Mandatory watercraft inspection program

Waterton Lakes National Park is taking extra steps in 2021 to protect park waters from harmful aquatic invasive species, including invasive mussels and whirling disease. Beginning June 2021, all non-motorized watercraft are subject to a mandatory inspection before entering the park.

To facilitate this inspection program, Parks Canada will be operating an inspection station on Highway 5 at the turnoff to the park gate. All visitors with non-motorized watercraft, including (but not limited to) canoes, kayaks, drift boats, paddle boats, Stand Up Paddleboards and sailboats, must report to this station and receive a permit before they can proceed into the park.

  1. If travelling with a non-motorized watercraft, visitors must proceed to the inspection station before entering the park gate.
  2. Parks Canada staff will ask visitors a series of questions to assess risks and inspect the watercraft for standing water, mud, plants, or animals. A decontamination station will be available at the same location so parks staff can remove any material that could contain aquatic invasive species.
  3. A waterproof tag will be applied to the watercraft once inspection has been completed. A paper permit will also be provided, to be kept on a vehicle’s dashboard.
  4. Parks Canada Agency reserves the right to deny a permit if watercraft and aquatic equipment pose unmitigated risk of aquatic invasive species. Those who do not receive a permit cannot enter Waterton Lakes National Park with their watercraft.
  5. Whenever a watercraft leaves the park and re-enters, it will be subject to inspection and recertification.

If you have more questions, please consult the FAQ  for more information.

Operating Hours

From June 3-14th, the station will be operating 9am-4pm.

June 15-Sept 8th the station will be operating 8am-6pm.

Hours after September 8 are to be determined. Seasonal operation is planned for June 2021 to October 20th 2021.

90-day quarantine program for motorized and trailered boats

All motorized and trailered watercraft continue to be required to participate in the park’s 90-day quarantine sealing program before they will be able to enter Upper or Middle Waterton Lake. This program is being administered by Improvement District #4 and Shoreline Cruise Co., with support from Parks Canada. Learn more about the 90-day quarantine program.

Aquatic invasive species in Waterton Lakes National Park

Many of Waterton Lakes National Park’s thousands of visitors enjoy the park’s lakes and rivers each year by boating, fishing and swimming. These activities risk introducing aquatic invasive species (AIS) into park waters. AIS are non-native species, exotic species, noxious weeds, or invasive pests or pathogens that require aquatic habitat to survive. Many kinds of aquatics invasive species can survive in Waterton Lakes National Park and interrupt our ecosystem. Some species of concern are zebra and quagga mussels, whirling disease and Eurasian milfoil.

Invasive mussels

Zebra and quagga mussels are prodigious filter feeders, they strip nutrients from the water leaving little or no food for native species. This affects the entire food web, impacting plant and animal life in the region, and altering water chemistry and clarity. They are of highest concern, and many other jurisdictions have taken action to prevent their spread. Infestations are permanent and irreversible. Learn more about invasive mussels.

Whirling disease

Whirling disease affects salmonid fish like trout and whitefish and can cause them to swim in a whirling pattern and die prematurely. Whirling disease is present in the Oldman River basin, including downstream from the park in the Waterton River below the reservoir. This disease would be very detrimental to the park’s native fish populations.

Eurasian water milfoil

Eurasian water milfoil is a perennial, submersed aquatic plant native to Eurasia and North Africa. This invasive plant is currently not present in Alberta, but, new colonies can be formed from a single stem, seed or leaf. Eurasian milfoil forms thick layers that shade native plants and decrease oxygen levels as they decay, impacting native fish and wildlife. It can be very difficult to eradicate once established.