Frequently asked questions

Waterton Lakes National Park

Mandatory non-motorized watercraft inspection FAQs
Why is Parks Canada moving to a mandatory inspection program?

Parks Canada recognizes the importance of protecting park waters from aquatic invasive species. While the park has seen a reasonable level of compliance with self-inspection program, moving to a formalized inspection ensures compliance and offers a better level of protection against invasive species. With harmful invasive species like quagga and zebra mussels, as well as whirling disease, still posing a threat to park waters, this was a necessary step.

When will the station be open?

2023 seasonal operating hours

  • January 1 to May 7: appointments are available Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Phone 403-632-6202 or email to book an appointment.
  • May 8 to 17: daily, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • May 18 to September 5: daily, 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • September 6 to October 23: daily, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The station closes for the season on October 24, 2023. Inspections are available by appointment only after this date until spring 2024.

Where will the inspection station be?

The inspection station is located on the north side of the intersection of Highways 5/6 and the Entrance Road. This location will allow for inspection of any watercraft before they pass through the park gate. Any watercraft planning to launch in water bodies outside of the park gate (the Maskinonge, for example) must still report to the inspection station to obtain a permit.

In the off season, inspections are by appointment only at the Parks Canada Operations Compound located on Entrance Road across from Linnet Lake. All non-motorized watercraft entering the park must undergo an inspection and receive a permit.

How do I book an appointment?

Appointments are only available between late October and early May, when the watercraft inspection station is closed for the season. By appointment inspections are completed at the Parks Canada Operations Compound, and are mandatory before launching in park waters.

  • Appointments are available Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
  • Phone 403-632-6202 or email to book an appointment;
  • Advance notice is appreciated;
  • A same-day inspection may be possible during weekdays by phoning 403-632-6202.
Is there a fee associated with this watercraft inspection?

No, the watercraft inspections are free but mandatory.

How is the park issuing and enforcing mandatory inspection permits?

Permits will be issued once inspection determines there is no risk of invasive species to park waters. Watercraft must be cleaned, drained, and dried prior to inspection. Staff have a cleaning and decontamination station to aid in removing any potentially harmful mud, water, plants, or animals from boats.

Once clean, a waterproof tag will be applied to the watercraft. A paper permit, to be placed on vehicle dashboards, will also be provided. Aquatic guardians, both Parks Canada staff and volunteers, will be present at high traffic locations to monitor watercraft. Park Wardens will ensure cooperation with the program as necessary.

Parks Canada Agency reserves the right to deny a Motorized Watercraft permit, a Non-Motorized Watercraft Permit, or a Non-Watercraft Equipment Self-Certification Permit if watercraft and aquatic equipment pose an unmitigated risk of transferring aquatic invasive species to park waters.

Will residents and leaseholders be required to use the inspection station?

Residents and leaseholders will require an initial inspection to obtain a permit for their watercraft. If you take your watercraft outside the park, you will need to have it inspected again.

I live outside the park but only launch my paddleboard in Waterton Lakes. Will I need to get it inspected each time?

Yes. If you are entering the park with watercraft, it will need to be inspected. We understand this may be an inconvenience for locals, but, doing so ensures a consistent and effective program. If you only boat in Waterton Lakes and your watercraft is cleaned, drained and dried in advance, then the inspection process should be quick. Together, we can prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species into park waters and the rivers leading out of the park.

Will those with a Government of Alberta Proof of Inspection, still need to stop at the park’s inspection station?

Yes, while we recognize that they complete watercraft inspections, we would still like to take a look at your non-motorized watercraft at our station. A prior inspection by another organization will likely speed up the process to obtain a Waterton Lakes National Park Non-Motorized Watercraft Permit.

Can I launch prior to the inspection station opening?

If you wish to launch outside of inspection station hours, your watercraft will have to be inspected prior to launch. Before May 8: all visitors must wait for 8:00 a.m. when staff are available for appointments.

May 8 to October 23, 2023: Visitors must wait for the inspection station to open and receive a permit before launching their non-motorized watercraft.

After October 24: Inspections are available by appointment only until spring 2024.

Motorized and trailered watercraft program FAQ
Why are motorized and trailered watercraft allowed in Waterton Lakes National Park again?

Motorised power boating is a long standing activity on Waterton Lakes, for which the Canada National Parks Act provides authority to permit. Power boating was removed because of a threat of contamination from invasive aquatic mussels. Now that that threat can be fully managed, Parks Canada has determined power boats can return.

Who is managing the sealing program?

Improvement District #4 is managing the sealing program. For more information on this program, visit the Improvement District #4 website.

Is the 90-day quarantine an effective method for preventing the spread of invasive mussels?

Yes. Preventing invasive mussels from entering Waterton Lakes National Park is still our top priority. The quarantine program was developed with this in mind, while providing a fair solution for recreational boaters.

What authority does Parks Canada have to make this decision?

Parks Canada manages Waterton Lakes National Park consistent with the expectations of Canadians as reflected in the Waterton Lakes National Park Management Plan, and the Canada National Parks Act. Authority to manage motorized watercraft access is set out in the National Park General Regulations (sections 7 and 21). Motorized watercraft are not permitted unless authorized by the Superintendent. The quarantine procedure is the only method in which motorized watercraft will be allowed back in Waterton Lakes National Park.

Are invasive mussels still a threat?

Yes. Preventing invasive mussels from entering Waterton Lakes National Park is still our top priority. The quarantine program was developed with this in mind, while providing a fair solution for recreational boaters.

Do non-motorized watercraft still follow the same self-inspection rules as in the 2018 season?

Waterton Lakes National Park is protecting park waters from harmful aquatic invasive species, including invasive mussels and whirling disease. All non-motorized watercraft are subject to a mandatory inspection before entering the park. Learn more about the new program

Where can I operate motorized or trailered watercraft in Waterton Lakes National Park?

These types of watercraft are permitted in Upper and Middle Waterton Lakes only, after the 90-day quarantine period has been completed.

Is there a penalty for launching a prohibited boat in Waterton Lakes National Park?

All motorized and trailered watercraft that have not undergone the 90-day seal and quarantine program will be considered a prohibited boat. Under the Canada National Parks Act the maximum penalty for a launching a prohibited boat in the park is $25,000. The offender can be arrested, their boat seized, and the offender will be compelled to attend court. If found guilty, in addition to the fine imposed by the court, the crown can seek forfeiture of the seized boat.

Where can I launch my motorized watercraft?

All watercraft with motors (gas or electric, trailered or hand launched) are restricted to use on Upper and Middle Waterton Lakes only. The exception to this is any Parks Canada or RCMP watercraft needed for emergency response.

There are no exemptions for detachable electric motors under a certain horsepower.

Are detachable motors exempt from the 90-day quarantine?

Detachable electric motors used on hand-launched watercraft are exempt from the 90-day quarantine, but must follow the non-motorized watercraft procedure (inspection, possible decontamination, and permit by staff at the inspection station).

Trailered watercraft with electric motors must follow the 90-day quarantine program.

Invasive mussel FAQs
What are invasive mussels?

Invasive mussels, such as quagga and zebra mussels, are aquatic invasive species introduced from Europe into North America in 1980s. The fingernail-sized freshwater mollusk can produce millions of eggs and easily attach itself to objects such as boats and trailers. Their numbers can reach tens of thousands per square metre. Prodigious filter feeders, they strip nutrients from the water leaving little or no food for native species. This affects the entire food web, impacting the plant and animal life in the region, and altering water chemistry and water clarity. They are permanent and irreversible. No method, technology or natural predator exists to remove invasive mussels once established in a water body. Mussels can inadvertently be moved to a new location attached on boats, equipment and trailers. Standing or trapped water in boats is a concern because invasive mussels have a microscopic larval stage, allowing them to be present without being visible.

Where are invasive mussels found?

Invasive mussels are present in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and 34 U.S. states, including Montana.

Are there invasive mussels in Waterton Lakes?

To date, invasive mussels have not been detected in Waterton Lakes National Park. Parks Canada regularly tests for invasive mussels, following similar protocols as the U.S. National Parks Service in Glacier National Park and Alberta Environment and Parks. This includes visual testing for invasive mussels and active monitoring for invasive mussel veligers (larval stage).

Have invasive mussels been found near Waterton Lakes National Park?

The larvae of these aquatic invasive species (AIS) were detected in the Tiber Reservoir in Montana, which is about a half-day’s drive from Waterton. Parks Canada concluded that prohibition of motorized and trailered watercraft was the most effective way to protect the ecological integrity of the Waterton Lakes and downstream areas while a solution was developed.

The biggest risk of invasive mussel contamination in Waterton is transfer from infested areas in power boats, trailered boats and the trailers. Standing or trapped water in these vessels is a concern because invasive mussels have a microscopic larval stage, allowing them to be present without being visible. This is why these watercraft were prohibited from use in Waterton before the quarantine program was developed.

What are the impacts of invasive mussel contamination?

Parks Canada is responsible for protecting the lakes, rivers and streams in Waterton Lakes National Park. Invasive mussel contamination poses a significant threat to the park’s unique ecology, by depleting nutrients available for native species, which affects the entire food web, and altering water chemistry and quality.

In addition to the significant ecological effects, invasive mussels are known to cause extensive economic and visitor experience impacts by clogging water intake structures, dams, water treatment facilities, hydro power facilities, docks, breakwaters, buoys, boats and beaches.

The headwaters of the South Saskatchewan River Basin are in Waterton Lakes National Park. The downstream risk of invasive mussel contamination in Waterton threatens: the extensive irrigation network that supports southern Alberta’s significant agricultural industry; infrastructure that supports water supply for multiple jurisdictions, including the cities of Lethbridge and Medicine Hat; and the ecological health for multiple recreational areas.

A 2015 report by the Pacific Northwest Economic Region estimates that the cost of failing to prevent mussel contamination in the region would exceed $500 million (USD) annually. Alberta estimates the potential annual cost of contamination at $75 million.

What can people do to help prevent the spread of invasive mussels or other AIS?

Prevention is essential. In addition to completing the mandatory inspection before using human-powered watercraft and completing a mandatory self-inspection of scuba gear and fishing equipment in park waters, people need to adhere to the Clean, Drain, Dry program, following these steps:

  • Clean - Clean and inspect watercraft and gear (including fishing and SCUBA equipment)
  • Drain- Drain buckets, ballasts, bilges, coolers, internal compartments, and other containers that may hold trapped or standing water.
  • Dry - Dry the watercraft and gear completely between trips and leave compartments open and sponge out standing water.
How else is Parks Canada working to protect Waterton from aquatic invasive species (AIS)?

Parks Canada staff, outside researchers and contractors follow best practices and a stringent decontamination protocol for gear and equipment when working in aquatic environments.

Parks Canada is collaborating closely with the U.S. National Park Service and Alberta Environment and Parks to monitor for invasive mussels and other AIS. Parks Canada also provides information to the public so people can learn about this serious issue and contribute to protecting the park’s aquatic environment.

What is the U.S. National Park Service doing in Glacier NP?

Parks Canada is collaborating closely with the U.S. National Park Service in Glacier National Park to monitor for invasive mussels. For more information on the U.S. National Park Service’s boating requirements and invasive mussel prevention in Glacier National Park, visit:

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