Public Notices

Corps updates Safe Lockage Policy for recreational vessels on Columbia, Snake rivers

Portland District
Published May 21, 2024

Public Notice
Corps of Engineers Safe Lockage Policy for Recreational Craft on the Columbia and Snake Rivers

Safe lockage is of foremost concern to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The following general guidelines are in place for the continued safe lockage of recreational craft at McNary, John Day, The Dalles, and Bonneville on the Columbia River, and Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite on the Snake River. The lockmaster at each lock has final authority on the suitability of a craft for lockage.

  • All vessel owner/operators lock through at their own risk and must comply with the Corps’ safelockage policy.
  • Lockage shall be provided to "seaworthy" craft. Lockages are not permitted to swimmers, innertubers, windsurfers, etc. Seaworthy craft must meet all United States Coast Guard requirements, and in particular, requirements for Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs), and fire extinguishers. Vessels must carry mooring lines for lockage.
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s policy requires each individual in a recreational craft to wear a PFD while locking the craft at Corps of Engineer’s facilities. The PFD must be zipped, closed, latched, etc. in a closed fashion and must be worn for the duration of the lockage. Wearing a PFD is not required if the individual is in an enclosed cabin or cockpit. All persons on the craft not involved in securing or releasing the craft must remain seated while locking the craft.
  • On the Columbia and Snake Rivers, motor power is critical to a safe and expeditious lockage. Non-motorized recreational craft (e.g. row boats, canoes, and kayaks) may lock through if moored to an assist vessel that is qualified for lockage, all passengers are on board the assist vessel, and such configuration would not adversely impact the stability or maneuverability of the assist vessel. The lockage acceptable configuration must occur prior to entering the approach channel and must remain that way upon departure until reaching a safe area beyond the approach channel. The upstream and downstream approach channels are defined as the areas adjacent to the lock guide walls. The Government does not provide assist vessels.
  • Personal watercraft of the "stand-up" variety, (those that require the vessel to be moving for the operator to be out of the water, such as jet-skis), may lock through in accordance with the guidance for non-motorized recreational craft stated above.
  • Upon arrival at a lock, if recreational craft encounter a lockage in progress, the vessel(s) desiring lockage should move to a safe area outside the upstream or downstream lock approach channels until those channels are cleared by the locking vessel(s) and contact is established with the lock operator.
  • Refer to the seasonal Recreational Lockage Schedule published separately for recreational vessel lockage times.

The most hazardous aspect of using navigation locks is in the approach and departure. Tugs with barges have large blind spots that inhibit their ability to see small vessels and they have very limited maneuverability around the lock approaches. Water around lock approaches is often turbulent due to high winds and strong currents. Therefore, portage of non-motorized recreational craft and other vessels unsuitable for lockage is the preferred method of transport around the dams.

For additional information about John Day, The Dalles and Bonneville locks, contact contact Casey O’Donnell at 503-808-5419.
For additional information about McNary, Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite locks contact Kenny Koebberling at 509-527-7364