Boating on Oregon’s Waterways – Plan, Pay Attention, Share


SALEM — There are dozens of boat types on the market and many opportunities to explore Oregon’s waterways.  Regardless of what’s calling you to the water and the type of boat you’re in, be sure to plan ahead, know your limits, pay attention to your surroundings, and share the water so everyone can have a fun time.

The Oregon State Marine Board’s  interactive Boating Oregon Map shows where Oregonians can find a nearby boat ramp, plan for a weekend escape to places less-frequented, or find a waterway in the center of all the action.

A few tips to help you enjoy our waterways:

  • Check the weather forecast, water levels or tides, see if there are any reported obstructions, and have the right gear for your activities. The Marine Board’s website shows what equipment is required based on the size of the boat and rules for operation, which vary by waterbody.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings, continually scanning port to starboard and keeping a close eye on what’s ahead. Brush up on the rules-of-the-road, start out slow because of debris in the water from this past winter, and whatever you do – don’t text and drive.  
  • High water levels in the spring cover many wing dams (also known as pile dikes) on rivers, and bays are just below the surface.  Boaters need to keep their distance from the shoreline, up to several hundred feet in some locations, so they don’t inadvertently hit one of the piles. Learn where the wing dams are located based on the waterbody you’re boating from NOAA Charts.  The navigation charts can be downloaded for free.    
  • Be courteous to other boaters and share the waterway.  Congestion is a given in many popular locations, especially with nice weather.  

And stay safe:

  • Stay safe by not using marijuana, drugs or alcohol.  Instead, take along a variety of non-alcoholic beverages and plenty of water.  Impairment can lead to a BUII arrest, plus drugs and alcohol impair a boater’s judgment and coordination which every boat operator needs.  

  • If you are feeling tired, take a break on land and return to the water when you are re-energized and alert. Wind, glare, dehydration and wave motion contribute to fatigue.  Continually monitor the weather because it changes quickly.

  • Operators and passengers should wear properly fitting life jackets. Learn more about life jacket types, styles, and legal requirements.  

  • Never boat alone – especially when paddling.  Always let others know where you are going and when you’ll return.  Print out a downloadable float plan to leave with friends and family.
  • In Oregon, all boaters must take a boating safety course and carry a boater education card when operating a powerboat greater than 10 horsepower. The Marine Board also offers a free, online Paddling Course for boaters new to the activity.  

For more information about safe boating in Oregon, visit

About Author

Ashley Massey is the Public Information Officer for the Oregon State Marine Board, the state's recreational boating agency. It's the agency's mission to serve recreational boating public through education, enforcement, access, and environmental stewardship for a safe and enjoyable experience. In her spare time, Ashley enjoys SCUBA diving and crabbing with her family in their outboard motorboat in Oregon’s coastal bays.

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