Single Recreational Mooring Buoys

Using Mooring Buoys

It is not always convenient for a boat owner to secure their boat at a dock. On those occasions the person may choose to anchor their boat in a safe location. However, anchors have been known to slip during storms and the owner may awake to find the boat drifted away during the night to destinations unknown.

The most reliable way to prevent this is to attach the boat to a mooring buoy. Mooring buoys are secured to the ground by either being drilled into the waterway bed or by being attached to a heavy mushroom or similar anchor with enough weigh to hold the boat in place. To ensure the buoys do not hinder the safety of others there are restrictions and requirements placed on them.


The State does not require a permit for single recreational mooring buoys. The federal government requires no permit either, granting permission under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. However, a mooring buoy may bear ownership identification. We suggest using the state registration number, documentation number or vessel name.

The State requires a permit for group moorings (consisting of 3 or more vessels). To apply for a group mooring permit, print out and fill in the registration form and return to DNR.

Placement Restrictions

While there are no permits required for mooring buoys, there are restrictions on where you may place them. You may not place one in such a position that the arc of swing extends into a marked or unmarked channel, including navigational main channels as designated by the U.S. Coast Guard. Moorings also may not be placed in a manner that interferes with the operation of an access through any bridge.

Mooring buoys may not be established in the following areas:
  • Public shellfish beds;

  • Private shellfish beds, unless permission is obtained from the leaseholder;

  • Cable crossing areas;

  • Designated beach and swim areas in the Severn River; or in

  • Controlled ski areas in the Severn River and South Rivers in Anne Arundel County.

Required Placement

Single recreational moorings shall be placed in such a position that the area encompassed by the arc of the swing does not extend more than one-third the open water distance from the mean high water line on one shore to the mean high water line on the opposite shore. Also, the arc of the swing must not impede or obstruct access to the land of any riparian property owner, the access and proper use of any public access point, or otherwise hinder the orderly access to and use of waterways by the general public.

If you plan on mooring in Kent County, the City of Annapolis or the towns of Oxford and St. Michael's, Maryland, be sure to check with these jurisdictions first, because they have additional mooring requirements.

Buoy Appearance

Mooring buoys shall be colored white and shall have a horizontal blue band around the circumference of the buoy, centered midway between the top of the buoy and the water line.

A lighted mooring buoy shall normally display a slow flashing white light. When its location in a waterway is such that it constitutes an obstruction to a vessel operated during hours of darkness, it shall display a quick flashing white light.


If you have any questions regarding mooring buoys, please contact Jeannine Moaney, DNR Boating Services Unit at 410 260-8417.

Chesapeake Bay Hotline

Call 1-877-224-7229

to report any of the following

  • Boating accident or reckless activity
  • Fish kill or algal bloom
  • Floating debris that poses a hazard to navigation
  • Illegal fishing activity
  • Public sewer leak or overflow
  • Oil or hazardous material spill
  • Critical area or wetlands violation
  • Suspicious or unusual activity