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Boating in Pennsylvania State Parks and Forests

Pennsylvania is blessed with an abundance of lakes and ponds, many of which are located within state parks and forests, that provide numerous opportunities for recreational boaters with non-powered boats and motorboats.

All motorboats must display a current boat registration from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. All non-powered boats launched in state parks or forests must display one of the following:

  • Boat registration
  • Launching permit from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission
  • Launching permit or mooring permit from Pennsylvania State Parks -- available at most state park offices

Boaters must abide by both the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s boating regulations and the regulations of the state park or forest district in which you are boating.

All boaters on Pennsylvania waters from November 1 through April 30 must wear a life jacket -- it’s the law! Each person in the boat must have a wearable, USCG-approved life jacket! It is highly advisable to wear life jackets at all times, especially in dangerous conditions.

Children 12 years of age and younger are required to wear a life jacket on any boat 20 feet or less in length.

Boating in State Parks

Whether you like to quietly row on a small lake or jet around with the wind streaming through your hair, Pennsylvania state parks has a lake for you. If you don’t have a boat, many state parks rent boats for you to enjoy. See the “Where to Boat State Parks Map” web page for the best places to boat, by:

  • Sailing
  • Motor size
  • Lake acreage
  • Launch facilities
  • Boat mooring
  • Boat rental
  • Marinas

Boat Mooring in Pennsylvania State Parks

Some state parks have shoreline mooring, marinas, and/or dry land mooring areas. For all areas, it is best to contact the individual park directly to determine availability of a space, cost, and how to secure a space.

Shoreline Mooring

The shoreline mooring season is from April 1 to October 31.

Marinas

Nine state parks with access to large bodies of water have marinas. Marina space availability depends on the size of your boat. The size of your boat determines the cost.

Dry Land Mooring

Some parks operate dry land mooring areas for an annual fee. Space is assigned and the boat kept on its trailer. The season for this is from April 15 to October 31. Contact the individual park for availability.

Sailing in State Parks

All state parks that have lakes that permit boating can accommodate sailboats. For a list of lakes that permit boats explore “Where to Boat.” Due to the mountainous nature of the state, certain lakes are better for sailing than others. The parks marked with a sailboat symbol have the best sailing opportunities.

Inflatable Boats in State Parks

On Pennsylvania state park lakes, inflatable boats must be at least seven feet in length and made of high-quality, durable material. There are special regulations for inflatables for whitewater boating which are on the whitewater boating page.

Ice Boating in State Parks

For the true, diehard outdoor enthusiast, there is nothing like iceboating to stir up those inactive wintertime juices. Nineteen state parks currently allow ice boating opportunities, weather permitting.

Find out where there’s ice from the state park’s winter activities report, online from December until spring thaw. Ice thickness is not monitored. For your safety, make sure ice is at least 6 inches thick and carry safety equipment.

Ice Boating Safety Tips

Follow these safety tips while you are ice boating:

  • Test ice thickness with an auger before boating -- six inches of solid ice is the minimum recommended thickness for boating
  • Spread out -- crowds can put too much weight onto one area
  • Be aware of changes in ice thickness across a body of water -- perimeter ice is weaker due to shifting, expansion, and sunlight reflecting off of the bottom
  • Avoid areas with protruding logs, brush, plants, and docks -- these structures absorb heat, weakening the surrounding ice
  • Avoid areas with multiple or intersecting cracks, and standing water over ice
  • Use extra caution on rivers and streams where ice can appear thicker than it really is -- moving water erodes ice from below the surface
  • Venturing out on ice alone is not advisable -- take a friend along for fun and for safety
  • Wear a PFD (life jacket)
  • Always carry safety equipment and know how to use it
  • Check the weather and plan accordingly -- several days with temperatures above freezing will weaken the ice

Boating in Pennsylvania State Forests

Boating typically occurs on lakes and ponds in state forests, although some of the larger rivers on state forest land are good for boating too.

Pennsylvania’s state forests have several lakes and ponds larger than five acres that can be used for boating along with many smaller ponds. Most boating opportunities are within the following state forests:

Delaware State Forest

There are thirteen lakes and ponds within the Delaware State Forest. Boat launches are located at:

  • White Deer Lake
  • Peck’s Pond (two launches, also used by ice boats)
  • Little Mud Pond
  • Lake Minisink

Electric motors are permitted on all water in Delaware State Forest except in the following natural areas:

  • Bruce Lake
  • Egypt Meadows Lake
  • Pine Lake
  • Little Mud Pond Natural Area Pond

Weiser State Forest

Electric motor and non-motorized boats are permitted on two of the three reservoirs on the Roaring Creek tract within Weiser State Forest -- the184-acre McWilliams’ Reservoir and the 31-acre Kline’s Reservoir. Four portage boat launches are available at the Klines and McWilliams Reservoirs. A limited number of mooring permits are available for seasonal storage of boats.

For detailed maps and information on each forest district and what boating opportunities they have to offer please explore “Find a State Forest.”

Explore River Islands While Boating

DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry has management responsibilities of all unwarranted and unpatented rivers islands in the state. These islands offer some excellent recreational opportunities.

The bureau partners with several volunteer groups that design, develop, and maintain river islands trails throughout the commonwealth. These volunteers also serve as trail stewards for maintenance, monitoring resource impacts, and tracking public use.

Many of these river island groups produce maps and brochures describing the trail. The trail maps will show access sites and river islands designated for day use and primitive camping.