Getting out on the water is an excellent way to explore Waterton Lakes National Park.

Home to a string of pristine mountain lakes, the park is a paradise for anyone who enjoys being on, in or near the water.

In town, Upper and Middle Waterton Lakes are the park’s biggest and busiest bodies of water. Steady breezes make the lakes popular among windsurfers and sailboarders. Meanwhile, the calm waters of Emerald Bay are perfect for swimming and paddle boarding and divers can even explore the wreckage of a sunken ship.

Boaters planning to stay overnight at a backcountry campsite accessible by water require a wilderness permit. Please refer to wilderness camping. Overnight camping or sleeping on boats is not permitted.

Quarantine sealing program for motorized and trailered watercraft

Parks Canada has authorized motorized and trailered watercraft to operate on Upper and Middle Waterton Lake in 2019, once the watercraft have completed a 90-day quarantine seal program.

Parks Canada is confident this program will protect the ecological integrity of Waterton Lakes National Park while also returning an excellent recreational boating experience to park users.

Parks Canada continues to take the threat of invasive mussels very seriously. A 90-day quarantine is longer than most current sealing programs and is considered sufficient to prevent the introduction of live mussels to Upper or Middle Waterton Lake.

For more information on this program and obtaining your seal, visit:

Canoeing, kayaking, rowboating and paddleboarding

The park offers some excellent opportunities for canoeing and kayaking - particularly on hot, calm summer days.

Extreme caution should be used on any of the Waterton Lakes due to frequent high winds and rough water conditions. Weather and water conditions can change quickly in Waterton's mountain valleys. All park waters are very cold.

More experienced paddlers can head to the south end of Upper Waterton Lake and cross the international boundary into Glacier National Park.

Scanning the avalanche slopes around the south end of the lake for grizzly bears is a popular activity, which is best carried out from your boat. For your safety, do not land or hike on these slopes. Please leave this area as a quiet haven for the bears who use it as an important feeding, resting and denning area.

A kayak is a good choice for exploring the lakes and rivers of Waterton. A spray skirt is recommended on the main Waterton Lakes.

Attention boaters - help protect park waters!

You now must complete a mandatory self-inspection of your human-powered watercraft before entering park waters.

The self-inspection form will act as a permit. Watercraft users must ensure their permits are available for examination. Visitors complete the permit the first time they launch their human-powered watercraft in the park, but must comply with the permit conditions every time they launch thereafter.

Parks Canada is using the self-inspection permit as a method to collect data and inform visitors on how to reduce the risk of spreading invasive mussels.

Roving staff will answer questions and ensure visitors understand the inspection process. Since the permit is a legal requirement, Park Wardens will be checking that visitors completed the self-inspection and will take appropriate action as necessary.

This permit is a key step to prevent introduction of invasive mussels into the Waterton Lakes.

Here’s how to help maintain healthy park lakes and shorelines

  • CLEAN and inspect watercraft and gear (including fishing and SCUBA equipment).
  • DRAIN buckets, ballasts, bilges, coolers, internal compartments, and other containers that may hold trapped or standing water. 
  • DRY the watercraft and gear completely between trips and leave compartments open and sponge out standing water.

Other non-native aquatic species such as zebra mussels, New Zealand mud snails, purple loosestrife and Eurasian water milfoil may also threaten the park’s lakes and streams. 

These species will hitch a ride on boats, float tubes, scuba gear, waders/wading boots and fishing equipment and have devastating and irreversible impacts on our lakes and streams. Here are some additional steps you can take to help stop the spread of invasive plants and animals. 

Before entering the park, please:

  • Clean and dry fishing equipment (including waders and wading boots)
  • Re-inspect all boating, fishing, and wading equipment before moving from one water body to the next