Boat Ramp Etiquette

It’s that time of year again when the warm days entice people to get their boats out and start floating our local rivers. It’s been a long and windy winter, and people want to get out and stretch their legs. Given the fact that it has been a long winter and likely a while since people were floating last, it’s time for a little refresher on boat ramp etiquette. 

Boat ramps are one of the places where conflict is most likely to happen on the river. Once you’re out, it’s easy to give everyone room, people are having a good time, and tensions drop. Putting on the river is another matter, however. 

boat ramp etiquette at launch

Be Respectful of the Space

A boat ramp is a crowded place. Generally,  boat ramps are designed  well and in a way that promotes a sense of flow to it. In most boat ramp areas there will be a space to gear up and ready your boat and essentials, and then an actual ramp on which to launch your boat. 

Always do things like ready your boat, stock coolers, rig rods, find gear and lifejackets, etc, in the parking lot, out of the main flow of traffic. The  actual  ramp itself is not the place to be inflating a raft. A main cause of traffic jams at boat ramps is people trying to ready a boat on the ramp, instead of in the parking lot. 

Also keep in mind that your licensing dollars go directly into river access sites. So do your best to keep the site looking good,  and  free of trash--and don’t go destroying the grounds by walking or driving over what you shouldn’t be. 

Be Prepared

A little bit of forethought and planning goes a long way at the boat ramp. If you’ve been there before, you should know the general flow of traffic, where to go, where to wait, etc. Keep this in mind as you’re pulling in and do any prep work such as rod rigging or gear organizing in the parking lot or at home. When  it’s your turn at the ramp be ready to back your trailer up, dump your boat, and clear the space. 

Clean Up After Yourself

The river is for everyone, and no one wants to see your trash. That goes for the boat ramps, rivers, the highways getting there--everywhere. Just make the littlest bit of effort and clean up after yourself. It doesn’t take much to remember to bring a trash bag or bucket for the boat, and if you’re at the access site and see a beer can or candy bar wrapper in the grass, pick it up. If everyone kept tabs on their trash, things would be a lot less messy. Also, keep in mind that glass is not allowed on the river--keep it in cans and keep those in the boat! 

boat ramp etiquette


So many issues at boat ramps could be avoided if people would just talk to each other. It never hurts to ask other people what order they’re in, what their plans are, even just how they’re doing today. Talk to the people around you, and recognize that they aren’t the “competition.” They’re out there for the same reason you are. 

Be Patient

When the temps are hot and the fishing access site is full, it can be a challenge at times to keep a clear head. Just be patient. Getting upset isn’t going to make things go any faster. If you have to wait a while, you have to wait a while. Hey, it could be a lot worse! At least you’re about to go float a beautiful river in scenic Montana. 

Our rivers are meant for everyone. Whether you’re a diehard angler or someone who just enjoys a leisurely float down the river, we want you to have a pleasurable and enjoyable experience on the river. Remember that it isn’t just ours, leave it better than you found it. 

boat ramp etiquette