Maryland Boating Regulations

Posted: 06/11/2001
by Jason Robertson

Maryland revised their state boating laws in early 2001. American Whitewater commented on the proposed changes to these rules in early 2000 and all of our comments were incorporated in the new regulations! This is particularly satisfying to all of our volunteers and regional coordinators who have worked with the state over the past several years to increase river safety and communications between boaters, river managers, and rescue personnel.


The new regulations have dropped the requirement for boaters to register before running Great Falls of the Potomac. The old regulation that required registration was 08.18.01.08(f), which now references "Voluntary Registration of Commercial White Water Outfitters and Guides" instead. Maryland State Regulations area available online at the Division of State Documents, Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) web site at: constmail.gov.state.md.us/comar/dsd_web/default.htm

Note that river "recreation" is banned at both Great Falls and Little Falls, but that fishermen and boaters with life jackets are still allowed to use the Potomac river under 08.06.01.02(B)(2).


Title 08 DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES



Subtitle 06 RECREATIONAL WATER USES



Chapter 01 Potomac River Safety



Authority: Natural Resources Article, §§ 1-603, Annotated Code of Maryland


Section 08.06.01.01 PURPOSE



The purpose of these regulations is to foster water safety for recreational uses of certain particularly hazardous portions of the Potomac River by establishing zones and public safety restrictions where certain recreational activities are considered unsafe.



Section 08.06.01.02 Definitions


A. The following terms have the meanings indicated.
B. Terms Defined.
(1) "Boating", for the purposes of this chapter, means any recreational or other use of the Potomac River involving a vessel, including swimming or wading in association with a vessel.
(2) Recreational Use.
(a) "Recreational use" means activities on the Potomac River, including swimming, bathing, wading, diving, tubing, rafting, and other uses involving contact with the water.
(b) "Recreational use" does not include:
(i) Boating, if each person involved is wearing the U.S. Coast Guard approved flotation device required by law or regulation;
(ii) Fishing, when a U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation device is worn;
(iii) Life-saving efforts;
(iv) Swimming or wading as part of a training course having the prior written approval of the Department of Natural Resources or U.S. Park Service.
(3) Vessel.
(a) "Vessel" means each description of watercraft used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water or ice, including ice boats. The term includes the vessel's motor, spars, sails, and accessories.
(b) "Vessel" does not include a:
(i) Seaplane;
(ii) Raft with single inflation compartment;
(iii) Tube.


Section 08.06.01.03 Prohibited Areas.


A. Zone A. A person may not enter the Potomac River for the purpose of recreational use in that portion of the Potomac River beginning 200 yards above the crest of Aqueduct Intake Dam (Great Falls) and extending downstream to the base of Stubblefield Falls.
B. Zone B. A person may not enter the Potomac River for the purpose of recreational use in that portion of the Potomac River beginning 100 yards above the crest of Dam No. 1 (Brookmont Dam) and extending downstream to the western Maryland and District of Columbia boundary line.


Section 08.06.01.04 Written Approval.


Written approval for swimming or wading as part of a training course may be applied for by contacting the:
A. National Park Service at the George Washington Memorial Parkway, Turkey Run Park, McLean, Virginia 22101; or
B. Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Boating Administration, 902 Commerce Road, Annapolis, Maryland 21401.




Section 08.06.01.05 Failure to Comply with Lawful Order.


A person with or without the written approval described in Regulation . 04 of this chapter may not willfully fail or refuse to comply promptly with any lawful or reasonable order or direction of any Natural Resources Police Officer or any law enforcement officer in connection with the enforcement, of Natural Resources Article, §§ 1-601--1-605, Annotated Code of Maryland or these regulations.



Section 08.18.01.06 Water Skiing-----Towed Devices Requirements.


