Boating in Washington

Recreational boating is a popular pastime in Washington; just ask any of the several hundred thousand residents who own at least one canoe, kayak, row boat, personal watercraft, stand up paddle board, drift boat, runabout, sailboat, motor yacht or some other type of recreational vessel. Boats and boaters (that includes paddlers and paddlecraft) are everywhere! 

Boating, however, isn't without its risks. Boaters who take chances, inexperienced boaters, ill-prepared boaters and just plain unlucky boaters are involved in accidents throughout the year. Sometimes with tragic, even deadly, results. The chilly waters of the Pacific Northwest can be an unforgiving environment, and safety must be on the minds of everyone who plays in and around it. 

​Safety on the water

The following actions are known to be the top reasons for recreational boating and paddlesport fatalities. 

  • Failure to WEAR life jackets, especially in small boats
  • Operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol and drugs
  • Failure to follow navigation "rules of the road"
  • Operator inexperience, inattention, unsafe speeds and improper lookout
  • Inability to call for rescue when an accident happens
The State Parks Boating Program encourages you to have fun as you head out on the water and be smart. There's a lot to learn and we're here to help you! Explore the website, if you don't find what you need feel free to contact us at (360) 902-8555 oemail

About the Boating Program

Washington State Parks manages over 100 state parks throughout the state, and administers programs beyond park boundaries, one of which is the Boating Program. The Boating Program provides leadership in recreational boating safety and environmental education and outreach. The goal of the program is to reduce accidents and fatalities, increase stewardship of Washington waterways, and keep recreational boating a safe, accessible and enjoyable pastime.  

The Boating Program’s responsibilities include:

  • Administering the Mandatory Boater Education Program, which includes issuing Washington State Boater Education Cards.
  • Conducting public safety campaigns and promoting safe-boating behaviors.
  • Monitoring the use of vessel registrations fees by local governments.
  • Providing funding, training, and recognition to Washington’s maritime law enforcement so they are well equipped to educate the public, enforce recreational boating laws, investigate accidents, and assist boaters in distress.
  • Managing the statewide recreational boating accident reporting system.
  • Administering the Clean Vessel Act Grant Program, which includes providing funding for waste disposal systems to service recreational vessels and boater education programs to promote public awareness about boat sewage and its proper disposal.
Funding for these programs comes from federal grants, state vessel registration fees and fuel taxes paid for by boaters. Boater paid fees goes back to the boating community in the form of boating access facilities, boating safety education and law enforcement. 

What's Hot

  1. U.S. Coast Guard Mobile App


    The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) created a mobile app for recreational boaters. The app features an Emergency Assistance button which, with locations services enabled, will call the nearest USCG command center.