Protecting park waters

Riding Mountain National Park has taken significant steps to prevent AIS, such as zebra mussels, from entering waterways in the park.

Help keep zebra mussels and other aquatic invasive species (AIS) out of the park. Get your mandatory inspection before launching your motorboat, canoe, kayak, paddleboard, and inflatables into the water. Inspections are free and only take 10-15 minutes.

Due to the increased risk, our AIS prevention program is always evolving.

AIS Orientation Sessions

Are you: A boater or paddler that wants to know more about Aquatic Invasive Species? A boater or paddler who is interested in a Seasonal Permit for your watercraft?

Do you: Do you recreate regularly on park waters? Want to share the knowledge and skills gained with your family and friends?

Then the AIS Orientation Session is for you! AIS Seasonal Permit Holder Course

What do I need to know about watercraft inspections and permits?

MANDATORY INSPECTIONS are required for all watercraft including, motorboats, canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, and inflatables before entering RMNP waters. This includes Clear Lake, South Lake, and all outlying lakes (Deep Lake, Moon Lake, Whirlpool Lake, Lake Katherine, Lake Audy & Grayling Lake) as well as all streams and rivers. The service is free of charge and watercrafts that pass the inspection will receive a permit from Parks Canada. Watercrafts that do not pass the inspection will we require a decontamination which will be conducted by trained staff. The length of the decontamination depends on the watercraft and is free of charge. See inspection schedule below.

  • Inspections are available seven days a week at the Clear Lake Boat Cove
  • Inspections can take anywhere from 10-15 minutes depending on the type and size of your watercraft. If the Inspectors deem that a decontamination is necessary, you will have to proceed to the Big Parking lot decontamination station. The decontamination process can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes depending on the complexity of the decontamination. Factor this time into your trip planning.
  • Temporary permits will still be available for the 2022 season and can be issued for up to seven days.
  • When you launch your motorboat, canoe, kayak, paddleboard, and inflatables outside of RMNP, your permit becomes invalid. In order to re-enter park waters, re-inspection is mandatory.
  • Park Wardens will be monitoring watercraft and doing checks to ensure that watercraft operators have received inspections and possess valid permits. Non-compliant operators face a maximum fine of $100,000.

Changes to the program from 2018 that are still in effect

Banning of leeches as fishing bait. Due to the increased risk of spreading microscopic zebra mussel veligers (larvae) via natural bait, the use and possession of leeches is prohibited. Parks Canada encourages fishers to confine the use of tackle to individual lakes and to ensure that all fishing gear is clean and dry before entering park waters.

Temporary permits for canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards visiting RMNP. Visitors seeking daily or weekly permits for watercraft will be issued a permit that will only remain valid for the duration of their stay, for a maximum of 7 days. Re-inspection for return trips is mandatory.

Fall Inspection Hours 2022

September 5 – October 10

  • Boat Cove inspection station: 9 am to 5 pm, Thursday to Monday (closed Tuesday and Wednesday)
  • Decontamination station: 9 am to 4 pm, Thursday to Monday (closed Tuesday and Wednesday)
  • East End Inspection station: Closed for 2022

When station is closed, call 204-396-4579 for an inspector.

Frequently Asked Questions

Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS)
Q: What are aquatic invasive species?

A: They are aquatic organisms that invade ecosystems beyond their natural, historic range. Their introduction is often harmful to ecosystems, commercial activities, and recreational activities dependent on these ecosystems. They can be plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria.

Q: Why are AIS a concern?

A: If AIS, such as zebra mussels, invade park waters, the effects can be devastating. They can pose significant risk to the environment and the economy. They reproduce quickly, have no natural predators, and outcompete native species for resources. Our beaches will be covered in sharp shells, fish populations will decline which will impact fishing, our drinking water infrastructure will be at risk, and the costs to repair damages will be high.

Q: Which AIS are of concern in RMNP?

A: Zebra mussels, spiny waterflea, rusty crayfish, black algae, and whirling disease. All of these AIS are illegal to have in your possession.