A. A motorboat towing an individual or individuals on water skis, aquaplane, or other similar device shall keep at all times at least 100 feet from the shore, wharf, pier, piling, jetty, bridge structure or abutment, or an individual or individuals in the water. When passing another vessel, the operator of the towing vessel shall stay at least 100 feet away from the other vessel.
B. Towlines may not be more than 75 feet in length, except, when barefoot skiing, a tow line 100 feet in length may be used.
C. An individual or individuals may begin skiing from shore, boat deck, or wharf.
D. On the slack water areas above Dams 3, 4, and 5 on the Upper Potomac River, a motorboat may not tow more than two tubes or similar devices when the tow line is attached directly to the device.

Section 08.18.01.08 Boating on White Water Portions of Designated Stream Segments.


A. The provisions of this regulation apply to boating on any white water portion of stream segments designated in this regulation, but do not apply to stream segments not designated in this regulation.
B. For purposes of this regulation, "white water portion" means any portion of a designated stream segment which has any of the criteria characteristics described in §§C of this regulation.
C. The Department of Natural Resources shall designate white water stream segments in accordance with the following criteria:
(1) Class III (Intermediate). Rapids with moderate irregular waves occur, which may be difficult to avoid and which can swamp an open canoe. Complex maneuvers in fast current, and good boat control in tight passages or around ledges are often required. Large waves or strainers may be present but are easily avoided. Strong eddies and powerful current effects can be found, particularly on large volume rivers. Scouting is advisable for inexperienced parties. Injuries while swimming are rare. Self-rescue is usually easy, but group assistance may be required to avoid long swims.
(2) Class IV (Advanced). Intense, powerful but predictable rapids occur, requiring precise boat handling in turbulent water. Depending on the character of the river, it may feature large, unavoidable waves and holes or constricted passages demanding fast maneuvers under pressure. A fast, reliable eddy turn may be needed to initiate maneuvers, scout rapids, or rest. Rapids may require moves above dangerous hazards. Scouting is necessary the first time down. Risk of injury to swimmers is moderate to high and water conditions may make self-rescue difficult. Group assistance for rescue is often essential, but requires practiced skills. A strong Eskimo roll is highly recommended.
(3) Class V (Expert). Extremely long, obstructed, or very violent rapids occur, which expose a paddler to above average endangerment. Drops may contain large, unavoidable waves and holes or steep, congested chutes with complex, demanding routes. Rapids may continue for long distances between pools, demanding a high level of fitness. What eddies exist may be small, turbulent, or difficult to reach. At the high end of the scale, several of these factors may be combined. Scouting is mandatory but often difficult. Swims are dangerous, and rescue is difficult even for experts. A very reliable Eskimo roll, proper equipment, extensive experience, and practiced rescue skills are essential for survival.
(4) Class VI (Extreme). One grade more difficult than Class V. These runs often exemplify the extremes of difficulty, unpredictability, and danger. The consequences of errors are very severe and rescue may be impossible. For teams of experts only at favorable water levels, after close personal inspection and taking all precautions. This class does not represent drops thought to be unrunnable, but may include rapids which are only occasionally run.

