Safety and Etiquette

Safety on Beaver Island

These basic safety tips will increase your chances of having a safe and enjoyable paddle on Beaver Island:

1.  REGISTER AT THE COMMUNITY CENTER. Prior to your paddle, all water trail users should register in the Community Center at 26215 Main Street, right across the street from the ferry dock. Your registration will alert public safety officers to your paddle. There is no cost to register. The Community Center also has useful information about all the amenities and natural features of Beaver Island.

2.  ALWAYS PADDLE WITH THE PROPER EQUIPMENT. Life vests are required by law. A whistle, a first-aid kit and a phone are standard equipment.

3.  NEVER PADDLE ALONE. Always paddle with at least one other person and do not become separated.

4.  BE AWARE OF THE WATER TEMPERATURE. Cold water is extremely dangerous. Take steps to protect yourself from hypothermia.

5.  KEEP TO THE SHORELINE. Paddling far from shore can result in becoming lost. Keep the shoreline in sight at all times.

6.  UNDERSTAND THE RIGHT-OF-WAY. The rules give priority first to self-propelled craft, including paddling boats, then to sailboats, and lastly to motorized craft.

7.  BE AWARE OF THE WEATHER. Conditions can change rapidly. Be aware of forecasts and do not go out during thunderstorms or other adverse weather events. Stay alert to changing weather conditions.

8.  BE AWARE OF THE DAYLIGHT. Make sure you leave enough daylight to comfortably finish your trip.

9.  BRING A CHANGE OF CLOTHES IN A DRY BAG. It is very likely you will get wet. Bring a change of clothes in a dry bag to avoid hypothermia.

10.  KNOW HOW TO SWIM. Make sure you know how to swim before paddling on Beaver Island.

11.  KNOW HOW TO GET HELP. To get help, dial 911. Be advised that there is a 30-second delay when placing a call. Make sure you are aware of your surroundings and can communicate your position to emergency responders. Cell phone coverage is limited. Check with your service provider to confirm coverage.

12.  CARRY A GPS UNIT. Beaver Island continues to invest in signage and other access-site amenities. However, several access sites do not yet have signs, and amenities are minimal. Be sure to carry a working GPS unit and this Guide to locate access sites around the Island.

Paddling Etiquette

Understand the Right of Way Prior to getting on the Water Trail, be sure you understand the right-of-way rules. In general, the rules give priority first to self-propelled craft, including paddling boats, then to sail-powered craft, and lastly to motorized craft.

Minimize Hazards Stay close to the shore and away from recreational boating channels. When paddling close to the shore, watch for swimmers and be mindful of private property.

Cross Cautiously and Quickly When the need arises to cross a commercial or recreational boating channel, do so with caution by checking in all directions for approaching vessels.

Stay Starboard and Pass Port to Port If you alter your route in response to an approaching vessel, steer to your right (starboard). This is standard boating procedure.

Avoid Private Property In many cases, the shorelands are private property. Plan to only exit the Water Trail at public access points. Private property should only be used in emergency situations.

Be Helpful and Respectful Offer assistance if another person is in distress! Remain aware of your surroundings and respectful of others’ right to also enjoy the water and shoreline.

Respect Plant and Animal Wildlife Stay away from nesting sites and birds with their young. Many shorebirds and loons use shorelines and interior lakes to raise their young, and disturbance leads to predation. Photograph flowers but do not remove.


Leave No Trace is an international program designed to empower outdoor enthusiasts to reduce their impact on the environment when hunting, paddling, camping, picnicking, fishing, skiing, or climbing. The program strives to educate all those who enjoy the outdoors about the nature of their recreational impacts, as well as techniques to prevent and minimize such impacts. Leave No Trace is best understood as an educational and ethical program, not as a set of rules and regulations.

The 7 Principles of Leave No Trace:

1. Plan ahead and prepare. Know your route, weather and wind conditions, and your own capabilities.

2. Travel and camp on established surfaces.

3. Dispose of waste properly. Bring your trash with you when you leave, and clean up more if you can!

4. Leave what you find.

5. Minimize campfire impacts.

6. Respect wildlife. Do not attempt to harass or feed wildlife, and give wildlife a wide berth.

7. Be considerate of other visitors.

Invasive Species

Unfortunately, invasive species are a common problem in many Great Lakes communities. One benefit of living on an island is that it can be more difficult for invasive species to establish colonies. However, once invasives are established, it is more expensive and sometimes impossible to remove them. Therefore, even a few invasive species can cause significant disruptions to the ecological integrity of an island.

Clean off vegetation and dry all water from boats and gear before transferring between waterways on Beaver Island. Observations of invasive species can be reported at the Beaver Island Community Center in St. James.