Paddlers Etiquette

There are many boaters on our waterways and as the number of paddlers increases, there is competition for space in limited access points and crowded waterways. Consider yourself a guest - be courteous and avoid creating bottlenecks and overcrowding.


Boat Ramps, Parking and Courtesy
  • Kayaks, canoes and paddleboards do not need to use boat ramps. You can launch from just about anywhere there is permitted access.
  • Keep your vehicle off ramps designed for trailer boats.
  • Use cartop-only launch sites or other legal access, especially during the busy boating season or on weekends whenever you can.
  • Unload and load kayaks, canoes and paddleboards from a parking spot or an area away from traffic lanes to the ramp. Keep your kayak, canoe, paddleboard and all gear off the ramp.
  • If possible, launch away from the ramp or to the side. Learn to fasten your spray skirt on the water so you don’t tie up the area during multiple kayak launches.
  • Be prepared to cooperate with trailering boaters on the ramp, as this is their primary launching area.
On the Water
  • Stay out of marked channels at all times except to cross over. Kayaks, canoes and paddleboards can operate in less than one foot of water. Paddlers have all the rest of the river or ocean to use freely. Red and green buoys or special markers on piers or posts mark channels. When paddling alongside a channel, stay outside. Enter only to cross over to a destination point. Be patient and wait for the channel to be clear. Cross at the markers where you are more visible and the channel is often narrower. If with a group, cross in a “pod” or in a line abreast. Cross quickly to the other side.
  • Stay away from marinas and dock areas as much as possible.
  • Be visible and stay alert. Keep a respectful distance from swimmers and fisherman.
Respect Wildlife
  • Enjoy wildlife from a distance; give wide berth to nesting seabirds (i.e. swans), eagles, ospreys, rafting eiders, and seals.
  • Please leave pets at home.
Plan Ahead and Prepare
  • Know the regulations and guidelines for the area you plan to visit (including capacity limits) and land only where you have permission.
  • Consider shore side campgrounds or bed & breakfasts as overnight options.
  • Keep your group size as small as possible; six or fewer is ideal.
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  • Travel on sand, stone, resilient grass, and established trails.
  • Locate kitchens on the beach, on granite, or in the intertidal zone.
  • Camp only in established campsites. If the campsites are in use, squeeze into an existing site or bivouac on smooth granite, sand, or gravel.
  • Limit your stay to two nights. Naturalize the site when you leave.
  • Do not cut or clear vegetation, dead or alive, for any purpose.
Dispose of Waste Properly
  • Carry out all trash - your own and any that you find.
  • Carry out all solid human waste and toilet paper to the mainland for proper disposal.
Leave What You Find
  • Preserve archaeological sites.
  • Avoid campsite alterations.
  • Leave flowers, plants and other natural objects where you found them.
Minimize Campfire Impacts - Kindle No Fires
  • Use cookstoves below the high tide line.
  • If you must build a fire, use a fire pan below the high tide to prevent fire scars. Burn only driftwood and keep fires small and safe.
Prevent the Spread of Aquatic Invasive Species - Practice Clean, Drain, Dry
  • Inspect and remove all visible plant, fish, and animals as well as mud or other debris at the launch. Do not transport them home.
  • Check trailer, paddles and anything else that came in contact with the water.
  • Drain all water from your watercraft, including hatches, cockpits, boards and gear, before leaving the area.  Open all hatches or plugs, turn the boat upside down and rest on an open hatch to incline the watercraft and drain it.
  • Dry your watercraft and equipment thoroughly before your next adventure. If possible, allow your vessel to dry for 7 days during hot/dry weather and 28 days during cool/wet weather. If this isn’t possible, wash your vessel with soap and water.
Dispose of all dirt, pant and other material above the waterline on dry land or in the trash.  Remember - most storm drains flow directly into lakes and other waters.  Do not wash your boat or gear, or drain them, near a storm drain.

Self-inspect and clean your watercraft and gear every time you haul out and go between waterbodies. When leaving an area infested with aquatic invasive species or if you find any aquatic invasive species during your inspection, use pressurized, hot-water to clean your watercraft and/or keep your watercraft dry for at least 7 days during hot/dry weather and 28 days during cool/wet weather.


Content last updated December 2019