D. The Department of Natural Resources is designating the following stream segments for purposes of this boating safety regulation only, and intends no determination whether there is any right of public access to, navigation along, landing along, or egress from, any of these designated stream segments. This regulation does not apply to the use of vessels on non-white water portions of designated stream segments for any purpose other than access to white water. The designated stream segments are:
(1) Class III--stream segments:
(a) North Branch Casselman River--Dung Hill Road to Md. Rte. 495;
(b) Potomac River--Dam No. 3, Harpers Ferry to Knoxville Falls;
(c) Evitts Creek--Maryland line (Hazen Road) to North Branch Potomac River (Md. Rte. 51 bridge);
(d) Flintstone Creek--Flintstone Creek Road to Town Creek (Old Rte. 40 bridge);
(e) Fifteen Mile Creek--U.S. Rte. 40 to Potomac River (bridge at Orleans Rd.);
(f) Middle Creek--Pennsylvania line to Toms Creek (Keysville Rd.);
(g) Northwest Branch Anacostia River--U.S. Rte. 29 to Hyattsville (38th Avenue);
(h) Patapsco River--Woodstock (Md. Rte. 125) to Glen Artney (Patapsco State Park--Old Dam);
(i) South Branch Patapsco River--Woodbine (Md. Rte. 94) to Woodstock (Md. Rte. 125);
(j) Gunpowder Falls--Prettyboy Dam to Md. Rte. 45;
(k) Little Falls--Parkton (Md. Rte. 45) to Gunpowder Falls (Blue Mount Road);
(l) Little Gunpowder Falls--Md. Rte. 147 to U.S. Rte. 40;
(m) Deer Creek--Fawn Grove Road to Stafford Road;
(2) Class IV--stream segments:
(a) Bear Creek--U.S. Rte. 219 to Friendsville (Friendsville--Addison Road);
(b) Georges Creek--Md. Rte. 36 bridge halfway between Midland and Lonaconing to Westernport (Md. Rte. 135 bridge);
(c) Jennings Run--Barrelville (Rte. 36) to Wills Creek (Md. Rte. 36 bridge);
(d) Middle Patuxent River--Md. Rte. 107 to Savage (Foundry Street);
(e) Rock Creek--East-West Highway to D.C. line (Rock Creek Park);
(f) Gunpowder Falls--Lower Loch Raven Dam to U.S. Rte. 40;
(3) Class V--stream segments:

(a) Youghiogheny River:
(i) Millers Run (bridge on Oakland--Sang Run Road) to Sang Run Road,
(ii) Sang Run Road to Friendsville (Rte. 42);
(b) Potomac River--Great Falls (foot of falls) to Washington, D.C. (Chain Bridge Rd.);
(c) North Branch Potomac River--Henry, W.Va. (W.Va. Rte. 90) to Bloomington, Md. (mouth of Savage River);
(d) Savage River--Savage River Dam to North Branch Potomac River (Md. Rte. 135 bridge);
(e) Wills Creek--Pennsylvania line near Ellerslie to North Branch Potomac River (levee at Md. Rte. 48 bridge);
(f) Conowingo Creek--Oakwood to Susquehanna River (launching ramp--Conowingo Lake);
(4) Class VI--stream segments: All the waters of the Potomac River--Great Falls area from the base of aqueduct dam to a line from the foot of the main falls on the Virginia shoreline to the Maryland shoreline below Olmstead Island.
E. Required Equipment.
(1) An individual using a vessel upon any white water portion of any designated stream segment shall wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved Type III or V personal flotation device (PFD) at all times. An individual taking part in supervised training or in International Canoe Federation (ICF)--American Canoe Association (ACA) sanctioned events may substitute a lifedeck personal flotation device (PFD) if it provides a minimum buoyancy of 6 kilograms (13.5 pounds).
(2) An individual who is in charge of guiding a commercially hired vessel or vessels shall have in possession, at all times while navigating any designated stream segment, a first aid kit, such as the kit recommended by Eastern Professional River Outfitters, equipped for severe bleeding, shock or concussion, and fractures.
(3) An individual in charge of a vessel being used on a white water portion of a designated white water stream segment shall have, at all times, grab loops or safety lines attached to the vessel.
(4) An individual using a kayak or covered canoe vessel on a white water portion of a designated stream segment shall wear a safety helmet.
F. Voluntary Registration of Commercial White Water Outfitters and Guides.
(1) A person who directly or indirectly receives any consideration for furnishing equipment, facilities, or services, or all of these, for white water boating, may register with the Department as a commercial white water outfitter.
(2) A person who directly or indirectly receives any consideration for guiding vessels containing passengers on white water stream segments, may register with the Department as a commercial white water guide.
(3) A person desiring to register as a commercial white water outfitter or guide shall apply annually on forms provided by the Department.
(4) Criteria for Registration. Before registering a person as a commercial white water outfitter or guide, the Department shall determine that the person:
(a) Carries sufficient liability insurance covering death or personal injury for the number of individuals who will use the outfitter's or guide's equipment on white water stream segments;
(b) If registering as a guide, holds a CPR certificate or equivalent, or a Red Cross Advanced First Aid certificate or equivalent;
(c) If registering as a guide, provides proof of degree of experience with specific types of vessels, which proof then shall be included on the State registration list.
(5) The Department of Natural Resources shall make available to each registered commercial white water outfitter and guide information concerning white water boating safety.
(6) The Department of Natural Resources shall make available to the public a list of the registered commercial white water outfitters and guides.


