Safe, Responsible Boating on the Willamette River This Summer


Active Water Sports and members of the Oregon wakeboarding community have been lobbying for years now to open up more stretches of the Willametter River for safe, responsible boating. After countless hours fighting this good cause, the Portland Wakeboard community scored a big win when the Oregon State Marine Board (OSMB) recently passed new rules for the Willamette River.

The new rules replace the previous restrictions on wake enhancing devices (ballast, surf systems) between river mile 31.5 and river mile 48.5 with new regulations in an expanded use zone between river mile 30 and river mile 50 that specify the proximity certain water sports activities such as wakeboarding and wakesurfing can occur in relation to structures, along with motorboat operation regulations in specific areas and during specific times.

Filed back in Nov. 2018, the rules were approved by the OSMB on Jan. 22 and went into effect on Feb. 1st. Do a happy dance. Jump up and scream. Give your boat a big ‘ol hug. Water sports on the Willamette River just got a whole lot more fun.

“We are so happy in the way this process turned out. All sides came together to come up with a comprehensive plan that will open up areas of the upper Willamette for all different kinds of river users. We have things in place to provide surfers and wakeboarders areas to play, but also addressed the need to protect docks and shoreline.”

-Matt Radich, Active Water Sports President

What You Need to Know About the New Rule Amendments

The old restrictions on wake enhancing devices have been replaced by the new regulations, allowing boats to use wake enhancing devices such as ballast and wakesurf systems between river mile 30 and river mile 50. The new rules for the river state that a person must not operate a motorboat between river mile 30 and river mile 50 in excess of “slow-no wake” speed within:

-Within 100 ft. of a private dock, boathouse or moorage legally permitted by the Oregon Department of State Lands

-Within 200 ft. of a private dock, boathouse or moorage legally permitted by the Oregon Department of State Lands while wakeboarding or tubing

-Within 300 ft. of a private dock, boathouse or moorage legally permitted by the Oregon Department of State Lands while wakesurfing

If the river is too narrow for a boat to remain the specified distance away from a dock, boathouse or moorage on both sides of the river, the driver shall operate the boat no closer than the river centerline.

Although the new rules open this stretch of river to wakesurfing, there are still four zones within this 20 mile stretch where wakesurfing won’t be permitted. The rule regarding these zones states: a person must not operate a motorboat with a registered length of 18 feet or longer for the purpose of either wakesurfing or maintaining a speed between “slow-no wake” and planing, where a motorboat operated at planing speed is riding on or near the water’s surface as a result of the hydrodynamic forces on the motorboat’s hull or other surface, within the following areas as marked:

-Between the Canby Ferry and river mile 35.6
-Between river mile 37 and river mile 41.4
-Between river mile 42.4 and river mile 46
-Between river mile 48.6 and river mile 49.8
(These zones will be marked with buoys)

Click here to read the full rules amendment for the Willamette River

Wake Responsibly

Active Water Sports takes your fun seriously and that means taking safe, responsible motorboat operations seriously. While you are out there enjoying the newly opened stretches of waterway this Summer, please follow these threes rules for responsible boating:

-Stay at least 200 ft. away from any designated public launch ramp or marked swimming area

-Keep music at reasonable levels

-Minimize repetitive passes on any one shoreline.

And most importantly, remember that you are always responsible for your own wake. Following these simple rules will go a long ways in making the river an enjoyable place for all types of users and helping protect water sports our right to enjoy water sports on this stretch of river for many years to come. 

Please Share This With Friends & Family

The team at Active Water Sports asks you to please share this article with friends and family that boat on the Willamette River so that everyone is aware of the recent rule changes. We’ll see you out there!


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