strict guidelines, on May 17th. Marinas and boatyards have also re-opened however there may be restrictions in place.
While all state parks within New Mexico were closed through to the end of April, restrictions were lifted as of May 1st. Parks are now open for day use.
An Executive Order issued by Governor Andrew Cuomo allowed marinas and boat launch ramps to re-open within the State as of April 20th. These sites may have strict restrictions in place, so if you’re planning to launch your boat, or take it in for maintenance, call in advance to learn about restrictions in place.
State Parks are also open, however park density limits are in place to ensure social distancing can be maintained. Visitors are also required to wear a face covering when using the parks.
North Carolina’s Stay at Home order does not restrict boating, fishing, or hunting. The state has recommended however, the residents who are leaving their property to use outdoor recreation facilities, should verify that the location and facilities needed for their planned trip are open to the public.
Additionally, certain counties have restricted boating activities and launch sites within the state. Residents who wish to head out on the water or make use of parks or recreation areas can find more information on the NC Wildlife Resources Commision website.
Some closures may also be in place due to high water levels, hurricane damage, or renovations.
North Dakota implemented various shut downs and restrictions within State Parks, which stretched into the months of May, however day use facilities, including boat ramps, trails, and recreational areas have remained open for day-us.
Many restrictions within state parks were lifted May 21st. The ease in restrictions grants access to more park facilities including playgrounds, campgrounds, picnic areas, and visitors centers.
Residents are reminded to check for regulations that may be in place before planning their trip. While State Parks have reopened, there may still be restrictions in place in various counties. For more information on closures, visit the North Dakota State Parks website.
Public boat ramps within Ohio are currently open for sure. State Parks are also open for a variety of recreational activities including boating, fishing, hiking and swimming.
Portions of the Hocking Hill State Park remain closed including Campgrounds, cabins, Ash Cave, Cedar Falls, Old Man’s Cave, and Whispering Cave. Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve and some parts of Hocking State Forest remain closed.
Boating access points within Oklahoma remain open to the public, however visitors to parks who are from the NY tri-state area, Washington state, Louisiana and California are required to self-quarantine.
As of May 6th, Oregon State Parks began to permit limited day use of some parks, including boating access. Additionally, as of June 9th limited overnight camping will also be permitted. The state is strongly encouraging social distancing be practice at all times. For more information on social distancing while boating visit the Oregon State Parks website.
Some parks may still have restrictions in place, including some campgrounds, restrooms and beach access points so visitors should check restrictions in advance to ensure that facilities are open.
Anyone planning to use a boat launch or access point is encouraged to check the availability and restrictions that may be in place, in advance of the trip. The state also provides an interactive map of boat launch areas within the state.
Neither boating or fishing activities are currently being restricted within Pennsylvania. Many boating access points and fishing areas are open for use, including those within State Parks.
Marinas within the state were also permitted to begin operations as of May1st.
Residents within the state are being strongly encouraged to wear face coverings and practice social distancing within public areas, including parks.
Boating is currently permitted within Rhode Island, however the state has provided boaters with guidelines to ensure the health and safety of participants. Launch ramps and access points within state parks are also open. Visitors to parks are encouraged to wear a face covering at all times while in public spaces.
For more information on restrictions and closures within State Parks visit The Rhode Island State Parks website.
Restrictions for boating within South Carolina were lifted as of May 8th, including closures of public boating access points. State Parks also reopened as of May 1st – which means there are plenty of opportunities to hit the water and enjoy summer within the state.
Although parks and boating access points are open, the South Carolina State Parks reminds visitor that there are guidelines and restrictions in place. For information on these guidelines, visit the South Carolina State Parks website.
Tennessee’s boating access areas and marinas within state parks are currently open for use. Visitors planning on using public boat launches of facilities within state parks are encouraged to check restrictions in advance to ensure that the facility they plan on using is open, and not under restrictions.
State Parks in Texas are open for both day and overnight use, including boating access points, however some areas are still restricted. Visitors to state parks are encouraged to check restrictions and guidelines in advance of visiting. Face coverings are also required in all public spaces.
State Parks in Utah are currently open for use, including boating access points, however there are still some restrictions in place. Visitors centers within the parks are currently closed and overnight camping is not permitted. The state is encouraging anyone using public recreation spaces to follow health and safety guidelines, including social distancing.
All public boating and fishing access points within Virginia State Parks are currently open 24/7. Visitors to the park are reminded that they must practice social distancing and recreate only with those who they’ve been in isolation with.
Boat launch ramps and access points that are managed by Washington State re-opened for use on May 5th for day use. Additionally, State Parks have also begun to reopen for camping and day use. While not all parks are open, anyone planning to visit is encouraged to check restrictions, closures and guidelines in advance.
For more information visit the Washington State Parks website.
Many public boating access points within West Virginia are open, including those within state parks. Fishing areas are open, and campgrounds within State Parks also reopened on June 10th, however campers are only permitted to stay for 7 days. Campground facilities including restrooms and restaurants are also open. Additional cleaning protocols have been put in place in these pacies to ensure safety including capacity restrictions within restaurants.
Visitors are reminded that when visiting parks social distancing must be practiced at all times, including in boat launch areas.
All boat launches managed by the Wisconsin DNR are currently open for use. Boater and anglers are reminded to practice social distancing at all times.
Boat owner’s are also reminded that boat registration is still required and can be completed online or via email. The DNR has also provided a list of their boat launches and shore fishing access points so it’s easy to find a spot to get your boat in the water.
Most boating access points managed by the Wyoming DNR are open for use, including DNR managed boat launches and access points. State parks and outdoor recreation spaces within the state are seeing an increase is visitors. Anyone using an outdoor recreation area, including parks, park facilities, and boating access areas must practice social distancing.
For more information on boating access areas in the state, including closures, restrictions, and guidelines, visit the Wyoming State Parks website.
Your Friendly Boating Safety Reminder:
Remember that even in the age of mask-wearing and social distancing, boating safety is still as important as ever. So here’s your a quick BOATsmart! Safety Checklist as we get into boating season:
- Wear your life jacket! More than 80% of American who drowned while boating were not wearing a life jacket. So remember (while you’re putting on your mask) that you’ll also need to wear a properly fitted life jacket.
- Water on the water and beer on the pier. Stay safe and sober when you’re spending time on the water this summer. Boating while intoxicated by drugs and/or alcohol is illegal in the United States, and dangerous.
- Be prepared. Load your boat with all of the required safety equipment for your trip, file a trip plan before you head out, and exercise safety while you’re on the water. Emergency services may not be as readily available as usual, so it’s critical that boaters take extra precautions this boating season.
- Get certified. Remember to get certified with your Boater Education Card if you’ll be operating a motorized boat. You can get certified with BOATsmart! in 3 easy steps.
- Be aware of cold water risks. Even though summer is just around the corner, the water in most regions is still dangerously cold throughout the spring. Cold water can be deadly, so wear your life jacket and be aware of the impacts of cold water immersion.