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Oregon Boating Regulations
Certificate of number required. (ORS 830.770)
To operate a sailboat 12' or more in length or any motorboat, an operator must carry a valid signed certificate of number on the boat.
Identifying number must be visible. (ORS 830.780)
A boat must have the identifying number; e.g., "OR 123 AB"; displayed on each side of the boat's forward half.
Hull Identification Number (HIN) Inspection Rules. (OAR 250-010-0055)
Homemade boats and boats without a titling or registration history (new manufactured boats excepted) must be inspected by marine law enforcement or Marine Board staff.
For more information....

Responsibilities of a boat operator at an accident scene: (ORS 830.475, 830.480, OAR 250-010-0110)
  • Anyone involved in a boat accident must give name, address, other required information and aid to injured person(s), including transportation to a hospital if treatment appears necessary or is requested by injured person(s).
  • Leaving a boat accident scene before performing operator's duties is a Class C felony punishable by five years in jail and/or a $100,000 fine.
  • Boat operators involved in an accident resulting in death, injury or property damage exceeding $2000 must report the accident to the State Marine Board on a Marine Board accident form:
    • _within 48 hours of accident resulting in death or injury;
    • _within 10 days of accident causing property/equipment damage only.
Occupants are responsible for making accident report when operator is physically incapable of doing so.

Marine Patrols
A boat approaching or being approached by a law enforcement vessel with a flashing blue light or siren must immediately slow and alter its course so as not to interfere with the operation of the law enforcement vessel. (OAR 250-011-0005(6))
A peace officer may stop any boat and direct it to a suitable pier or anchorage for boarding. No person shall knowingly flee or attempt to elude any law enforcement officer after having received a signal from a law enforcement officer to bring the boat to a stop. (ORS 830.035)

Applicability Exemption
County Sheriffs, Oregon State Police, and local, State and Federal agencies are exempt from operational restrictions when conducting official business. (OR 830.180, OAR 250-020-0005)

Federal Requirements
All vessels used on coastal waters must carry USCG approved visual distress signals.

Fishing Regulations
Some waterbodies may be closed to fishing from watercraft. These regulations are not addressed in this publication. See a current copy of the Oregon Fishing Regulations for details.

Operators must know the following rules governing boat operation:

Unsafe operation. (ORS 830.305)
Operation that endangers or would likely endanger a person or property. Example of violation: Your boat wake causes a canoe to nearly capsize.

Reckless operation. (ORS 830.315(1))
It is a crime to operate a boat carelessly in willful disregard of others. Example of violation: You pull a skier through an area where swimmers are present in spite of the boat exclusion buoys.

Reckless operation-speed. (ORS 830.315(2))
A violation occurs if, due to a boat's speed, it cannot be stopped by reasonable means in the distance ahead. Example of violation: Your boat runs over, or into, an object because you are traveling too fast to stop in time.

Basic boat traffic rules: (ORS 830.340)
  • Meeting head-on — Except when risk of collision exists, boaters must bear right and pass on the other boat's left side.
  • Crossing — When approaching at an angle, the boat on the right side has right-of-way.
  • Passing — A boat may overtake another boat on either side, but must grant right-of-way to the boat that is overtaken.
  • Boats proceeding downriver have right-of-way over boats proceeding upriver. Note: Having the right-of-way does not allow the operator to endanger others.

Boat traffic lanes. (ORS 830.345)
  • Anchored position must not obstruct the passage of other boats.
  • Boat operation is prohibited within a marked swimming area.
  • In navigation channels, deep-draft commercial vessels have right-of-way. (For safe anchoring tips, see p. 6)

Overloading a boat beyond safe carrying capacity is prohibited. (ORS 830.355, OAR 250-016-0085)
See capacity plate for the manufacturer's recommendation.
State law conforms to federal law requiring capacity plates on vessels.

Operating motorboat with person holding on to or occupying parts aft of transom (830.362)
(1) A person may not operate a motorboat or have the motorboat engine idle while any person holds on to or occupies any portion of the motorboat that is located aft of the transom of the motorboat, including a step, ladder, platform or deck, in order to:
(a) Ride on that portion of the motorboat while the motorboat is under way at any speed; or (b) Be pulled by the motorboat while holding on to any portion of the motorboat that is located aft of the transom, including a step, ladder, platform or deck. (2) Notwithstanding subsection (1) of this section, a person may operate a motorboat or have the motorboat engine idle with a person holding on to or occupying for a brief period of time a step, ladder, platform or deck that is located aft of the transom if that person is: (a) Assisting in the docking or departure of the motorboat; (b) Exiting or entering the motorboat; or (c) Engaging in law enforcement activities. [2005 c.299 §2]

Basic rule for Slow-no wake. (OAR 250-010-0025)
Operators of boats must observe Slow-no wake, maximum 5 mph speed limit within 200' of a boat ramp, marina or moorage with a capacity for six or more vessels; a floating home moorage with six or more structures; or people working at water level. Operator may be liable for damage caused by wake. This rule does not apply to commercial vessels or river navigation when more speed is needed to ensure safe passage.

