Sailboats 12 feet long and longer and all motorboats and personal watercraft must be registered at the local county treasurers office. Boats from out of state or country which will not be in Montana for more than 90 consecutive days are exempt from registration. [Learn more]
Children 12 years old or younger may not operate a motorboat or a personal watercraft powered by a motor rated at more than 10 horsepower unless accompanied by someone 18 years of age or older.
Youths 13 and 14 years of age may not operate those vessels without possessing a valid Montana motorboat operator's safety certificate or evidence of completing an approved boating safety course, or unless accompanied by someone 18 years of age or older.
A person must be 18 years or older to rent a motorboat or a personal watercraft powered by a motor rated at more than 10 horsepower. All required equipment and a copy of the rental agreement must be on board rented vessels.
It is unlawful to operate or be in actual physical control of a motorboat, sailboat, water skis, surfboard, or similar device attached to a motorboat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A person with an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more is considered under the influence of alcohol. [MCA 61-8-4]
Operating a vessel in a manner which may endanger the personal health or damage the property of any person is considered negligent operation. A boat's owner is liable for any injury or damage resulting from negligent operation.
Observe all "no wake" and speed-limit signs located on the water. Boaters are responsible for any damage caused by their wake.
Powerboats, sailboats and boats under sail may not be used to kill, capture, take, pursue, concentrate, drive, or stir up any upland game birds, game, or fur-bearing animals. Motor- driven vehicles may not be used to drive, molest, flush or harass any game animal or game bird while hunting.
Boats must be launched from established launching areas if provided. Boat owners should prepare their vessel for launching before parking at the boat ramp, should launch the vessel quickly, and move the tow vehicle so that others may use the area.
Boats may not be left unattended while moored or attached to a public boat dock. Docks are to be used only for loading and unloading unless otherwise posted.
It is illegal to discharge any garbage, refuse, waste, or sewage into or near the water. Boats
equipped with toilets or porta-potties must dispose of waste properly. Because there are so few
marine pumpout stations in Montana, boaters should check on the local availability of waste
disposal stations before using their on-board facilities.
[List of dump site locations ( 47 KB)]
It is illegal as well as unsafe to overpower a boat. The U.S. Coast Guard Capacity Plate on each boat provides the recommended horse power for that vessel.
Motorboats and personal watercraft may not emit noise in excess of 86 decibels measured at a distance of 50 feet. At idle speed, exhaust noise may not be in excess of 90 decibels measured one meter from the muffler.
More restrictive noise standards are in effect for Flathead Lake (Flathead and Lake Counties), Echo Lake (Flathead County) and Swan Lake (Lake County) because of population density and heavy recreational use. On these waterways, a person may not operate a motorboat or personal watercraft in proximity to the shore-line if the noise emitted is greater than 75 decibels measured at shoreline in accordance with the shoreline sound level measurement procedure.
Certain exceptions are made for state-sanctioned regattas or boat races and by special permit.
Written permission from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is necessary to conduct a boating race, regatta or other marine event on Montana's waters. Letters of application must be sent at least 30 days prior to the scheduled event. Mail to: Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Boating Law Enforcement, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, MT 59620-0701.
Boaters must stay at least 200 feet away from a "diver down" flag. If a boat must approach this warning flag, it must do so at a "no wake" speed.
The commonly used diver down warning flags are:
Boating accident reports ( 27 KB) are required by law and provide valuable information for use in the prevention of future boating accidents. An accident must be reported immediately to the local sheriffs office or game warden if it caused:
The operator of a boat involved in a collision, accident, or other casualty must:
Boating accident report forms are available from the county sheriff's office, game wardens, or any Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks office.
Authorized officers of Montana Fish, Wildlife &s Parks have peace officer status for enforcement of the boating regulations. Sheriffs, peace officers, and U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement officers also have authority to enforce these provisions. Fish, Wildlife & Parks wardens are authorized to stop, halt, or inspect vessels in order to enforce the laws of this state.
A person convicted of violating Montana's boating laws or regulations may be fined up to $500 and sentenced for up to six months in jail.