US Army Corps of Engineers
Wilmington District Website

No Wake Zones Along Federal Channels

What is a No Wake Zone?

A “No Wake Zone” is an area within which vessels are required to travel at idling speed – slow speed that creates no appreciable wake. North Carolina General Statute §75A-15 authorizes the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) to establish water safety rules solely in the interest of mitigating water safety hazards. Rules adopted for placement of waterway markers establishing No Wake Zones also may be subject to approval by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), and in coastal counties by the Division of Coastal Management of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality.


Where are the recognized “No Wake Zones” in North Carolina?

“No Wake Zones” recognized by the NCWRC can be viewed in the State’s Interactive Boating Access Locator in the Where to Boat Section. 

“No Wake Zones” located within or directly adjacent to federally maintained channels and are recognized by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Wilmington District are as follows:

  • Morehead City – channels surrounding the Morehead City Ports Authority (Figure).
  • Beaufort - From Marker 2A in Bulkhead Channel to the entrance of Town Creek, and eastward to Marker 4 in Taylors Creek. Includes waters within Beaufort Harbor, Gallants Channel, Morgan Creek, Bulkhead Channel, and Taylors Creek(Figure).
  • Wrightsville Beach - in the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AIWW) from the Wrightsville Beach (Hwy 74/76) Bridge to Marker 127, and in Motts Channel from Marker 16 to Marker 25 (Figure).
  • Southport – in the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway from Marker 1 to Marker 2A. The “No Wake Zone” applies to recreational vessels only. Vessels registered with USCG as "Recreational" are deemed recreational. Vessels registered with U.S. Coast Guard as commercial, are exempt from the Southport slow speed area. A commercial vessel must possess a "Fishery", "Coastwise", "Registry", or "Coastwise Under Charter to an Entity Qualified to Engage in Coastwise Trade" endorsement. A vessel not large enough to be registered with the USCG, but considers themselves commercial, must provide a proof of transaction (Figure).
  • Southport – within Southport Marina (Figure).
  • Holden Beach – 250 feet west and 100 feet east of the Holden Beach (NC Hwy 130) Bridge, adjacent to the NCWRC boat ramp (Figure).
  • Ocean Isle Beach – adjacent to the NCWRC boat ramp located behind the south fender system of the Ocean Isle Beach (NC Hwy 904) Bridge (Figure).
  • Sunset Beach – 150 feet west and 425 feet east of the Sunset Beach Bridge, adjacent to the NCWRC boat ramp (Figure).


How Do I Apply for a No Wake Zone?

To initiate a request for a “no wake zone”, please contact the North Carolina Wildlife Commission, or visit their website.

If the proposed “no wake zone” will occur within the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, a request must also be submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Wilmington District, Navigation Branch for consideration.

At a minimum, the US Army Corps of Engineers request should include the following:

  • A request in writing from a State or Local official
  • Verification that the “No Wake Zone” meets all the applicable considerations of all applicable federal and state laws and requirements for marinas and waterways.
  • A map of the proposed “No Wake Zone” (with coordinates) to include the adjacent marina footprint.
  • Explanation of the concerned navigation safety hazard, and why the “No Wake Zone” is needed.
  • Documentation that the proposed “No Wake Zone” covers the minimum area necessary to address the navigation safety hazard.
  • Documented evidence of each of the following:
  1. the specific navigation safety hazards in the covered navigation channel,
  2. the hazards are directly adjacent to a marina,
  3. the hazards are a direct result of excessive wakes from recreational vessels.

The documented evidence may be records of citations, documented damage, safety assessment evaluations, accident reports, and other similar documentation by state and local law enforcement officers.

  • Documentation that all other reasonable measures have been evaluated and taken such that a “No Wake Zone” is the only measure available to address the navigation safety hazard.

Email the application packet to Sawweb-Nav@usace.armymil or mail it to: 

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Attn:  Chief of Navigation
69 Darlington Avenue
Wilmington, NC 28403


Are There Any Additional Requirements?

The U.S. Coast Guard requires completion of a Personal Aids to Navigation (PATON) application prior to securing buoys or markers to the bottom of United States waters. There is no charge for a PATON application; however, fines may be levied for placement of an unauthorized PATON. It is the responsibility of the applicant to contact the U.S. Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Officer at (757) 398-6225 for information about requirements for the PATON application.

For more information about "No Wake Zones" on Federal Channels, please contact the Chief of Waterways Management at (910) 251-4067 or by e-mail:  Sawweb-Nav@usace.armymil