Zebra mussels

Are very small, the size of a sesame seed up to 3 cm long and have triangular or “D” shaped shells, and most have light and dark brown bands on their shells.

  • They are clam-like aquatic animals native to Eastern Europe and Western Asia.
  • Females can lay up to 1 million eggs a year and zebra mussels can survive out of water for up to 30 days.
  • Can decrease fish populations and increase algal blooms.
  • Confirmed presence of zebra mussels in Manitoba: Lake Winnipeg, the Red River, Cedar Lake, Shoal Lake (Manitoba/Ontario Border), Lake of the Woods, and the Nelson River System. Present in all the Great Lakes in Ontario.

Spiny waterflea

Have a long straight tail spine that is twice as long as its body. The spines on their tails make it easy for them to attach onto fabric materials, such as life jackets, ropes, carpet on bunks or boats. They can also survive in small amounts of water, so it’s important to drain and dry.

  • They are able to reproduce asexually, by cloning, which means it only takes one to populate a body of water. They also reproduce sexually, and can multiply very quickly. When they reproduce sexually, the eggs can survive through the winter on lake bottoms.
  • Their eggs can survive out of water so ensuring that the watercraft and all water related equipment is completely dry for five days will reduce the risks.
  • Major threats, outcompete native species for food and habitat resources, which can reduce populations affecting recreational angling.
  • No known way to eradicate once a population has been established.
  • They can be found in Lake of the Woods, Lake Winnipeg and the Winnipeg River in MB.

Rusty crayfish

Have large claws with black bands near the tips and are larger in size than our native Crayfish. They have dark, rusty spots on each side of their brown body.

  • Aggressive eating habits – outcompete native crayfish.
  • No practical way to remove them once they’ve been established.
  • Reduce spawning habitat for native fish.
  • Females can carry up to 200 fertilized eggs under their tail – rapid spread.
  • Illegal to posses and transport ANY crayfish (native species or not).
  • They can be found in Falcon Lake and Lake of the Woods in Manitoba.

Black algae

This type of algae forms dense mats and has a strong musty smell.

  • Grows densely on lake bottoms and chokes out native species.
  • Found in Betula, Jessica, and White Lakes in Whiteshell Provincial Park, Manitoba.

Whirling disease

Is caused by Myxobolus cerebralis, a microscopic parasite that affects fish such as trout, salmon and whitefish.

  • In RMNP, whitefish are particularly susceptible to whirling disease.
  • Visitors from Alberta or those who have launched in Alberta and are wanting to launch in park waters are at a higher risk of spreading whirling disease.
  • A mandatory inspection is necessary.

For more information on whirling disease, please visit: Whirling Disease - Fact Sheet

Q: How do they spread?

A: Aquatic invasive species (AIS), often referred to as aquatic hitchhikers, commonly spread by attaching to boats, canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, inflatables, beach toys, bait, life jackets, anchors, and ropes. They move from one body of water to another with human activity. This is why we all play a part in preventing the spread of AIS.

Q: What is Riding Mountain National Park doing to prevent the spread of AIS?

A: Riding Mountain National Park has taken AIS prevention seriously for several years. Through our AIS prevention program, regular monitoring of park waters, educational programs, and proactive measures we are maintaining and enhancing the ecological integrity of the park.

Here are some of the ways we are working to keep AIS out of park waters: In 2015 Riding Mountain National Park introduced mandatory watercraft inspections for all boats, canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, floatation devices and all gear associated with these activities (i.e.: personal floatation devices, ropes, bait buckets, etc.) We are monitoring park waters for AIS and coordinating with the province of Manitoba to monitor lakes outside of the park. In 2018 we restricted bait use in the park to exclude the use or possession of leeches as they can be vectors for transporting AIS from lake to lake. Riding Mountain National Park also works with the Conservation K-9 Unit from Alberta, a team of dogs and handlers trained to detect AIS. Read these stories about our AIS prevention program: When the nose, knows Part 1 & Part 2.

Q: How can you prevent the spread of AIS?

A: Learn which AIS are present in Manitoba, the risks they pose, and report sightings of AIS.

