No Wake Zones in North Carolina


Slow No WakeDefinition and Statutory Authority

A “No Wake Zone” is an area within which vessels are required to travel at idling speed – slow speed that creates no appreciable wake. North Carolina General Statute §75A-15 authorizes the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) to establish water safety rules solely in the interest of mitigating water safety hazards. Rules adopted for placement of waterway markers establishing No Wake Zones also may be subject to approval by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard, and in coastal counties by the Division of Coastal Management of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality. 


Where to Find No Wake Zone Rules

No Wake Zones that have been adopted by rulemaking may be found in the North Carolina Administrative Code (NCAC) under Title 15A, Subchapter 10F.0300 (Motorboats and Water Safety). Rules are listed by county and occasionally by municipality. Mapped No Wake Zones can be viewed in the interactive Boating Access Area Locator in the Where to Boat Section.     


Applying for a No Wake Zone  

By statute, No Wake Zones may be established in public trust waters only to mitigate hazards to boating safety. Hazards to boating safety may include known navigational hazards; narrow shallow waters; areas of obstructed vision; structures in the area such as dams, spillways, flood control structures, trestles and power lines, and fueling docks; designated recreational or swimming areas; congested areas with high traffic; a history of accidents, and public vessel access areas. 

The Commission does not enact no wake zones to mitigate erosion, noise, and property damage. There is no North Carolina statute that establishes no wake zones around docks and piers.

Please note that the NCWRC must have concurrence from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to enact a no wake or restricted vessel zone, or to place a structure in federal waters managed by USACE.  

Coastal counties are subject to requirements under the Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA). The applicant is responsible for obtaining necessary CAMA permits from the Division of Coastal Management before the installation of any no wake marker in coastal waters.



  • Beaufort
  • Bertie
  • Brunswick
  • Camden
  • Carteret
  • Chowan
  • Craven
  • Currituck
  • Dare
  • Gates
  • Hertford
  • Hyde
  • New Hanover
  • Onslow
  • Pamlico
  • Pasquotank
  • Pender
  • Perquimans
  • Tyrrell
  • Washington


Beginning the Process - Flowchart

Contact a No Wake Zone Coordinator

Before a county or municipality begins the application process,  contact the No Wake Zone Coordinator at (919) 707-0013 or at  Request an assessment of boater safety hazards by the Wildlife Enforcement Division. Provide the No Wake Zone Coordinator with the county or municipality name, name and location of the body of water, accurate directions or GPS coordinates to get to the site, and indicate the clear statutory hazards to boating safety that may exist and that you believe require regulation of that area of the waters. 

Agency law enforcement staff will conduct an assessment of the area and submit a Matrix with comments about boater safety hazards that may warrant rulemaking. The county or municipality will be provided with a copy of the Assessment Matrix and may decide to begin the application process under NCGS §75A. 


How to Apply

Submit the No Wake Zone Application (Form D-1)


The county or municipality submits the formal Application for Rulemaking (Form D-1) for consideration by the 19-member WRC Board.


The application packet consists of the following:


1.  Statement that public notice was given of the intention to make application to the Wildlife Resources Commission for the Rule that is being proposed


2.  A Resolution from the governmental unit requesting rulemaking for the waters named in the application


3. Statement that the local unit of government or a designee agrees to purchase and place markers that conform to U.S. Aids to Navigation (USATONS) standards to implement a rule


If a local unit of government incurs the expense for purchase and placement of markers, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is required to submit a Fiscal Note to the Office of State Budget and Management (OSBM) to report the fiscal impact of a Rule on the state or local unit of government.


Mail the application packet to:           


N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission
Attn:  Betsy Haywood, No Wake Zone Coordinator
1701 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1701


Or email the application packet to






The agency will present the application packet to the NCWRC at an official meeting, for possible action to proceed with rulemaking. And, if necessary, the agency will provide a Fiscal Note that has been reviewed by OSBM, for approval by the NCWRC. The Commission may approve or deny a request for rulemaking, or it may approve a proposed rule with modifications. With Commission approval, the rulemaking process begins.


The Notice of Text for the rule proposal with an open public comment period is published for at least 60 days in the North Carolina Register per the requirements of the APA,  and on the NCWRC website at After the comment period closes, the rule proposal and any comments received are presented at an official meeting of the NCWRC for final adoption.


Following adoption of the rule by vote of the NCWRC the rule is submitted to the Rules Review Commission (RRC) for approval. If the RRC approves the rule for clarity, necessity, and statutory authority, it is codified in the NCAC and usually becomes effective on the first day of the month following that approval.


Every proposed rule is subject to adoption by the NCWRC, fiscal review by the OSBM, and final determination by the RRC as to necessity, clarity and statutory authority of the Rule. A Rule may not be codified in the NCAC without final review by the RRC. 


Some Additional Requirements


The U.S. Coast Guard requires completion of a Personal Aids to Navigation (PATON) application prior to securing buoys or markers to the bottom of United States waters. There is no charge for a PATON application; however, fines may be levied for placement of an unauthorized PATON. It is the responsibility of the applicant to contact the U.S. Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Officer at (757) 398-6229 for information about requirements for the PATON application.


Is it Legal? Is it Enforceable? 


Enforcement of No Wake Zones is limited to those areas that have been established by federal and state rulemaking or legislation and that are properly marked. No Wake Zones must display regulatory signs or buoys that conform to the standards of the U.S. Aids Navigation (USATONS). A No Wake marker that does not conform to USATONS standards or that has been placed in public trust waters without authorization is subject to removal. 


An unmarked No Wake Zone is not enforceable.


The local unit of government or its designee is responsible for the purchase and placement of No Wake markers. Unless otherwise specified in the rule the responsibility for maintenance of markers rests with the agency. The applicant or its designee may obtain technical assistance from the Land and Water Access Section of the NCWRC at (919) 707-0150. 



No Wake Zones in Federally Maintained Waters



The NCWRC does not have statutory authority to establish No Wake Zones within Federal waters such as the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AIWW). The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) maintains the AIWW with Federal funds in support of interstate commercial navigation traffic. With rare exceptions USACE does not concur with establishment of No Wake Zones along the open reaches of the AIWW. No Wake Zone signage placed on private property along the AIWW, and without the concurrence of USACE does not mark a legitimate No Wake Zone and is not enforceable. For questions about No Wake Zones in Federal waters contact the USACE Wilmington District.




No Wake Zones Established by Marine Commissions in Some Inland Waters


The Lake Norman Marine Commission and Lake Wylie Marine Commission oversee the application process for No Wake Zones on those lakes. Contact the Lake Norman Marine Commission at (704) 564-6333 or by e-mail at Lake Wylie Marine Commission information may be found at or by mail at 9815 David Taylor Drive, Charlotte, NC 28262.


For more information about No Wake Zones please contact Betsy Haywood at (919) 707-0013 or by e-mail: