Idaho's Mount Borah
Soaring over the Snake River Birds of Prey NCA Survey pin Teepees at Idaho's Sacajawea Interpretive Center in Salmon Riding Idaho's rangelands Kayaking on Idaho's scenic rivers
BLM>Idaho>River Activities
Print Page

River Etiquette

Ramp Manners | The Art of Launching | River Encounters | On the Water | Camping | Dogs

Although you may find solitude along Idaho's rivers, you will not be alone. Your actions will directly affect the experience of others on the river. And their actions will impact yours. Following a few simple guidelines will help ensure that the journey down Idaho's beautiful rivers is a positive experience for everyone on the water. 

Respect other boaters by keeping noise at low levels. Most people have come to appreciate the quiet beauty of the area in hopes of escaping from their noisy, urban lives.

As the amount of recreationists increases at Idaho's rivers, conflicts with other boaters at busy launch sites and congested water traffic can be avoided if everyone practices these simple courtesies.  

Ramp Manners

Because river trips start and end on the boat ramp, your experience there can set the tone for the entire voyage and color your memories of the adventure long after it ends.

  • If the ramp is busy, be patient and wait your turn.
  • When your turn arrives, use the ramp only for loading and unloading.
  • Put your gear and boats together and take them apart off the ramp.
  • Allow others to go before you if they are waiting with a loaded boat in the water and ready to take off.
  • Be friendly, helpful and considerate and enjoy this part of your trip.

The Art of Launching

  • Most launch sites have preparation and set-up areas away from the actual ramp. Please use them to completely prepare your craft before approaching the boat ramp.
  • If it's necessary to launch first (for instance, to run a shuttle or park the car), then be sure to slide your craft far enough downstream, so others waiting to launch may do so without difficulty.
  • Never block a ramp with an unattended watercraft or vehicle.
  • After getting your craft into the water, move it to the end of the dock so others can launch.
  • Rafters: Please use the raft launch facilities where available.

River Encounters 

Power boaters and floaters share water in some parts of Idaho, including the Lower Salmon and Snake River, so please be courteous and respectful of each other.

  • Communication and common sense are the keys to successful interaction with other river users. Your trip will be much safer and more enjoyable if you give other boaters a lot of space, especially in rapids.
  • Down-stream drift traffic has the right-of-way, but remember that a jet boat powering through a rapid can't simply stop.
  • Float boats that meet a power boat should move toward the side of the channel to give them room to operate safely. The river is large enough to accommodate both float and power boats.
  • Avoid confrontational behavior, water fighting and making heavy waves or wakes.
  • Floaters: Be aware that powerboats can only travel in narrow channels in some sections of river. Even though float boats have the right-of-way in the river, powerboats work hard coming upstream. As a courtesy, pull to one side of the channel, if possible, when you see a powerboat coming and let it by.
  • If you encounter an area where people are wade-fishing, give them plenty of space and ask the people in your boat to refrain from casting in their direction.
  • Powerboaters: Idaho State Law states that you may not leave a wake within 100 feet of a person or other vessel. You must also slow to a "no wake" speed at docks and boat landing facilities. Be cautious and courteous when passing other boats, especially when they are moored along shore. Slow down if possible, and give them a wide berth.
  • To prevent collision with other boaters and wade anglers, use caution when navigating narrow river channels due to limited visibility.
  • Wade Anglers: Leave ample room for other anglers so you do not disturb their fishing experience.

On The Water

  • Watch for people fishing from the bank.  Be courteous!  They only have a small section of river they can fish; boaters have the whole river.
  • When approaching a group fishing a bank from their boat, it is considered bad etiquette to pass them in the fast water and then pull in front of them. Either switch to the opposite bank or slow down and wait to fish behind them.
  • Be cautious when anchoring.  This is not just an etiquette issue, but a safety issue. Try and drop your anchor only in eddies and slower water. Keep a knife handy and be ready to sacrifice your anchor if necessary.


  • Small groups should leave large camps, marked on the maps with a camping symbol, for bigger groups.
  • "Camp running," or sending a boat ahead to secure a camp, is not allowed. It creates the stress of hurrying, exactly what most boaters go down the river to avoid. Usually plenty of camp spots are available. Set your own leisurely pace, select a camp that fits your group size and relax. On rare occasions, you may be asked to share a camp with a late arrival. Be courteous, make new friends and enjoy your trip!


If you bring a dog, keep it under control and respect others by cleaning up after it.

Copyright Mark Lisk, Idaho Stock Photography

River Traffic at Heller Bar on the Snake River
River Traffic at Heller Bar Boat Ramp on the Snake River