5 Steps: How To Be A “River Friendly” Boater

River Ruckus, Jimmy Orth and Shannon Blankinship of St. Johns Riverkeeper oversee activities on the RAM dock
Jimmy Orth and Shannon Blankinship of St. Johns Riverkeeper

We use the term “River Friendly” often. Usually, it’s a reference to actions homeowners take to conserve water and reduce the use of fertilizers and pesticides that can run off into nearby storm drains and waterways. Sometimes we are referring to businesses that take steps to reduce their impact on the river or support the work of St. Johns Riverkeeper. The term also applies to boaters who take steps to be good stewards of the river while out on the water.

Always Be Prepared To Pick Up Litter

While it may seem simple, picking up floating debris from the water can be a challenge without the right tools. Always keep a net or grabber on board to help you retrieve items that may blow off your vessel, or to capture floating debris that could impact wildlife. A floating plastic bag looks like a jellyfish and is indistinguishable to turtles and dolphins.

Protect Manatees, Dolphins, and Grasses

Everyone loves seeing a pod of dolphins or the footprint of a manatee. SLOW DOWN! Boat impacts are often fatal to manatees at high speeds and both mammals show visual signs of propeller impacts all over their skin. To be safe always obey the speed limit and pay attention to the signs that let you know you are in a manatee zone. Also, avoid shallow areas where boat propellers and wakes can damage submerged grasses and cause shoreline erosion. Seagrasses are critical to the health of our waterways and fisheries.

Pump It, Don’t Dump It   

While out on the water limit your impact by preventing anything harmful from going in it. Use pump-out facilities and maintain sanitation devices. Regularly check seals, gaskets, hoses and connections to prevent leaks and drips, and avoid boat cleaning and maintenance in the water.

Be Friendly

Some mornings you have the river all to yourself. Other days, the river may be teeming with all types of watercraft from kayakers to dragon boats to our downtown River Taxi. No matter what kind of boat you have, remember your impact on your fellow boaters. The wake your boat creates can quickly ruin the boating experience for others. Boaters of all types share a common goal. We all want to continue to enjoy this waterway into the future.

Steer Away From Algae Blooms

The best way to be “River Friendly” is to understand your impact from land first. Unabated fertilizers from agriculture, golf courses, lawns and leaking septic tanks all combine forces to create algae blooms in our water. These blooms are health risks and have documented respiratory impacts to those with compromised immune systems such as children and the elderly. Boaters who encounter blooms are asked to report them to the St. Johns River Water Management District (800-4517106), take pictures, and avoid contact.


– By Shannon Blankinship, Outreach Director, St. Johns Riverkeeper

About Shannon Blankinship

Shannon Blankinship is the Outreach Director for St. Johns Riverkeeper and contributes regularly via the “On The River” column building awareness for the many issues that impact the St. Johns River. Shannon received her B.S. from Purdue University in Natural Resources Economics and Policy and her J.D. from Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville. She is currently an elected official in Duval County serving on the Soil and Water Conservation District. She is a board member for the local nonprofit The Girls Gone Green and regularly contributes articles affecting animals and health. She is a Springfield resident and works to promote all things great in the urban core neighborhoods.

october, 2021