Boating and winter safety

​Boating Safety

Common sense and respect for others are the way to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone using Copake Lake.
Below are important safety guidelines to follow at all times.  Download the booklet entitled "New York State Recreational Boater's Guide" is available here or call 518-474-0445 for complete information.

The CLCS is not an enforcement agency. It is our mission to provide education and to promote safety and conservation. Every boater has an obligation to comply with NYS Boating Laws. If you have concerns about speed, noise or safe handling of any motorized watercraft on the lake, you should contact the Columbia County Sheriff’s Department at 518-828-3344.

Speed

  • Watercraft must not exceed 5 mph between 8 PM and 9 AM. (Copake Town Ordinance)
  • ​All watercraft must slow down to 5 mph when less than 100 ft from shore, dock or other vessel, or in ‘no wake’ zones. (NYS Law)

Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)

  • ​PFDs must be worn by all children under the age of 12 while in a watercraft. (NYS Law)
  • ​A PFD must be readily available on board for each person on board a watercraft (not necessarily worn at all times). (NYS Law)

Water Skiing

  • ​Water skiers must have a ‘look out’ over the age of 9. (NYS Law)
  • ​Water skiing after sunset is prohibited (NYS Law sec. 73-2 Navigation law)
  • ​Boating while impaired or intoxicated is subject to fines or imprisonment. (NYS Law)

Safety Equipment

  • ​A fire extinguisher (class "B"), visual distress signal, whistle/ horn, and anchor with sufficient line are required on all motorized watercraft. Exception: PWC's do not require an anchor or fire extinguisher.

​Noise

  • ​All watercraft must have effective mufflers. (Town Ordinance).
  • ​Watercraft noise should not exceed 75 decibels. (NYS Law)

​Right of Way

  • ​Motorized watercraft must yield to swimmers and non-motorized watercraft. (NYS Law)
  • ​A PFD must be readily available on board for each person on board a watercraft (not necessarily worn at all times). (NYS Law)

​Age

  • ​As of May 1, 2014, anyone born after May 1, 1996 must have a Boating Safety Certificate in order to operate a motorboat in New York State. A certificate can be obtained by completing a state approved Boating Safety Course. The required certificate must be carried by the individual while operating the boat. (NYS Law)
  • ​Click here to find a Boating Safety Course near you

Personal Watercraft (NYS Law)

  • ​All operators, regardless of age, must have successfully completed an approved boating safety course, and carry the required certificate with them while operating a PWC. The minimum age for operating a PWC is 14. Click here for more information and to find a course close to you.
  • ​Operators must wear an approved personal flotation device (PFD)
  • ​Personal watercraft may not be operated within 500 feet of a designated swimming area.
  • ​Personal watercraft can only be operated between sunrise and sundown.
  • ​Reckless operation, including wake jumping, weaving through traffic, or other maneuvers that jeopardize safety, are prohibited.

Registration

  • ​All motorized watercraft must be registered and display the registration numbers. (NYS LAW)

​Environment

  • ​Help keep unwanted aquatic plants and zebra mussels out of the lake. Thoroughly wash your boat and flush the cooling system away from the shoreline.
  • ​Avoid spilling gasoline or oil. Repair leaks immediately.
  • ​Dispose of litter properly in bins on shore.
  • ​Do not use soaps or cleansers in or near the lake.

​WINTER SAFETY

REGISTRATION

  • ​If you use a snowmobile on Copake Lake, the snowmobile must be legally registered. In New York, one must register the snowmobile on a yearly basis. Yearly registration validation stickers must be displayed in the upper left hand corner of the DMV-provided registration number decals, or to the left of the owner-provided registration numbers.
  • ​There are several snowmobile clubs in the area including the Columbia County Sno-Drifters Snowmobile Club here at Copake Lake. Their President is Bill Jennings, and their phone number is 518-828-1301. Members of a snowmobile club are eligible for reduced fees on their snowmobile registration.

INSURANCE

  • ​All snowmobiles which are not being operated solely on private property must be covered by minimum liability insurance. Since Copake Lake is not an individual’s private land, anyone operating a snowmobile on Copake Lake must have minimum insurance. Proof of insurance must be carried by the snowmobile operator and must be displayed on request of any magistrate, law enforcement officer, or anyone who has suffered personal injury or property damage as a result of the snowmobile operator’s actions.

​EQUIPMENT

  • ​New York State requires an individual to wear an approved safety helmet while operating a snowmobile.
  • ​The snowmobile must also have a working muffler, a head light and tail light.

​SAFETY

​It is unlawful to operate a snowmobile:

  • ​At a speed greater than reasonable or prudent under the surrounding conditions or at a speed greater than 55 mph.
  • ​In any unsafe or reckless manner or in any way that harasses other people or wildlife.
  • ​While intoxicated or otherwise impaired.
  • ​Within one hundred feet of a skater, ice fisherman, ice fishing house, or other person on a frozen body of water not on a snowmobile except at the minimum speed required to maintain forward motion.
  • ​Within one hundred feet of a dwelling between 12:00 midnight and 6:00 AM at a speed greater than the minimum speed required to maintain a forward motion.

​EVENTS

  • ​If a group sponsors a special snowmobile event, such as a festival or organized racing competition, the sponsoring group must obtain a special event permit from the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) www.nysparks.com

​Snowmobiling is a fun sport. However, as with boating, safety is of utmost importance. Have fun but remember that all law enforcement officers, including Sheriffs, local and State Police, State Park Police, Environmental Conservation Officers, and Forest Rangers are authorized to enforce snowmobile laws and regulations. For further information on the rules and regulations of snowmobiling in New York, please check out the New York State Snowmobile Association website.

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