Riding on bows, decks, gunwales or transoms of a motorboat. (ORS 830.360)
  • No person may sit on gunwales or the transom of a motorboat at a speed exceeding 5 mph unless boat has adequate guards or railing.
  • Sitting on bow deck prohibited while underway without adequate railings.
  • Riding on bow, transom or gunwale railings while underway is prohibited.
  • Standing on decking over bow is allowed for mooring or casting off.

Prohibited actions when water skiing or using other towed devices: (ORS 830.365)
  • Reckless, negligent riding of towed devices endangering persons or property.
  • Water skiing or towing devices from sunset to sunrise.
  • Operation of towing boat or other devices that may lead to potential collision of water skier with a person or object.
  • Water skiing while under the influence of intoxicants.
  • Towing skier without continuous observation of skier by an observer.
  • Operating without a "skier down" flag.

Maintaining a proper lookout. (ORS 830.335)
The operator of a boat shall keep a proper lookout at all times while underway. Example of violation: You are pulling and watching the skier, not the water ahead.

Operation of a boat, while under the influence of intoxicants is prohibited. (ORS 830.325)
Boaters should be aware that:
  • by operating a boat, they have consented to submit to field sobriety tests;
  • a blood alcohol level of .08 or more is considered "under the influence";
  • bail schedules for the alleged offense range from $3,500 to $6,250;
  • operating under the influence is a Class A misdemeanor. If convicted, a boater faces a maximum penalty of $6,250 and/or 1 year in jail;
  • upon conviction, offending operators have all boat registrations in their name suspended for up to 3 years, are not allowed to operate a boat for a period of time determined by the court, and are required to complete a boating safety course;
  • a person who knowingly operates a boat in violation of a court order for conviction of ORS 830.325 commits a Class A misdemeanor.
  • A conviction for Boating Under the Influence of Intoxicants is equivalent and counts toward any of the first three arrests for Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants.

Especially Hazardous Condition. (ORS 830.380, 830.383)
Peace officers observing a boat being operated on Oregon waters in an especially hazardous condition may order the operator to move to the nearest safe moorage and remain there until the condition is remedied. An especially hazardous condition is:
  • Improper or insufficient personal flotation devices, fire extinguishers, backfire arresting devices on carburetors, or navigation lights between sunset and sunrise.
  • Overloading.
  • Overpowering.
  • Leakage of fuel from the boat engine, fuel system or fuel in the bilge.

Personal Watercraft Operating Rules
Owners/operators of personal watercraft must: (OAR 250-021-0030)
  • wear, and have passengers wear, U.S. Coast Guard-approved, inherently buoyant Type I, II or III personal flotation device (PFD);
  • attach lanyard-type cutoff switch, if equipped by manufacturer, to person, clothing or PFD;
  • effectively muffle craft;
  • equip craft with required lights to operate between sunset and sunrise;
  • operate craft in reasonable, prudent manner;
    • unsafe or reckless maneuvers endangering people/property include weaving through congested boat traffic, jumping wake unreasonably close to another boat or when its operator's vision is obstructed, swerving to avoid collision at the last moment. Allowances made for participants in professional exhibitions and officially sanctioned events;
  • prohibit operation of craft by persons under age of 16 unless accompanied on the craft by a person 18 or over who carries a boater education card, or prohibit rental to persons under 18;
  • operate craft no closer than 200' behind water skier or other towed devices;
  • not tow a water skier or any floating device with PWC unless another person on the PWC continuously observes person being towed; and PWC is large enough to carry operator, observer, and person being towed;
  • observe Slow-no wake, maximum 5 mph speed limit:
    • -within 200' of a swimmer, surfer, diving flag, bank or wading angler; dock, swim float, ramp, pier, marina, floating home, or boathouse;
    • -within 100' of any anchored or non-motorized vessel;
    • -within 200' of shoreline on all lakes, reservoirs, and bays, "safe" (see page ii) take-off excepted;
  • not operate in excess of 10 MPH when approaching within 100' of a motorized or sail vessel underway.
  • chasing, harassing, molesting or disturbing wildlife with PWC is strictly prohibited.
Personal watercraft liveries must: not rent to persons under 18; provide only either Type I or III inherently buoyant Coast Guard-approved life jackets; provide safe operation information, giving each renter a written copy of state PWC rules and placing a safe operation decal on each craft; sign and have renter sign the copy of the rules, with renter carrying copy on board as required equipment.