Title 08 DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES



Subtitle 18 BOATING-----SPEED LIMITS AND OPERATION OF VESSELS



Chapter 04 Safety Equipment



Authority: Natural Resources Article, §§ 8-704, Annotated Code of Maryland



Section 08.18.04.01 Definitions.


A. In this chapter, the following terms have the meanings indicated.
B. Terms Defined.
(1) "Aground" means a vessel that is touching the bottom and unable to move.
(2) "Underway" means a vessel that is not aground, at anchor, or tied to shore.
(3) "Upper Potomac River" means that portion of the Potomac River above the Maryland/District of Columbia boundary near Little Falls.


Section 08.18.04.02 Life Saving Equipment.


A. The operator of each vessel not subject to inspection by the Coast Guard shall be required to carry one lifesaving device of a type approved by the Coast Guard for each person aboard.
B. In this regulation the term "vessel" has the meaning stated in COMAR 08.04.01.25 and includes any sailboat, ice boat, sailboard, canoe, kayak, racing shell, rowboat, paddle boat, raft, or any other device capable of being used as a means of transportation on water or ice.
C. The operator of a sailboard may meet the requirement set forth in §§ A, above, by wearing the following equipment so that positive buoyancy is provided to the operator:
(1) Neoprene wetsuit or drysuit;
(2) Closed-cell foam design padded chest, waist, or seat harness; or
(3) Combination of the equipment specified in §§ C(1) and (2), above.
D. From October 15 to May 15, inclusive, an operator of a sailboard shall wear a neoprene wetsuit or a drysuit which covers the entire torso of the body.
E. This regulation does not apply to any person participating in a sanctioned exhibition, regatta, marine parade, tournament, or any other vessel competition or event for which the Secretary or the Secretary's designee has granted written exemption.


Section 08.18.04.03 Equipment.


The classes of boats and vessels and the equipment required on them shall be controlled by those classifications and equipment requirements set out and contained within the Federal Boat Act of 1940, the Federal Boat Act of 1958, the Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971, Title 33, Sub-Chapter S, Code of Federal Regulations and Title 46, Sub-Chapter C, Code of Federal Regulations, and as they may be amended or superseded hereafter.


Section 08.18.04.04 Upper Potomac River Life Saving Equipment.


Except for persons aboard a vessel operating under a current Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection and in compliance with current Coast Guard regulations, a person aboard a vessel, raft, or tube shall wear a U.S. Coast Guard Approved Type I, II, III, or V personal flotation device (PFD) at all times while underway on the Upper Potomac River, during the period beginning at 12:01 a.m. each November 15, and ending at 12 midnight each succeeding May 15.


Title 08 DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES



Subtitle 18 BOATING--SPEED LIMITS AND OPERATION OF VESSELS



Chapter 21 Potomac River



Authority: Natural Resources Article, §§8-704, Annotated Code of Maryland


Section 08.18.21.01 Potomac River.


The Potomac River encompasses all waters of the Potomac River and its tributaries westerly of a line from Lat. 38_°02'15.93" N., Long. 76_°19'18.17" W., running 156_° True to the opposite shore, Lat. 37_°53'22.41" N., Long. 76_°14'14.64" W.


Section 08.18.21.02 Upper Potomac River.


