Glacier National Park Posts Summer Boating Dates and Procedures
By Jackalope Jordan


Glacier National Park will gradually open its waters to boating over the next few weeks and the National Park Service has shared some important dates and information for boaters before they launch.

The NPS issued the following news release:

West Glacier, MT – Park waters will open between May 12 and June 1. Lake McDonald area inspection stations and west side waters will open on May 12. East side park waters and inspection stations will open to boating on June 1.

Gas powered motorized watercraft will be permitted on Lake McDonald following a 30-day “dry time.” Lake McDonald is the only lake in the park where gas-powered motorized watercraft will be permitted to launch. Motorized boats will be sealed to their trailers after inspection, and seals will then be removed by park personnel following the 30-day “dry time” prior to launch. Montana State, Blackfeet Nation, Confederated Salish-Kootenai, and Whitefish Lake inspection seals will be honored in Glacier after a 30-day “dry time.”

Non-motorized, non-trailered watercraft may also launch without the 30-day dry time on May 12 on west side waters after inspection, along with motorized boats that have already completed the 30-day dry time and have an intact seal. All watercraft should be clean, drained, and dry before inspection.

This summer, non-trailered boats with electric trolling motors may launch on Lake McDonald, Bowman, Two Medicine, St. Mary, and Swiftcurrent Lakes. They will not require a 30-day dry time because the motors are not water-cooled and therefore are classified as lower risk, similar to hand-propelled water-craft.

Motorized watercraft rented and operated under National Park Service contract with Glacier Park Boat Company will continue to be available, in addition to boat tours. Motorboat rentals will be available this summer on Lake McDonald and Two Medicine Lake.

Inspection Standards


All watercraft must be clean, drained, and dry prior to inspection

All non-motorized watercraft will be inspected, including but not limited to canoes, kayaks, row boats, sail boats, paddleboards, float tubes, inner tubes, and wind surfboards.

Small, low grade inflatable children’s water toys including water wings, rings, and the like will not require a permit.

Watercraft must be accessible and inflated for inspection: uninflated rafts or float tubes, watercraft with internal water holding tanks, wash systems, etc. will be denied a launch permit.

New, unused inflatable watercraft will not require an inspection; however they will require a permit before launching.

An inspection will be required upon each entry to the park if intending to launch. Visitors staying overnight in the park will not need a daily inspection.


Park personnel inspected over 13,000 non-motorized watercraft in 2017. Visitors should plan ahead, build time into their schedules, and have their watercraft prepared, to speed inspection times.

Visitors can speed up the inspection process by ensuring that their watercraft are clean, drained, dry, and ready for inspection upon arrival. Although many non-motorized boats can be inspected on top of vehicle roof racks, boaters should be prepared to take their boats down for inspection, especially if they have internal standing water or are dirty.

The park will continue to assess the inspection program and aquatic invasive species threat throughout the summer and may make adjustments in hours and scope of the permitting process, and areas where boats are permitted, depending on funding and as new information emerges. The park’s aquatic invasive species prevention program and boating regulations have undergone significant changes since 2016 following the detection of invasive quagga or zebra mussels within the State of Montana.

The park received funding again this year from the Glacier National Park Conservancy to expand inspection capacity to prevent the introduction of non-native aquatic invaders. These funds allow the park to offer significantly extended inspection dates and hours of operation.

Procedures and locations for obtaining a non-motorized watercraft launch permit are outlined below:

Lake McDonald*
May 12 – May 26
7:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Parking lot across the street from the Apgar boat ramp

Beginning May 27:
7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (station closure times will adjust as summer daylight wanes)
Parking lot across the street from the Apgar boat ramp

*Offers motorized boat inspections and seals

North Fork Area
There are no inspection stations located in the North Fork region. Boaters traveling to the North Fork should visit the Lake McDonald inspection station prior to launch. North Fork residents should contact the Polebridge Ranger Station for possible alternate inspection procedures.

Two Medicine beginning June 1
7:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Two Medicine Ranger Station

St. Mary beginning June 1
7:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
St. Mary Visitor Center

Many Glacier beginning June 1
7:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Many Glacier Ranger Station

For rules and regulations about boating, please visit the park’s web page at:
http://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/boating.htm

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