Boat Ramp Etiquette

Boat ramp etiquette seems like a no brainer issue, but every time I use one to put in my kayak or raft, i’m always confronted with someone not knowing the rules.

This can lead to frustration on everyone’s part. The people trying to efficiently put-in or take-out get pissed at having to wait longer than necessary and the offender is getting dirty looks and possibly yelled at because he/she doesn’t understand the rules.

You can’t really blame the offender too much, it’s not like there’s a book about boat ramp etiquette, but now there’s a blog post, so no excuses!

1. It’s really pretty simple, first come first serve. Meaning if my car’s in front of yours I get to access the ramp before you.


Now, sometimes if I’m unloading a 3 or 4 stack of rafts and the guy behind me just wants to throw his canoe in, i’ll let him slide in front, and I’ll even help him get his stuff done. But this is an exception. If I’m in front I have every right to go first.

Being cordial and considerate goes a long way to calming any upset boat ramp people. Everyone wants to get their stuff unloaded or loaded, so work together to make it happen.

If I see someone struggling alone to get their raft off the trailer, i’m not going to sit there and glare at them, i’m gonna get off my ass and help them. This makes it faster for everyone, including myself.

2. Get it done quick. Whether you’re putting in or taking out do it as quickly as possible. I see this not happening all the time. It’s the main issue that rubs people the wrong way. Just because it’s your turn doesn’t mean you can take all day to do it. Put the boat in, unload any gear quickly, put it to the side and pull your rig out of the way.

3. Don’t load your raft on the ramp. I see this one a lot too, pull your raft and gear to the side off the main ramp area and load it there. If you’re loading for a multi-day raft trip, hopefully your things were packed at home and all you have to do is put them in the raft tie them in and be off. Don’t load your whole trip on the boat ramp.

A spread out put-in!
A spread out put-in!

4. Don’t take up the whole ramp. Many boat ramps are wide enough to have 2 or 3 vehicles going at the same time. When you’re backing your trailer, get as far to the side as you can to give the next guy room to pull in beside you. Don’t back down the middle of the ramp unless you must.

This applies even if the ramp is empty. Many times I’ve pulled up ready to put-in and one guy is using the whole ramp because there wasn’t anyone there when they got there. Expect more people to show up and get out of the way!

5. Know your trailer backing limitations. This one drives me nuts. If you’re new at backing trailers, a busy boat ramp is not the place to learn. If you see a lot of people waiting to use it, either wait for it to get less busy, or ask someone to guide you or even take over for you.

Trailer backing is hard and takes a lot of practice. It’s nerve racking enough without a bunch of people glaring at you. Most accomplished trailer backers will jump at the chance to back your rig. It gets them to the water quicker and lets them be a hero… a win win.

Most people at boat ramps are there because they’ve spent the day on the water or are about to. Most aren’t too uptight, but if you disobey these unwritten boat ramp rules, you may raise some ire. Use your common sense and you’ll be fine.

If someone is uptight and having a bad day, let them go first just to get them out of the area. No one wants to ruin their day on the water with an incident at the boat ramp.

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