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Know The No-Wake Zone Rules

Recreation News

Wed Jun 20 16:05:00 MDT 2012

If you recreate on the water, it is your responsibility to know and understand the no-wake rules in effect on Montana waters. That includes operators of personal watercraft.

In general, the same rules apply to all types of watercraft.

Here is a quick rundown on no-wake zones.

No-wake zones are in effect on all lakes and reservoirs in the state west of the Continental Divide in the Western Fishing District. Also, all commercial marinas have no-wake zones near their facilities. These rules help reduce the impact of vessel traffic on the shoreline, boat marinas, other recreators and residents with lakeside property.

"No-wake" means a vessel must travel at a speed where there is no "white" water in the track or path of the vessel, or in waves created by the vessel.

All watercraft operating on public lakes and reservoirs under 35 acres in the Western Fishing District are limited to traveling at no-wake speed. A list of these waters is available on the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks website at

On waters greater than 35 surface acres west of the Continental Divide, watercraft must travel at no-wake speed from the shoreline to 200 feet from the shoreline. Exceptions are:

  • personal watercraft, which must maintain a minimum operating speed to remain upright and maneuver in the water, may travel at that minimum operating speed following the most direct route through the no-wake zone to and from shore;
  • motorized watercraft towing a skier from or to a dock or the shore, except that watercraft must travel the most direct route through the no-wake zone;
  • these lakes located within the Thompson Chain of Lakes in Lincoln county are also exceptions:

o Crystal Lake
o Horseshoe Lake
o Loon Lake
o Lower Thompson Lake
o McGregor Lake
o Middle Thompson Lake
o Upper lobe of Upper Thompson Lake

Montana's boating laws and other water recreation rules are available on FWP's website at Go to Recreation, Rules and Regulations, then Boating.