Oregon Marine Board
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Infographic of Willamette River with shoaling and caution to use navigation markers to find the channel.
Infographic of Willamette River with shoaling and caution to use navigation markers to find the channel.
River Alert -Willamette River Shoals Surprise Boaters (Photo) - 07/01/20

The Oregon State Marine Board annually receives complaints from boaters grounding on shoals and sandbars on the Willamette River, especially near Willow Island and New Era Bar, located at RM 32 near Canby. From the surface, the river can be deceiving. The channel is narrow and takes an intentional effort to learn how to navigate. Here are some pointers on finding the channel in this stretch of the river for motorboats:

  • Line up the range markers on the banks of the river (to the north and south) to identify the channel.
  • Seasonal red and green buoys are maintained by the US Coast Guard and mark the channel at its narrowest point.
  • Depth finders and chart plotters are a valuable aid in determining underwater obstructions, hazards and shoals that exist in many areas of the river.
  • Digital charts are available from NOAA for the Willamette River. Paper charts are also available at nautical supply stores, many fishing tackle shops, and will show historically shallow areas. Local boating retailers are an excellent source of information as well.
  • Note that all charts and all other references can become out-of-date quickly depending on winter flows and moving sands and debris.

Large trees with root balls and shifting sand bars can become obstructions upon which an operator can ground a boat, damage a propeller or break an outdrive unit at any time, at any location, on any Oregon River. It is incumbent on the boat operator to start slow to observe the conditions, survey the area, and use these tried-and-true tools.

A question agency staff are routinely asked is, “Why doesn’t the Marine Board better mark these areas with buoys?” The decision to place a waterway marker is based, in part, on the geography of the area and existing navigation markers. This shallow area at river mile 32 on the Willamette River is already marked with range markers, US Coast Guard buoys, and is well-described on nautical charts. Plus, it changes little from year to year. In addition, the shallow areas are primarily bedrock and river currents make it very difficult to permanently affix buoys, even with heavy anchors.

Oregon’s rivers are dynamic and ever-changing. Boaters assume the obligation to know the waterway and operate responsibly. Operators should understand that an area has hidden obstructions until they have surveyed it, especially in tidally influenced areas and rivers or areas with stronger currents.
A good primer and tutorial on navigation aids can be found at https://www.uscgboating.org/images/486.PDF.


Drinking and Boating? Ye Be Warned -Operation Dry Water July 3-5 (Photo) - 06/25/20

The Marine Board, marine law enforcement from 18 county sheriff’s offices, Oregon State Police, and five Oregon U.S. Coast Guard Stations will be participating in Operation Dry Water during the weekend of July 3-5, as part of a nationally coordinated effort to reduce the number of accidents and fatalities related to Boating Under the Influence of Intoxicants (BUII). 

“We have multiple patrols scheduled this season to catch impaired boat operators,” says Randy Henry, Boating Safety Program Manager for the Marine Board. “We also have new tools. The legislature gave us the authority in 2020 to take your boater education card for up to three years, if convicted.”

Many marine officers have completed specialized training to recognize alcohol and drug impairment. This includes prescription drugs, alcohol, inhalants, marijuana, or any other substance that impairs a person’s ability to make sound judgments and to safely operate a boat.  The effects of drugs and alcohol are also amplified on the water with the combination of sun glare, wind, waves, and other environmental stressors.  Alcohol also dehydrates the body making sudden immersion into cold water at an even greater risk for drowning. 

Impaired boaters can expect to be arrested or face serious penalties.  In Oregon, the consequences of being convicted of BUII include the possibility of jail time, $6,250 in fines, loss of boating privileges and a one to three-year suspension of the boater education card and potentially being court-mandated to take another boating safety course. Marine officers can arrest boaters on observed impairment and can legally obtain blood, breath or urine if a boater fails field sobriety testing.  Officers have already arrested three people for BUII this year and at least two fatalities appear to have involved alcohol or drugs. 

“Overall, recreational boating is safe if boaters wear life jackets, boat sober, and keep a sharp lookout. Waterways are becoming more crowded with a variety of mixed boating and other activities, so it’s important to pay attention to what’s going on around you and to follow the navigation rules of the road. 

If boaters changed two things; wear life jackets and abstain from impairing substances, accidents would be rare,” says Henry. “We’re facing a high number of boating fatalities already this year just from cold water and life jackets not being worn. We really want to keep alcohol and drugs out of the mix, or we’ll be at record high fatalities for 2020. We want to ensure that boating remains safe and fun.”

Henry goes on to say, “The public is our ally in safe boating.  If you see an impaired operator or someone who is operating in a way that threatens others’ safety, call 911 and report it.  That’s how we can work together to save lives.”  

For more information about Operation Dry Water, visit www.operationdrywater.org.


The Marine Board is directly funded by boaters in the form of registration, title, and permit fees, as well as through marine fuel taxes. No lottery, general fund tax dollars or local facility parking fees support the agency or its programs. Boater-paid fees support the boating public through boating safety services (on-the-water law enforcement, training, and equipment), boating safety education, grants for the construction and maintenance of boating access facilities, and environmental protection programs. For more information about the Marine Board and its programs, visit www.boatoregon.com.

Attached Media Files: ODW.jpg
Wake Surfing and Other Towed Watersport Zones on the Willamette River in the Newberg Pool
Wake Surfing and Other Towed Watersport Zones on the Willamette River in the Newberg Pool
Wake Surfing Zones for Newberg Pool Go into Effect July (Photo) - 06/23/20

The Oregon State Marine Board approved new towed watersports activity zones on the Willamette River (RM 30-50) in the Newberg Pool during their May 13, 2020 Board meeting, carving out designated areas for wake surfing enthusiasts. The new zones go into effect on July 1, 2020, and are as follow:

Yellow Zone 1, river miles 46-47.6, in which wake surfing and waterskiing are allowed but other towed watersports are prohibited;

Yellow Zone 2, river miles 31.8-33.2, in which wake surfing is allowed but all other towed watersports are prohibited.

All Red Zones, wake surfing is prohibited; all other towed watersports are allowed.

All towed watersport participants must observe applicable proximity rules for slow-no wake:

  • Wake surfing: 300 feet from dock structures
  • Wakeboarding and Tubing: 200 feet from dock structures
  • Waterskiing: 100 feet from dock structures

Slow-no wake is defined as “operating a boat at the slowest speed necessary to maintain steerage and that reduces or eliminates waves that appear as white water behind the boat.”

The Towed Watersports Endorsement requirement for those wake surfing and wakeboarding on the Newberg Pool is still required for all operators of watercraft engaged in those activities. The Newberg Pool app on the Marine Board’s website will display the new rules when they go into effect on July 1, so boaters know where they are on the river and which rules apply, including distance requirements based on the towed watersports activity from structures.

Boundaries between zones are marked by buoys and slow-no wake messaging is stenciled on the I-5 and Railroad Bridges. Signage with QR codes to the Newberg Pool app are placed at nearby launch facilities.

Boaters are reminded to take a few minutes getting acquainted with ramp signage and regulatory information online as part of their routine planning and preparation.