Clean, drain, dry, and dispose of plant debris, water, and mud on all watercraft, fishing gear, and other water related equipment after use. Do not transport any live aquatic animals/plants or water from other sources. Have your watercraft inspected before you use it in Riding Mountain National Park and become an Ambassador. Discuss the concerns of AIS with family and friends and ensure they know about the AIS Inspection program in Riding Mountain National Park and the province of Manitoba.

Q: What happens if AIS are found on my watercraft during an AIS inspection?

A: In the event that AIS are discovered in or on your watercraft, a decontamination will be necessary before you will be allowed to launch in park waters. Inspectors will direct you to the decontamination station and the process of removing AIS will take place there. Hot water is used to wash all potentially contaminated areas and equipment. Only once the decontamination is complete will you be allowed to launch in park waters.

Q: How can you help?

A: Be prepared to have an inspection done before launching your watercraft in park waters. It’s helpful if you know your boat in order to assist the inspectors. Things you should know: the last time your watercraft was in a body of water and which body of water it is. Remove all plants, debris and organisms from your boat – don’t take any AIS hitchhikers with you from lake to lake! Always pull your drain plug, empty your live well and ballast waters before you leave one lake and head to another. Dry all surfaces including inside wet storage compartments. Dispose of any water in your boat and any live bait when you leave a body of water. Don’t bring or use live bait in park waters, for fishing regulations, please visit: Fishing in Riding Mountain National Park. Report any suspicious boats or activity to Parks Canada Dispatch at 1-877-852-3100.

AIS Prevention Program and Watercraft Inspections
Q: What is the purpose of the AIS prevention program in Riding Mountain National Park?

A: To protect all park waters from the introduction of AIS. Parks Canada strives to keep AIS out of park waters by having mandatory inspections of all watercraft launching in park waters, as well as regular and testing of all park waters. In doing so, Parks Canada is maintaining and enhancing the ecological integrity of the park.

Q: What are AIS inspectors looking for?

A: Park AIS inspection staff are looking for any signs of aquatic invasive species on boats, boat trailers, kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and inflatables, such as zebra mussel contamination i.e.: zebra mussel shells, which feel like sandpaper, any standing water, which may contain veligers (microscopic larvae), mud or plants, which can also host and transport AIS. They also ask questions about where boat users have been to identify the level of risk.

Q: Why is it important to get a watercraft inspected by a RMNP official?

A: Parks Canada staff are working closely with visitors to keep aquatic invasive species (AIS) out of park waters through watercraft inspections and strict decontamination procedures. The cooperation of watercraft operators is essential in preventing this threat to park waters. 100% compliance is necessary to ensure the ecological integrity of park waterways, as it only takes one contaminated watercraft to transport aquatic invasive species into the park.

All motorized and non-motorized watercraft entering RMNP waters are required to undergo an inspection for aquatic invasive species. The service is free of charge and watercrafts passing inspection will receive a permit from Parks Canada watercraft inspectors. This applies to all water-related equipment including watercrafts, trailers, canoes, kayaks, wind-driven vessels, stand-up paddleboards, inflatables, scuba diving gear, and any other recreational watercraft.

Q: What is classified as a watercraft?

A: Anything that will go in the water and holds people: motor boats, canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, and flotation devices. It is also important to note that all water related equipment can also transport AIS which includes paddles, beach toys, bait buckets, life jackets, ropes, scuba diving gear etc.

Q: Who issues watercraft inspection permits in Riding Mountain National Park?

A: Only trained Parks Canada AIS Inspectors can issue watercraft inspection permits in the park.

Q: How long does an AIS inspection take?

A: 10-15 minutes.

Q: How long does decontamination of watercraft take?

A: 30-60 minutes depending on the complexity of the watercraft.

Q: Do I need to have my watercraft re-inspected if I leave Riding Mountain National Park and launch elsewhere? What if I don’t leave the park?

A: Absolutely. Every time you launch outside of park waters you must have an inspection done again. You must also have an inspection done if your permit is expired.

If you stay within Riding Mountain National Park, you do not need to have your watercraft re-inspected before you launch, unless your permit is expired.

