Boating is a very popular activity on Onota Lake. On any given day, you will see a wide variety of watercraft, including pontoon boats, fishing boats, power boats pulling water skiers or tubes, kayaks, paddle boards, canoes, pedal boats, sculls/shells with single rowers or teams, jet skis, sailboats, and homemade rafts. There are also swimmers and divers in the lake, and sometimes you will unexpectedly see swimmers far away from the shoreline. Boating activity on the lake has increased significantly over the last ten years, and at times the boat traffic can be very heavy. As boaters, we need to be aware of our behaviors, and our responsibility is to follow safe boating practices.

If you are a boater, please be aware of boating safety best practices and regulations. There are boating “rules of the road” just as there are for driving automobiles. LOPA encourages all boaters to complete a boating safety course – even if you consider yourself experienced, you will learn something new and become a safer boater.

Mass.gov is an excellent resource for an overview of Massachusetts boating regulations and information for a boating safety course.

Please be considerate when boating and be aware of other boats and people around you. Whether in a powerboat or a canoe, give fishers, swimmers, and wildlife a wide berth. Reduce your speed when there is heavy traffic or obstacles and stay far enough (at least 150 feet) from the lake’s edges in powerboats and jet skis to reduce damage to the shoreline. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, there were 767 boating fatalities in the United States and over 1700 other serious injuries resulting from 3329 accidents in 2020.

Drowning and trauma were the leading causes of death, and although powerboats were involved in the highest number of fatalities, canoes and kayaks were second. Wear your Flotation Device (PFD), stay alert, and do not operate a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The Massachusetts Environmental Police and Pittsfield Police patrol Onota Lake and are available to help if you are involved in an accident. If you have an emergency, dial 911. If you need assistance or wish to report boating safety violations, the Environmental Police Dispatch can be reached at 800-632-8075, and the Pittsfield Police can be reached at 413-448-9700.

Boaters also need to be aware of the Clean Boat Certification program. Whether you launch a powerboat, kayak, or any other watercraft, you must comply with the Clean Boat Certification process.

Launching watercraft can introduce damaging invasive plants and animals into waterways, and each of us needs to do our part to protect our natural resources. Make sure you have your Clean Boat Certification form before you launch your boat.

Boating is a fantastic activity on Onota Lake and can provide many hours of enjoyment and fun. Let’s all work together to keep each other safe and the lake healthy by practicing safe boating practices, understanding regulations, and keeping our lake free from invasive plants and animals.