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Courtesy and Etiquette

Know the navigation rules of the road and your responsibility as a boat operator to prevent incidents and collisions. Develop your skills and operate defensively, just like you would on the roadways. Remember, boats don't have breaks and there are no lines to follow on the water.  
Boating Ethics
noun: moral principles that govern a person's behavior or the conducting of an activity. Synonyms: moral code, morals, morality, values, rights, and wrongs, principles, ideals, standards (of behavior), value system, virtues, dictates of conscience.

Recreational boating is a billion-dollar industry in Oregon and the bounty of waterways, and the diversity of boat uses and activities can invite conflicts. The best way to ensure everyone has a good time on the water is to take personal responsibility and display courteous behavior toward other waterway users by embracing the following ethics:



·       Know and follow all statewide and local area rules of operation.

·       Have a current boat registration, and a boater education card if operating a motorboat over 10 hp, and for paddlers (kayaks, canoes, inflatable rafts or stand-up paddleboards) with craft 10' or longer, must purchase a Waterway Access Permit.

·       When launching and loading your boat, avoid blocking ramps and docks when others are in line. Use staging areas -not the boat ramp to prep or load gear. Assign roles for passengers to help make launching/retrieving more efficient.  

  • Learn the "pecking order" of the boat ramp for retrieving. At most boat ramps, the order the trailer arrives to pick up the boat determines which boat takes out next.  In some locations, the boat order at the dock determines which boat takes out next. Take the time to learn the protocol for your chosen location and remember that boaters should always work together.

·       Operate at slow-no wake speeds within 200 feet of docks, floating homes, and moorages. This is a statewide proximity rule on all waterways.

·       Keep a sharp lookout at the waterline for swimmers, downed water skiers, and non-motorized boats. Always practice situational awareness.

·       Avoid operating continuously near residential areas if your boat creates considerable noise (whether from the motor or a stereo system).

·       Always communicate with other river users positively and courteously what your operating intentions are. 

·       Ask to be included before joining a group or other individuals.

·       You must have property-owner permission to camp, picnic, and launch or moor your boat on private property. In Oregon, 75% of the land along our waterways is privately owned. While the public does have the right to boat on waters of this state, they do not have the right to trespass on adjacent privately owned land.

·       If you are unfamiliar with a particular boating activity or lack the skill set for the waterway, go with a registered guide. Registered guides know the local rules and regulations and are certified in first aid, CPR, and water rescue techniques.  


·       If hunting from your boat, it is your responsibility to ensure the safety of those around you. Take time to know what’s behind your decoy set or target.

·       Be educated. Learn the rules of the road –know how to signal other boaters of your intentions and how to read their signals.

·       Follow boating safety rules and don’t take chances. Nothing ruins a good day on the water like an emergency.

Leave the alcohol and marijuana at home. Alcohol increases the risk of accidents and injuries but often contributes to social confrontations which ruin everyone’s day on the water. Marijuana use is still illegal in public locations and also impairs motor skills required for safe boat operation. BUII is also a DUII once you're off the water. The risk is not worth it.   


·       Carry portable toilets or use developed restroom (floating and land-side) facilities. If you must use land, dig a small hole 6-8 inches deep, 4-6 inches wide, and up to 12 inches long (longer if there is a group of people) at least 100 feet from the high water river bank and bury your waste completely.

·       Nothing overboard! Stash your trash and dispose of it in the garbage container near the boat ramp or at home.

·       Be a clean boater. Make sure your boat is well-tuned, in good working order and the bilge is clean.

·       Remove your drain plug after boating and drain all water-holding compartments to ensure aquatic invasive species aren’t being transported. Clean, Drain and Dry your boat after every use.


·       Learn the local “customs.” Talk to other anglers about locally accepted traffic patterns, anchoring protocols, areas traditionally left for bank anglers, etc.

·       Give bank anglers plenty of room.

·       Share prime holes with other anglers. Do not block fishing holes.

·       Repeatedly fishing or motoring back through a hole can be unfair to other river users.  Allow other boaters to fish in an area.

·       Before joining a hog line or group of other anglers, ask if they mind and let them know what you are doing. Make sure you have the proper gear to do this safely –it’s not always easy. 

·       Do not fish over or harass spawning fish.


·       Watch your wake.  “Slow no-wake" is defined as operating a boat at the slowest speed necessary to maintain steerage and reducing or eliminating waves that appear as whitewater behind the boat.    

Motorboat operators need to operate at slow no-wake speeds within 200 feet of:

  • docks
  • float
  • floating home
  • boathouse
  • designated boat moorage
  • floating restroom, or
  • person in the water 

·       Avoid power turns, especially when other users are nearby or when operating on narrow rivers. 

·       Avoid shallow waters for water sports where wave amplitudes are higher and can “stack” when there’s a lot of boating activity.

·       Know the local area rules of boat operation.  

For new boaters, learn more about "The Art of Boat Launching"

Icons of different boats and activities with people wearing life jackets