Personal Watercraft Access
Personal Watercraft (PWC) Access
Lakes and reservoir impoundments on Oregon rivers are open to PWC subject to local operating rules in OAR Ch. 250, Div. 20. For closures and other restrictions on PWC use, see specific rivers in the waterway directory of this book.
The following table lists which rivers and river sections are open to personal watercraft use. All other rivers not listed are closed to PWC.
(OAR 250-021-0040)
RiversSection of River Open -- Subject to Local Operating Rules
AlseaDownstream from Hatchery Creek (approx. RM 12).
ChetcoBelow the head of tide.
ClackamasFrom the river mouth to Clackamette Lake (RM 0.7).
ColumbiaEntire river.
CoosBelow its confluence with the Millicoma River.
CoquilleDownstream from the Hwy 42 S bridge at the City of Coquille.
DeschutesBetween Heritage Landing boat ramp (RM 0.5) and the Columbia River.
ElkDownstream from the Ironhead launch ramp.
John Day(Sherman/Gilliam County) below Tumwater Falls (RM 10).
KilchisDownstream from the Parks boat ramp at Hwy 101 bridge. Slow-no-wake, 5 mph.
MiamiDownstream from the Hwy 101 bridge. Slow-no-wake, 5 mph.
MillicomaBelow Allegany.
NecanicumEntire river, subject to Slow-no wake max. 5 mph speed limit.
N Fork NehalemBelow Aldervale.
RogueBetween Gold Rey Dam and the Applegate River; below the mouth of Snout Creek.
S Fork NehalemFrom the mouth of Peterson Creek (RM 10.3) to Nehalem River Falls (RM 15.7), closed from Sept. 1 through March 30.
SiletzDownstream from the Morgan's Park boat ramp.
SixesDownstream from the Hwy 101 bridge.
SiuslawDownstream from the Hwy 126 bridge at Mapleton.
SnakeAbove Hells Canyon Dam.
TraskDownstream from the Hwy 101 bridge. Slow-no-wake, 5 mph.
UmpquaDownstream from Scottsburg Park.
WilsonDownstream from Sollie Smith boat ramp. Slow-no-wake, 5 mph.
WillametteDownstream from the Beltline Road overpass at RM 178 in
(main stem)Eugene. (Note: The McKenzie, Molalla, Santiam, Tualatin, Yamhill and all other Willamette tributaries are closed to PWC.)
YaquinaDownstream from the Toledo Airport boat ramp (RM 9).

Marine Event Permits
Sponsors of regattas, boat races, amrine parades, fishing tournaments or exhibitions that may cause a water safety hazard must complete a Marine Board application for a permit at least 30 days prior to the event.
For more information......
Water Ski Courses, Ski Jumps
A permit is required from the Marine Board to install devices not associated with an authorized marine event. (OAR 250-010-0097)
Other devices also include race buoys and kayak race gates.
Applications are available from the Marine Board.

Outfitters/guides must register with the Marine Board. A new rule amendment clarifies Board authority to reprimand an outfitter/guide or suspend, revoke, or deny registration up to 24 months for serious or repeated violations. (OAR 250-016-0008)
To find out whether an outfitter/guide is registered, call the Marine Board at (503) 378-8587.
For more information about Outfitters & Guides.....

Seaplanes are considered boats when on water, subject to boating regulations on Oregon waters. They are considered planes when "in flight," from start of take-off to end of normal power-off landing run, subject to FAA regulations. (ORS 830.005, 830.600, 830.605).
For local regulations, consult the Aeronautics Section of the Oregon Dept. of Transportation (ODOT).

Safe Anchoring
Each year, improper anchoring is the cause of injury and death. Swift currents, high flows and cold water make the following anchoring procedures imperative:
  • Use anchor line five to seven times the depth of the water.
  • Bring the bow into the wind or current; put motorboat engines in neutral.
  • Lower anchor over the bow, do not toss or throw overboard.
  • Always secure anchor line to the bow.
  • Never anchor over the stern or sides of boats; this has caused many boats to capsize and sink.
  • Make sure arms, legs, hands and feet are completely clear of line before lowering anchor.
Anchoring in a position that obstructs a passageway ordinarily used by other boats is against the law. For additional tips, call the Marine Board and request a copy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers "Anchor Safely" tip sheet.
Find out more on Safe Anchoring....  

Noise Muffling
Motorboats are required to have a mechanical means of reducing (muffling) the engine exhaust sound level. (ORS 830.260, OAR 250-10-121)
No motorboat exhaust sound can exceed 90 dBA if boat was manufactured before Jan. 1, 1993: 88 dBA if boat was manufactured after Jan 1, 1993.