Starting on August 3, Glacier National Park will begin scheduling motorized watercraft inspections and sealing for those boaters wishing to launch on Lake McDonald after a 30-day quarantine period.
The quarantine process is designed to prevent invasive zebra and quagga mussels and other invasive species from entering park waters on motorboats. Glacier National Park sits at the headwaters of three continental scale watersheds, and the introduction of invasive mussels would have significant economic, ecological, and recreational impacts not only for the park but also communities downstream.
The quarantine process will consist of the following steps:
- Call the Apgar Backcountry Permit Center to make an inspection appointment (406-888-7859).
- Inspection appointments will be available seven days each week from 5:00pm to 7:30 pm in half hour intervals.
- All boats MUST be clean, drained, and dry before they will be inspected.
- Boats that pass inspection will be sealed to their trailer and the date of sealing will be recorded.
- After a 30 day quarantine period, sealed watercraft may return to the Lake McDonald AIS inspection station during normal operating hours, where an NPS inspector will verify the seal is intact, remove it, and open the gate at the boat launch.
- Upon taking their boat off the lake, if a boater wishes to launch again in Lake McDonald at a future date without another 30 day quarantine period, they can request to have their boat resealed by an NPS inspector and then have that seal verified intact and removed when they want to launch again.
Currently, the inspection and quarantine program is only available for motorized boat launch on Lake McDonald.
Park waters were closed to all motorized and hand propelled watercraft last November, following the detection of invasive mussels within the State of Montana. Since then, the park has been working on a phased response to allow some hand propelled and motorized boating opportunities to continue. In April, the park announced that hand propelled watercraft would be allowed to launch on park waters following a staff inspection. Simultaneous with that announcement, the park began developing a new motorized boating program, researching quarantine and other aquatic invasive species prevention best practices used in other areas. While inspection and decontamination programs reduce the risk of transport of invasive mussels, only thorough drying for a sufficient time ensures no live mussels remain on motorized watercraft.
In developing this current phase of the park’s response, the park considered three factors in designing its motorized boating program on Lake McDonald:
- The return of motorboats must pose little or no biological threat to park waters;
- Any motorized boating program provide fair access to the entire public who wish to comply with the thirty day quarantine;
- The park has the staffing capacity to implement an effective program.
The park relied on best practices developed by its partners with state, local, and tribal governments, and research prepared in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 100th Meridian Initiative to develop its 30-day quarantine program. The initiative outlines protocols for the use of quarantine to respond to invasive mussels. The park’s use of the quarantine assumes that every vessel coming to the park carries invasive mussels. This provides a high standard of protection against invasive mussels.
Privately owned motorized and trailered watercraft will continue to be restricted on all park waters except Lake McDonald following the detection of aquatic invasive mussels within the State of Montana announced in November of 2016. For more information about the detection and the park’s response, please see the National Park Service press release issued on November 10, 2016 and the park’s aquatic invasive species website.
Motorized watercraft rented and operated under National Park Service concession contract will continue to be available, including Glacier Park Boat Company’s motorized rental boats and boat tours. Motorboat rentals will be available on Lake McDonald and Two Medicine Lake.
These boating procedures will be in place throughout the summer season. Fall boating access procedures and winter water closures will be announced in the coming weeks.
For rules and regulations about boating, please visit the park’s web page at:
Glacier National Park Frequently Asked Questions
Lake Use and Quarantine Procedures for Motorized Watercraft
Q. Will I be allowed to launch my boat on Lake McDonald immediately after my initial inspection?
A. No. The boat will be sealed to its trailer and the boat and trailer will sit idle outside the park during a 30-day “quarantine” period that will ensure all live quagga or zebra mussels and any larvae that may not have been detected during inspection, have died.
Q. During the quarantine period, can I launch my boat on other waters?
A. No. If you intend to launch in Lake McDonald you may not launch your boat in any other waters during the quarantine period. The seal between your boat and its trailer must be intact when you return at the end of the quarantine period or you will not be permitted to launch.
Q. After my boat has been quarantined for 30 days and I do launch on Lake McDonald, what if I want to launch on other waters, especially if they are currently considered mussel free, and then I want to launch on Lake McDonald again? Do I have to have my boat inspected, resealed, and quarantined for another 30 days?
A. Yes, if you launch in any other waters including those currently classified as mussel free, you will be required to have your boat inspected, resealed, and quarantined for 30 days before you may launch in Lake McDonald again.
Q. After my boat has been quarantined for 30 days and I do launch on Lake McDonald, what if I want to launch on Lake McDonald at other times throughout the year? Will I have to have my boat inspected, resealed, and quarantined for another 30 days?
A. As long as Lake McDonald is the only lake you wish to launch on, you will not have to have another inspection or be subject to another 30 day quarantine period. Upon removing your boat from Lake McDonald, inform the NPS inspector that you would like to have your boat resealed so you can launch again on the lake without an inspection or quarantine period. You may have your boat resealed as many times as you like as long as you return with the seal intact before your next launch.
Q. If I have my boat inspected, sealed, and quarantined for 30 days, can I launch on any other lakes in Glacier National Park?
A. No, the only lake where public motorized boating will be allowed this year is Lake McDonald. As part of the park’s interim emergency response to the detection of invasive mussels within the State of Montana, the park continues to assess its motorized watercraft program to determine what additional steps are reasonable to take to protect park resources and provide for recreation opportunities on park lakes.
Q. At the end of the boating season, if I intend on storing my boat all winter and not launching in any other waters, will I be required to have another inspection and 30 day quarantine period next spring before I launch in Lake McDonald?
A. No, if you will not be launching your boat on any other waters over the winter, you can have an NPS inspector reseal your boat at the end of the boating season after you remove it from Lake McDonald. When you decide to launch again in the spring, an NPS inspector will inspect and remove the seal and it will be free to launch. If the seal is broken, you will be required to have another inspection and 30 day quarantine before launching.
Q. Why is Glacier National Park’s AIS prevention program using a 30 day quarantine period rather than hot water decontamination or a simple inspection? Isn’t inspection and decontamination sufficient to prevent zebra or quagga mussels from infesting a water body?
A. Although inspection and decontamination (sometimes called hot water rinsing) can be effective deterrents to mussel infestation, there are a significant number of variables to both processes that can dramatically reduce their effectiveness. A 30 day quarantine period eliminates those variables and is as close to a mussel free guarantee as is currently possible. The quarantine ensures that any mussels or mussel larvae that were not detected during an inspection or cleaned during a decontamination (hot rinse) process are dead.