Q: Why have leeches been banned as bait?

A: Due to the increased risk of spreading microscopic zebra mussel veligers (larvae) via natural bait, the use and possession of leeches is prohibited. Parks Canada encourages fishers to confine the use of tackle to individual lakes and to ensure that all fishing gear is clean and dry before entering park waters.

AIS Orientation Sessions

Due to COVID-19, in person sessions will not be available. We are currently offering virtual sessions.

Q: Can I get a seasonal permit without attending a Seasonal Permit Orientation Session?

A: In order to be eligible to obtain a seasonal permit, visitors must attend a virtual orientation session and take an online quiz. Visitors who completed the program last year have the option to bypass the orientation session and take only the quiz. All seasonal permit holders are required to have an initial watercraft inspection to receive their permit.

Q: If I attend a Seasonal Permit Orientation Session, can I give my permit to a family member who hasn’t attended a session?

A: You cannot give your permit to fellow family members as permits are not transferrable, but other people can use your watercraft with your permit. While only one family member has to attend the course, all members of the family using a shared watercraft must follow the regulations. If you or someone else in your family launches outside of Riding Mountain National Park, a mandatory inspection is necessary in order to launch in park waters.

Q: If I attended a Seasonal Permit Orientation Session in previous years, do I have to attend one again this year in order to get a seasonal permit to launch in park waters?

A: Visitors who have completed the program in previous years have the option to bypass the orientation session, and instead watch the refresher video and take the quiz. All seasonal permit holders are required to have an initial watercraft inspection to receive their permit. 

Q: How long are the AIS Orientation Sessions?

A: The AIS virtual Orientation Sessions last between 1.5-2 hours, followed by a 20-minute quiz.

Whirlpool Lake – what happened?
Q: Were zebra mussels discovered in Whirlpool Lake in 2017?

A: Water samples taken in the summer and fall of 2017 from Whirlpool Lake tested positive for potential Environmental DNA (eDNA) evidence of zebra mussel. No live zebra mussels nor veligers (larvae) have been found and eDNA does not confirm a viable population.

The water samples indicated a strong likelihood of zebra mussel eDNA (environmental DNA). Additional testing from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans confirmed the positive result. This prompted the precautionary closure of the lake and campground area in accordance with international standards. All testing conducted in 2018 resulted no detection of zebra mussels, veligers or eDNA. There is no evidence of zebra mussels at Whirlpool Lake.

Q: What is eDNA?

A: Environmental DNA (eDNA) are microscopic genetic traces - or DNA - that an organism leaves behind as it moves through an environment. eDNA is a tool used by researchers to detect the occurrence of organisms that do not normally belong to an ecosystem. The method is an efficient and cost-effective alternative to standard surveying methods over large areas in aquatic environments and is a valuable tool in monitoring programs.

Q: Why was Whirlpool Lake re-opened for public use?

A: Visitors love to camp, hike, and paddle at Whirlpool Lake and Parks Canada is happy to make these experiences a possibility again. Given that all tests taken in the past year have come back negative for the presence of zebra mussels, veligers and eDNA, Parks Canada is confident in the results of our monitoring and testing. As such, the area is open for public use once again. Continued vigilance in monitoring and testing will occur at Whirlpool Lake.

Q: Why is the water level so low?

A: The water levels are low due to a combination of the following factors: the management of the lake depth to minimize the risk area identified by eDNA test results, to optimize the ability to effectively monitor the lake, and due to very little precipitation during the summers of 2018 and 2019.

Q: Will the monitoring of Whirlpool Lake continue?

A: Parks Canada is committed to the protection of healthy aquatic ecosystems in Canada’s national parks. Staff will continue to monitor Whirlpool Lake very closely.

We have introduced enhanced surveillance techniques over the last several years through our Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Program. This program incorporates proactive monitoring, vigilant inspection, and careful decontamination of watercraft. Lakes in Riding Mountain National Park are tested routinely for zebra mussels, veligers and eDNA. Parks Canada will continue to monitor the situation closely and take action if a positive result is found.