Non-motorized watercraft regulations

Waterton Lakes National Park

Beginning April 1, 2024: all non-motorized watercraft from outside of the park are prohibited from entering water bodies in Waterton Lakes National Park.

Waterton Lakes National Park is taking additional steps to protect park and regional waters from harmful aquatic invasive species (AIS), including invasive mussels and whirling disease beginning in 2024.

As the headwaters of a larger watershed, Parks Canada is taking action in Waterton Lakes National Park to ensure ecological integrity of aquatic ecosystems in the park and downstream aquatic communities remains intact.

Protecting the broader watershed

The Waterton Lake chain is the headwaters of the Waterton River, which feeds into the Oldman River and the broader South Saskatchewan River watershed. Due to high recreation use within the park and the locations visitors and their watercraft arrive from, the park represents a high risk for introducing additional AIS into this watershed (whirling disease is already present downstream of the Waterton dam). If a species like invasive zebra or quagga mussels entered the broader watershed, they could cause millions of dollars in damage and in cleanup costs to the region.

Responding to a growing risk

In 2023, whirling disease was detected in the Belly River within park boundaries. Outside of Waterton, whirling disease was also detected in Yoho National Park, which was its first detection in British Columbia and in a Pacific draining watershed. Invasive mussels were found both in the Snake River in Idaho and in Clear Lake in Riding Mountain National Park. In the case of Riding Mountain, a mandatory inspection program had been in place since 2018 but failed to stop the introduction of zebra mussels into Clear Lake.

Parks Canada has been taking action on aquatic invasives for several years, including operating a mandatory inspection program for nonmotorized watercraft from 2021 to 2023. However, program compliance was estimated be less than 60% of watercraft users. We thank those who diligently had their boats inspected over the past few seasons, but this is a necessary change to ensure the ecological integrity of park waters and the broader watershed.

Non-motorized watercraft exemptions

Non-motorized watercraft that do not leave park boundaries may qualify for a certification permit to legally launch in park waters. Watercraft owners must take a course on aquatic invasive species and the watercraft must be inspected by Parks Canada staff to qualify for the permit. All watercraft stored at in-park properties will require an attestation form signed by both the watercraft owner and the property leaseholder prior to issuance of the permit.

For more information, contact wlfuaisprevention-eaiprevention@pc.gc.ca.

Users who require adaptive equipment due to a disability: Parks Canada is committed to accessibility and your adapted watercraft and equipment could be accommodated if you can meet the following requirements:

  • You are arriving from the low-risk provinces of B.C., Alberta or Saskatchewan and your watercraft has not been used outside of these provinces this year
  • Your watercraft is cleaned, drained and dried prior to arrival
  • You provide 24 hours notice of your arrival on weekdays so a pre-trip inspection can be scheduled.

Please contact for wlfuaisprevention-eaiprevention@pc.gc.ca in advance of your visit for more details.

90-day quarantine program for motorized and trailered boats

All motorized and trailered watercraft continue to be required to participate in the park’s 90-day quarantine sealing program before they will be able to enter Upper or Middle Waterton Lake. This program is being administered by Improvement District #4 and Shoreline Cruise Co., with support from Parks Canada. Learn more about the 90-day quarantine program.

Mandatory self-certification 

Other water equipment that is not prohibited still requires a self-certification permit. This includes:

  • Fishing equipment
  • Scuba gear
  • Inflatable toys and floats (inner tubes, children’s toys).
  • Note that packable or inflatable kayaks, paddleboards, hydrofoils and canoes are considered non-motorized watercraft and are prohibited from entering waterbodies in Waterton Lakes National Park.

    Self-certification permit locations

    Location details

    Location Coordinates
    Belly River 49°06'54.1"N 113°50'34.3"W
    Belly River Campground 49°01'34.9"N 113°41'04.8"W
    Cameron Bay 49°02'41.7"N 113°54'50.1"W
    Cameron Lake 49°01'10.7"N 114°02'42.2"W
    Driftwood Beach 49°03'57.7"N 113°53'44.6"W
    Emerald Bay North 49°03'24.7"N 113°54'31.5"W
    Emerald Bay South 49°03'20.8"N 113°54'37.7"W
    Farmer's Bay 49°05'40.6"N 113°90'81.8"W
    Hay Barn 49°04'48.0"N 113°51'03.1"W
    Knight Lake 49°06'12.7"N 113°51'05.2"W
    Linnet Docks 49°03'48.5"N 113°54'12.2"W
    Marina 49°03'15.2"N 113°54'27.6"W
    Maskinonge 49°06'37.2"N 113°50'28.7"W
    Park gate 49°06'34.4"N 113°50'57.3"W
    Townsite Campground kiosk 49°02'54.9"N 113°54'33.6"W
    Visitor centre 404 Cameron Falls Drive

    Aquatic invasive species in Waterton Lakes National Park

    Many of Waterton Lakes National Park’s thousands of visitors enjoy the park’s lakes and rivers each year by boating, fishing and swimming. These activities risk introducing aquatic invasive species (AIS) into park waters. AIS are non-native species, exotic species, noxious weeds, or invasive pests or pathogens that require aquatic habitat to survive. Many kinds of aquatics invasive species can survive in Waterton Lakes National Park and interrupt our ecosystem. Some species of concern are zebra and quagga mussels, whirling disease and Eurasian milfoil.

    Invasive mussels

    Zebra and quagga mussels are prodigious filter feeders, they strip nutrients from the water leaving little or no food for native species. This affects the entire food web, impacting plant and animal life in the region, and altering water chemistry and clarity. They are of highest concern, and many other jurisdictions have taken action to prevent their spread. Infestations are permanent and irreversible. Learn more about invasive mussels.

    Whirling disease

    In 2023, whirling disease was detected in the Belly River within park boundaries and is already present downstream of Waterton dam. This disease is detrimental to the park’s native fish populations and containing its spread is important.

    Eurasian water milfoil

    Eurasian water milfoil is a perennial, submersed aquatic plant native to Eurasia and North Africa. This invasive plant is currently not present in Alberta, but, new colonies can be formed from a single stem, seed or leaf. Eurasian milfoil forms thick layers that shade native plants and decrease oxygen levels as they decay, impacting native fish and wildlife. It can be very difficult to eradicate once established.

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