A. The Upper Potomac River areas, with their corresponding speed limits, are set forth in §§§§B--J of this regulation.
B. Fish and Game Club Area. The Fish and Game Club area encompasses the area beginning at a point 150 feet upriver from the Potomac Fish and Game Club boat launching ramp, running to a point 150 feet downriver from the ramp, and extending from the shore 250 feet into the river. This area has a 6-knot (6.9 MPH) speed limit all year.
C. Williamsport Dam. The Williamsport Dam encompasses the area beginning 200 yards above the Potomac Edison Dam at Williamsport, and extending upriver to the bridge at U.S. Highway Route 11. This area has a 6-knot (6.9 MPH) speed limit all year.
D. Dam Number 3. Dam Number 3 encompasses the area starting at Dam Number 3 and extending upriver to a line beginning at a point Lat. 39_°22'43" N., Long. 77_°45'01" W., then 247_° True to a point on shore, Lat. 39_°22'40" N., Long. 77_°45'10" W. This area has a 35-knot speed limit Saturdays, Sundays, and State holidays, all year.
E. Dam Number 4. Dam Number 4 encompasses the area starting 200 yards upriver of the Dam and extending upriver to a line beginning at a point Lat. 39_°33'41" N., Long. 77_°52'33" W., then 000_° True to a point on shore, Lat. 39_°33'49" N., Long. 77_°52'53" W. This area has a 35-knot speed limit Saturdays, Sundays, and State holidays, all year.
F. Dam Number 5. Dam Number 5 encompasses the area starting 200 yards upriver of the Dam and extending upriver to a line beginning at a point Lat. 39_°36'26" N., Long. 77_°58'14" W., then 123_° True to a point on shore, Lat. 39_°36'23" N., Long. 77_°58'08" W., 100 yards downriver of McCoy's Ferry. This area has a 35-knot speed limit Saturdays, Sundays, and State holidays, all year.
G. Dargen Bend boat launch area encompasses the area beginning at a point 200 yards upriver of the launch ramp, running to a point 100 yards downriver of the launch ramp, and extending across the river to the opposite shore. This area is designated a minimum wake zone all year.
H. Big Slackwater boat launch area encompasses the area beginning at a point 200 yards upriver of the launch ramp, running to a point 100 yards downriver of the launch ramp, and extending across the river to the opposite shore. This area is designated a minimum wake zone all year.
I. Four Locks boat launch area encompasses the area beginning at a point 200 yards upriver of the launch ramp, running to a point 100 yards downriver of the launch ramp, and extending across the river to the opposite shore. This area is designated a minimum wake zone all year.
J. McCoy's Ferry boat launch area encompasses the area beginning at a point 200 yards upriver of the launch ramp, running to a point 100 yards downriver of the launch ramp, and extending across the river to the opposite shore. This area is designated a minimum wake zone all year.



Section 08.18.21.04 Potomac River Prohibited Areas.


A. Except for a riparian property owner and the riparian property owner's immediate family located along the prohibited portion of the Potomac River, a person may not operate a vessel in that portion of the Potomac River beginning at the crests of the dams in §§A(1) and (2) of this regulation and extending for a distance of:
(1) 200 yards upstream at:
(a) Aqueduct Intake Dam (Great Falls),
(b) Paul E. Smith Dam (Williamsport),
(c) Dam No. 5 (near Clearspring), or
(d) Dam No. 4 (near Downsville); and
(2) 100 yards upstream at Dam No. 1 (Brookmont Dam).

B. Adjacent to Caledon State Park, King George County, Virginia. Except for boats used in commercial fishing operations pursuant to a commercial fishing license, and operating at a 6-knot or less speed limit, all boats are prohibited from that portion of the Potomac River within 1,000 feet of the mean low water mark adjacent to Caledon State Park, King George County, Virginia, as designated by buoys, during the period from April 15 through October 15 each year.
Jason Robertson
635 Joseph Cir
Golden, CO 80403-2349