Ontario Protecting Provincial Waterways

Province clarifying restrictions on floating accommodations

June 23, 2023

Natural Resources and Forestry

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MUSKOKA – The Ontario government is prohibiting floating accommodations from docking overnight on provincial waterways. The regulatory change will come into effect July 1, 2023 and will protect Ontario’s lakes and rivers by preserving access to public lands and ensuring fairness for recreational users. The regulation will not impact anyone exercising their right to navigate, including reasonable mooring, or anyone exercising Aboriginal or treaty rights.

“We heard a number of concerns about the use of floating accommodations on Ontario’s waterways, including their potential effects on the environment as well as concerns about safety,” said Graydon Smith, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. “With these changes, we are taking action to protect our waterways by preserving access to lakes and rivers, ensuring access for recreational users, and reducing the potential for pollution of lakes and rivers.”

Floating accommodations, such as rafts and barges, contain buildings or structures equipped for overnight accommodation, but unlike watercraft, they are not primarily designed for navigation.

The regulatory changes follow consultations with the public, boaters, cottagers, municipalities and Indigenous communities which expressed concerns that floating accommodations have a risk of damaging the environment. Concerns were expressed that floating accommodations could disturb local fish and wildlife by disrupting the natural environment and increase the risk of pollution from garbage, greywater disposal and spills.

These changes, which clarify the difference between floating accommodations and watercraft, only apply to public lands in Ontario managed under the Public Lands Act and will not address floating accommodations located on private water lots or on waterways under jurisdiction of other governments and ministries (e.g., portions of Trent Severn Waterway).


“Our region is home to many waterways of tremendous importance to the area’s geology, biology, history, and culture, and they deserve protection so residents can continue to enjoy them for generations to come. Working with our communities and looking at the impacts of floating cottages, these changes are essential to protect our waterways that play a vital role as drainage outlets, providing habitat, nourishment, and means of transport to countless lifeforms, offering travel routes for business and recreational boaters, and that create the majestic scenery that is such an integral part of our landscape.”

– Jill Dunlop
MPP for Simcoe North

“I would like to thank Minister Smith for taking time to consult the public including boaters, cottagers, municipalities and Indigenous communities to address floating accommodations. This resolution will protect our water eco systems and allow for the continued enjoyment for all wishing to utilize public lands.”

– Laurie Scott
MPP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock

Additional Resources

Read more about the regulation changes

Related Topics

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Information about the province’s Far North and rural communities. Get connected to business improvement organizations and learn more about funding and programs that support rural, northern and Indigenous communities. Learn more

Travel and Recreation

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