Safe Boating

The Hempstead Bays – South Oyster Bay Complex is crowded with motorboats, jet skis and commercial vessels during the warmer months. In low water, larger vessels are limited to dredged channels, which are noted on maps and navigational charts. Aids to Navigation – the “road signs” of the waterways – mark channels and identify hazards and low wake zones where power vessels must keep speeds to five-miles-an-hour. Taking the recommended Safety Precautions will assist paddlers in navigating safely from place to place in these shared waterways.

Motor Boats and PWC

There is need for improved coordination and communication between paddlers and motorized boaters to minimize on the water conflicts and accidents in vessel-to-vessel interactions. Recreational motorboats and personal watercraft traffic operating at excessive speeds on the western bays is frustrating to many paddlers. Boat wakes can capsize a kayak or canoe. More aggressive monitoring and patrolling of waterways can help address these issues. Non-motorized boaters need to work with local municipalities to enforce regulations that discourage unsafe actions. The US Coast Guard, Nassau County Police Marine Unit, Town of Hempstead and Oyster Bay constables enforce navigational safety issues.

Chart your course
and file a Float Plan 


Bridge crossing and inlets produce the most challenging conditions characterized by faster moving currents, eddies and variable water conditions dependent upon tidal flow. Such currents are caused by ebb (outgoing) and flood (incoming) tidal flows. Due to these factors trail users navigating between bays at bridge abutments and across inlets need to be at an advanced skill level.

Tidal Conditions

The changing tides alter the currents in the bays. Plan to travel with the tidal current, when the tidal current turns paddle with it in the return direction.  There are a number of tidal flats, passageways between marsh islands, and creeks that become completely mud during lower tides. Paddlers can become stranded, stuck in the mudflats at low water and must wait for the tide to turn. Tide charts are available at most park offices. The American Canoe Association free App Paddle Ready provides tide details and safety information. Check tide charts as part of trip planning, online at or

NOAA Tidal Forecast local boat & beach conditions


Severe weather can come up quickly, listen to National Weather Service radio. If a Small Craft Advisory is posted, head to safety immediately, as winds may become too strong to operate your vessel safely. The NOAA website to monitor marine weather is

Water Temperature

Cold water is very unsafe. During much of the year the water can be cold, a wet suit is a must in water as warm as 50 – 60
 degrees, which can result in hypothermia or “Cold Water Shock”.  Check water temperatures online at More information at NOAA Cold Water Guide:

Water Quality

Water quality issues, effluent, and high bacteria counts can make water contact unsafe. The Nassau County Department of Health conducts routine monitoring at beaches and provides a message of beach closings and sewage spills on its helpline (516) 227-9700 or sign up for email notice of sewage leaks from United Water at .