The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

Enjoy Memorial Day on the water, but be safe, know the rules and Clean, Drain, Dry


May 23, 2018

Memorial Day in Montana is the unofficial start to summer, and as boaters flock to the amazing rivers and lakes across the state, they need to keep in mind the new rules aimed at limiting and preventing aquatic invasive species from spreading.

All watercraft coming into Montana from out of state must be inspected prior to launching. Additionally, all watercraft travelling west across the Continental Divide into the Columbia River Basin must be inspected. All watercraft launching anywhere within the Flathead Basin and a watercraft that was last launched on waters outside of the Flathead Basin must be inspected.

To accommodate these new rules, inspection stations are set up across Montana, with the goal of protecting Montana’s borders and the Continental Divide.

Also, there are requirements that all watercraft leaving Tiber and Canyon Ferry reservoirs be inspected and, if necessary decontaminated, unless they are part of the Certified Boater program.

These heightened efforts at protecting Montana’s waters are in response to the discovery two years ago of aquatic invasive mussel larvae in water samples from Tiber Reservoir. A sample from Canyon Ferry Reservoir also was found to be suspect for the mussel larvae.

Just like in past years, watercraft owners must stop at any open inspection station they encounter. Typically, these stops are very brief and include a short series of questions about where the watercraft has been and a quick inspection. Watercraft owners can make this process quick and easy if they consistently practice Clean, Drain and Dry:

Clean all mud and debris from the watercraft and trailer.

Pull drain plugs and make sure all compartments, bilges and ballasts are drained.

Dry out your watercraft, including dry wells, storage areas and compartments.

Following these simple instructions will not only protect Montana’s waters, but will also expedite inspections.

In response to the busy weekend, FWP inspection station and enforcement staff will be working hard to make sure everyone knows the AIS rules in place and has a safe and fun time on the water.

Do I need to be inspected?

Confused about whether or not you need to get your watercraft inspected for aquatic invasive species? Don’t worry, the answer is simpler than you might think.

Are you bringing your boat into Montana from out of state?

Yes, you need to be inspected prior to launching.

Are you crossing the Continental Divide into the Columbia River Basin?

Yes, you need to be inspected prior to launching.

Are you launching on waters within the Flathead Basin and your watercraft was last used on waters outside the Flathead Basin?

Yes, you need to be inspected prior to launching.

Are you encountering an open inspection station?

Yes, if you have any type of watercraft with you, you must stop and get inspected.

These rules are not just good ideas, they’re the law. The three steps of Clean, Drain, Dry greatly minimizes the risk of spreading aquatic invasive species. It also minimizes the time required for inspection at a station.

To find a watercraft inspection station and to learn more, go to or call the FWP Aquatic Invasive Species Bureau at 406-444-2440.


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