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Glacier Plans Strict Inspections As Park Waters Open To Boats

Bowman Lake in Glacier National Park.
Bowman Lake in Glacier National Park.

Glacier National Park will begin opening park waters to boaters in the next few weeks with beefed-up inspection requirements put in place after invasive mussels were first detected in Montana in 2016.

Inspection stations that screen for invasive species will begin opening around Lake McDonald and the west side of the park on May 12. East side waters and inspection stations will open June 1.

Gas-powered boats must complete a 30-day dry time before entering Lake McDonald, the only park lake that permits gas-powered engines. 

Non-motorized boats, like kayaks, stand up paddleboards and float tubes, and non-trailered boats with electric trolling motors can launch without the 30-day dry time following an inspection.

All watercraft must be clean, drained and dry before inspection, and boaters must stop at every inspection station they encounter.

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

Lake McDonald*
May 12 – May 26, 7 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. in the parking lot across the street from the Apgar boat ramp.
Beginning May 27, 7 a.m. - 9 p.m.

*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 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Two Medicine Ranger Station.

St. Mary
Beginning June 1, 7:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the St. Mary Visitor Center.

Many Glacier
Beginning June 1, 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Many Glacier Ranger Station.

For rules and regulations about boating, please visit the park’s web page at

Nicky is MTPR's Flathead-area reporter.
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