No Wake Zones in North Carolina


Definition 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 Wildlife Resources Commission to establish water safety rules solely in the interest of mitigating water safety hazards. Rules promulgated 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 Zone rules promulgated by the WRC are codified in the North Carolina Administrative Code (NCAC).  No Wake Zones that have been promulgated 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.     

No Wake Zones Established by Session Law

Several No Wake Zones have been enacted in Session Laws by the North Carolina General Assembly. You may search for No Wake Zones created by Session Laws on the North Carolina General Assembly website.  Under Shortcuts click on Session Laws. Browse under full text search (use key words “no and wake.”)  Please remember that a No Wake Zone is not enforceable unless it has been properly marked.

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 P. O. Box 35008, Charlotte, North Carolina 28235.

Applying to the Wildlife Resources Commission for a No Wake Zone

The Wildlife Resources Commission accepts the formal application for rulemaking from the local governmental unit with territorial jurisdiction over the waters in question.  The governmental unit may be a county or municipality.  The process for rulemaking under the North Carolina Administrative Code may take from twelve to eighteen months.


The local governmental unit first must advertise and hold a public hearing about the No Wake Zone proposal. The hearing date, time and location must be advertised in a newspaper that is likely to be read by the local citizenry. The public hearing must occur prior to the adoption of a resolution that formally requests the Wildlife Resources Commission to take action on the proposal.  


The application packet consists of the following:

1.  A completed form D-1  that names the county and body of water, clearly defines the area to be marked as a No Wake Zone, and describes hazards to water safety that may warrant establishment of a No Wake Zone.

2.  A certified resolution that formally requests the Wildlife Resources Commission to undertake rulemaking for purposes of establishing a no wake zone for the purpose of mitigating hazards to water safety.

3.  Two copies of a map showing the area to be marked. The map must be sufficiently clear that a person who is unfamiliar with the area can locate the area that is intended to be designated a no wake zone. Landmark names and GPS coordinates are helpful.

4.  A cover letter. The cover letter includes reference to the newspaper in which the public hearing was advertised and the date and location of the public hearing. The cover letter includes the estimated number of markers required to mark the zone and must state whether the markers will be purchased by the local governmental unit or by private citizens.  This information is important because the WRC must report the state or local fiscal impacts of a rule.  

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

Upon receipt of the complete application packet an investigation by the WRC Enforcement Division will be conducted to determine whether the proposed rule is necessary to address a water safety hazard.


Upon a finding that the rule proposal is necessary to address a water safety hazard the Wildlife Resources Commission will undertake rulemaking. The notice of text for the rule proposal and contact name and address for public comment are published for sixty days in the North Carolina Register. After the comment period closes the rule proposal is presented to the Wildlife Resources Commission for adoption.

Following adoption of the rule by vote of the Wildlife Resources Commission the rule is submitted to the Rules Review Commission (RRC) for approval.  If the RRC approves the rule it usually becomes effective on the first day of the month following that approval. 

Some Additional Requirements

Applicants from North Carolina’s coastal counties may be required to obtain a Coastal Area Management Act [CAMA] permit from the Division of Coastal Management [DCM] in order to place a buoy or sign in navigable waters. It is the applicant’s responsibility to contact the district CAMA office before placing any structure or marker in coastal waters. CAMA District offices and contact information may be found at

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.  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 to Navigation  (ATONS). A No Wake marker that does not conform to US ATONS 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 Wildlife Resources Commission does not purchase or maintain No Wake markers. However, our Engineering Services Division can provide technical assistance regarding marker purchase and placement.

No Wake Zones in Federally Maintained Waters

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission 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 please contact the USACE Wilmington District at                                                                    


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