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Waterway Markers & Permitting

Know Your Waterway Markers

Waterway Markers are devices, such as buoys or signs, designed to be in, or near boatable waters to convey an official message to a boat operator.

“Regulatory markers" alert boat operators to restrictions set in law including, but not limited to:

  • boat exclusion areas
  • motor, horsepower, speed, or
  • wake restrictions.

“Information markers" are warnings of dangers or obstructions to navigation. They can also be official and informational in nature to contribute to the safety and well-being of boaters. 

Channel Marker Colors: Understanding Red and Green Markers and Navigation Buoys Red buoy on the Columbia River

Understanding Red and Green Markers and Navigation Buoys Red and green colors are what you'll see for markers and buoys in Oregon. They identify the main channel and which side of the channel to be on to avoid a collision.

  • When you're heading inland from open water or heading upstream in a river, keep the red markers to your right (starboard) and the green ones to your left (port).
  • When you're heading from the ocean into a bay, or from a bay into a river, harbor, or port, the red markers belong on your right side.

Hence, the old saying “Red Right Returning." Sometimes you'll see an aid to navigation that has horizontal bands of both red and green. These mark the junction between two channels. In this case, the color that's highest on the marker indicated the preferred or primary channel.

Another aid to navigation is a “non-lateral" marker. Each of these has its own specific use and meaning:

Diamond-shaped Dayboards – These are used to help you determine your location, more or less like the “you are here" marks on a map.

Danger Marks – Look out for red and black horizontal bands, which indicate an isolated danger that can be passed on either side.

Range Markers – These are pairs of markers, often with non-blinking lights. When you're in the middle of the channel, the two markers and/or lights line up vertically. Many are paired with one marker located on land and the other on the water which lines up visually when you are in the channel.

  • Information and Regulation Markers – Orange and white aids state various regulations like speed zones, slow -no wake, and other regulations:

    • "Hazards" are marked with an orange diamond shape
    • An orange circle for regulations related to how you operate your boat
    • An orange diamond with a cross through it if boats are prohibited from the area, or a square when they are used for informational purposes  

    Information and regulatory waterway markers

Private Waterway Marker Permits or Signs 

Regulatory markers established before July 1, 2015, including markers deployed year-round and markers deployed seasonally, when supported by statute or rule, are exempt from the permit requirements of OAR 250-010-0215 to 250-010-0235 until the equipment is replaced. Existing regulatory markers that are not supported by statute or rule or that are an unreasonable hazard to navigation are subject to the removal provisions of OAR 250-010-0235(4).
For markers established after July 1, 2015: political subdivisions and individuals can apply for permission to place regulatory and information markers in areas not marked by the Marine Board. Regulatory markers can only be placed in areas where regulations are already established. Informational markers can be used to convey information to boat operators that is not an enforceable law such as "marina ahead," "fuel dock," or "caution -swimmers."  
***Please note***
A Marine Board waterway marker permit does not relieve the applicant from obtaining other federal, state, or local permits, licenses, or approval that may be required.