North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

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 N.C. 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 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  - Flowchart

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is charged with promulgating water safety rules. 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 statutory authority of the WRC does not allow enacting a no wake zone 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 N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission 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 shall be 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

Contact a No Wake Zone Coordinator

Before a county or municipality begins the application process, the county or municipality must contact the No Wake Zone Coordinator at (919)707-0013 or at 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 investigation of the area for a preliminary determination whether statutory authority and sufficient safety hazards may exist to warrant proceeding with rulemaking. At that point, typically within 30 days of the request for investigation, the county or municipality will be notified of the results of the investigation and staff’s recommendation based on the statutory authority of the WRC. The county or municipality may then decide whether to begin the application process under the requirements of the N.C. Administrative Procedure Act (G.S. 150B-20). The application begins the petitioning process for final action by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. 

The 19-member N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission receives and considers the written rule-making petition (application) in an official meeting. If the WRC grants a rule-making petition, it must inform the applicant who submitted the rule-making petition of its decision and must initiate rule-making proceedings. If the WRC denies a rule-making petition, it must send the county or municipality that submitted the petition a written statement of the reasons for denying the petition. Denial of a rule-making petition is a final decision of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.



How to Apply

Notice for Local Public Hearing and Official Resolution

After the preliminary investigation and before submitting an application to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission for a proposed rule, 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 N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission to take action on the proposal.  

No Wake Zone Application (Form D-1)

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission accepts the formal Application for Rulemaking (Form D-1) from the local governmental unit with territorial jurisdiction over the waters in question. 

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. Per G.S. 150B-20, if a rule-making petition requests the agency to create or amend a rule, the applicant must submit the proposed text of the requested rule change and a statement of need for the requested rule change.

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

3.  One copy 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 local or state governmental unit or by a designee. This information is important because the WRC must report the state or local fiscal impacts of a rule to the Office of State Budget and Management for review. 

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


The agency will submit a fiscal note for review by the Office of State Budget and Management for approval by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and seek approval from the WRC to proceed with rulemaking. A Notice of Text of the proposed rule will be published in the North Carolina Register and opens the proposal for additional public comment before final adoption by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.


The Notice of Text for the rule proposal and contact name and address to submit public comment are published for at least sixty days in the North Carolina Register and on the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission website at After the comment period closes the rule proposal is presented at an official meeting of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission for final adoption.

Following adoption of the rule by vote of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission 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 usually becomes effective on the first day of the month following that approval when it is codified in the N.C. Administrative Code. 

Every proposed rule is subject to adoption by the WRC, fiscal review by the Office of State Budget and Management, and final determination by the Rules Review Commission (RRC) as to clarity and statutory authority of the Rule. A Rule may not be codified in the N.C. Administrative Code 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 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 N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, a local unit of government, or its designee is responsible for the purchase, placement and maintenance of No Wake markers. The designee may obtain technical assistance regarding marker purchase and placement from the Land and Water Access Section of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission at (919)707-0150. 



No Wake Zones in Federally Maintained Waters

The N.C. 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 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: