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Prevent the transport of aquatic invasive species to Yellowstone by making sure you clean, drain, and dry your boat before you arrive.
Exploring Yellowstone’s lakes by boat offers a great way to see the park from a different perspective. However, boating in the Northern Rockies presents significant risks. Water temperatures on park lakes are in the 40s (Fahrenheit) in June, and may reach the 60s by late summer. In addition, sudden strong winds can produce three to five foot waves, making open-water crossings very dangerous. Boaters in canoes, kayaks, and other small craft must be aware of these hazards and plan accordingly.
The boating season is open. Boating season opens on the Saturday of Memorial day and extends through October 31 every year.
Permits & Inspections
The park requires all watercraft (including angler float tubes and paddle boards) to have a Yellowstone National Park Aquatic Invasive Species inspection and boat permit before launching in any Yellowstone waters. Any watercraft with evidence of quagga or zebra mussels will be prohibited from launching. Watercraft that leaves the park for any period or relaunches 7 days after the date on the AIS sticker must return to the permit office for a new inspection. Watercraft include, but are not limited to power boats, sail boats, canoes, kayaks, drift boats, rafts, paddleboards, and angler float tubes.
Boat permits and AIS inspections are issued at the locations listed below:
Boating Permit Fees
Includes the required aquatic invasive species inspection. Fees are payable by debit or credit card.
Status of Docks:
Docks on Wolf Bay, Eagle Bay, Plover Point, and Frank Island are installed. Bouys on the lake are also installed. (6/8/23)
Additional regulations may apply. If you plan to boat in the park, download the Yellowstone boating regulations and safety booklet.
Guided Trips & Rentals
Yellowstone National Park Lodges provides boat rentals and guided boat trips at Bridge Bay Marina on Yellowstone Lake. Other companies offer guided services for canoeing, kayaking, and motorized boating.
Clean, Drain, and Dry
Aquatic invasive species (AIS) pose a grave and growing threat to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and surrounding economies. AIS can quickly and drastically transform habitats for native species, introduce disease, out-compete native species, alter food chains, change the physical characteristics of bodies of water, damage equipment, devastate water-delivery systems, and negatively impact local/regional economies. Preventing the introduction of AIS is critical because eradication is usually impossible. The detection of invasive mussels in Montana in 2016 and the ecological and financial costs of removing lake trout in Yellowstone Lake underscore the urgent need for action to prevent these and other destructive species from entering the park. If nonnative mussels are found in Yellowstone, park managers will consider a temporary closure of all park waters to watercraft to prevent the spread to other waterways.
Preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species starts with you. Following a few simple steps whenever you move from a body of water will greatly minimize the risk of spreading aquatic invasives to new locations.
Before you arrive, clean all plants, animals, sand, mud, and other debris from your boat, trailer, anchor, boots, and equipment. Clean your boat and all gear as soon as you leave one body of water. Do not dump water or organisms from one water body into another.
Drain all the water from your boat, including the motor, bilge, live-well, and other compartments before you arrive. Leave bilge plug out during transport. Do not dump water or organisms from one water body into another.
Dry all compartments and equipment in the sun for at least five days before entering another body of water or use high-pressure, hot (120 to 140 F) water to clean your boat, trailer, waders, boots, and equipment.
Check owner’s manuals before using high-pressure, hot water to clean equipment. Because of risks to the environment and human health, the use of chemicals like bleach is not recommended for cleaning watercraft or recreational equipment.
Last updated: August 23, 2023