Mooring Buoys in Maryland

Sailboats moored in a river. 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.

Single Recreational Mooring Buoys

Single recreational mooring bouyThe 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. 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.

Group Recreational Moorings must be registered with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Group Recreational Mooring

Commercial Moorings are subject to federal and state permits.

Commercial Moorings

Mooring 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.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has updated its statewide general permit authorizing the placement of mooring buoys. Effective October 1, 2021, mooring buoys may not be placed in, or within 25 feet of, areas mapped by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science to contain SAV, as documented to exist in the last five years of verified data. A notice was published by the Corps here, with an explanation of the notable changes here and the full permit here. If you have any questions about this requirement specifically, please contact Donald Bole, either by phone at 410-962-6079 or by email at

Mooring Required Placement

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.

Kent County, the City of Annapolis and the towns of Oxford and St. Michael's, Maryland have local mooring requirements that also must be met.


If you have any questions regarding mooring buoys, please contact Jeannine Moaney, Department of Natural Resources Fishing and Boating Services at 410-260-8417.​​