News & Features

Glacier Park Announces New Procedures for Motorized Boats on Lake McDonald

Motorized boats will be permitted following a 30-day quarantine

Glacier National Park officials announced Wednesday they will begin scheduling motorized watercraft inspections and sealing procedures for boaters who wish to launch on Lake McDonald after a 30-day quarantine period.

The quarantine process is designed to prevent invasive zebra and quagga mussels and other invasive species from entering park waters on motorboats.

The park has already begun allowing private landowners living within the park boundary around Lake McDonald, whose motorboats are exclusively launched there, to begin accessing the lake. Those boats have exceeded the 30-day quarantine requirement and undergone boat inspections, according to Superintendent Jeff Mow.

Glacier National Park sits at the headwaters of three continental-scale watersheds, and the introduction of invasive mussels would have significant economic, ecological, and recreational impacts not only for the park but also communities downstream.

Last November, Glacier Park officials immediately closed park waters to all watercraft following the discovery of destructive mussel larvae in Tiber and Canyon Ferry reservoirs east of the Continental Divide, just 100 air miles from the boundary of Glacier Park and the headwaters of the Columbia River Basin. It was the first such detection of the invasive species in the state’s history, and pulled a dire scenario into grisly focus.

The new quarantine process will consist of the following steps, according to a press release from the park:

– Call the Apgar Backcountry Permit Center to make an inspection appointment (406) 888-7859.

– Inspection appointments will be available seven days each week from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in half-hour intervals.

– All boats MUST be clean, drained, and dry before they will be inspected.

– Boats that pass inspection will be sealed to their trailer and the date of sealing will be recorded.

– After a 30-day quarantine period, sealed watercraft may return to the Lake McDonald AIS inspection station during normal operating hours, where a National Park Service inspector will verify the seal is intact, remove it and open the gate at the boat launch.

– Upon taking a boat off the lake, if boaters wish to launch again in Lake McDonald at a future date without another 30-day quarantine period, they can request to have their boat resealed by a National Park Service inspector and then have that seal verified intact and removed when they want to launch again.

– Currently, the inspection and quarantine program is only available for motorized boat launch on Lake McDonald.

– Park waters were closed to all motorized and hand propelled watercraft last November, following the detection of invasive mussels within the state of Montana. Since then, the park has been working on a phased response to allow some hand propelled and motorized boating opportunities to continue.

In April, the park announced that hand-propelled watercraft would be allowed to launch on park waters following a staff inspection. Simultaneous with that announcement, the park began developing a new motorized boating program, researching quarantine and other aquatic invasive species prevention best practices used in other areas.  While inspection and decontamination programs reduce the risk of transport of invasive mussels, only thorough drying for a sufficient time ensures no live mussels remain on motorized watercraft, according to park officials.

In developing this current phase of the park’s response, the park considered three factors in designing its motorized boating program on Lake McDonald: The return of motorboats must pose little or no biological threat to park waters; any motorized boating program must provide fair access to the entire public who wish to comply with the 30-day quarantine; the park has the staffing capacity to implement an effective program.

The park relied on best practices developed by its partners with state, local, and tribal governments, and research prepared in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s initiative to develop its 30-day quarantine program. The initiative outlines protocols for the use of quarantine to respond to invasive mussels. The park’s use of the quarantine assumes that every vessel coming to the park carries invasive mussels. This provides a high standard of protection against invasive mussels.

Privately owned motorized and trailered watercraft will continue to be restricted on all park waters except Lake McDonald following the detection of aquatic invasive mussels within the State of Montana announced in November 2016.

For more information about the detection and the park’s response, please see the National Park Service press release issued on Nov. 10, 2016, and the park’s aquatic invasive species website.

Motorized watercraft rented and operated under National Park Service concession contract will continue to be available, including Glacier Park Boat Company’s motorized rental boats and boat tours. Motorboat rentals will be available on Lake McDonald and Two Medicine Lake.

These boating procedures will be in place throughout the summer season. Fall boating access procedures and winter water closures will be announced in the coming weeks.