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 statewide beyond park boundaries, one of which is the Boating Program. The program's responsibilities include:

  • Monitoring the use of vessel registration fees by local governments
  • Providing marine law enforcement training
  • Managing the statewide recreational boating accident reporting system
  • Providing financial assistance to local governments for boating safety programs
  • Working with local law enforcement programs, schools and volunteer instructors to teach safe-boating behavior to youth
  • Administering the Mandatory Boater Education Program which includes issuing Washington State Boater Education Cards
  • Conducting campaigns of public outreach and information containing safe-boating messages
  • Administering the Clean Vessel Act Program, which includes providing funding for public and private marinas to install boat-sewage disposal facilities throughout Washington and to manage boater environmental education programs
  • Reporting to the legislature on program status and alternative approaches on boating safety
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.