Water-cooled motor boats are welcome in the perimeter canal and in the Motorized Zone of the Refuge Interior. Airboat operation is allowed in designated areas of the refuge during specific times of the year by permit only. Read about boating regulations on our Rules and Policies page.
Boating in the waters of the Everglades is a task for the skilled boater. Outside of the main canals, treacherous passes and trails cut through banks of mud and sawgrass. Safely exploring the refuge, while protecting the sensitive lands and waters of the Everglades, requires the ability to "read the water". Watch for wildlife and other vessels while underway. Floating vegetation and changing water levels can block canals and hide boat trails. Propeller damage is harmful to wet prairie habitats, please be careful when navigating in shallow waters.
- Watch for changing weather conditions.
- Maintain your vessel and operate it responsibly.
- Tell a relative or friend where you are going and when you should return.
- Respect wildlife and keep your distance.
- Bring a GPS navigation system and know how to use it. Cell phone coverage can be sporadic and sometimes unreliable.
- Dress appropriately for the weather and bring water, snacks, insect repellent, sun protection, a first aid kit, and an emergency light.
Boat Ramp Locations
Lee Road Boat Ramp
The Lee Road Boat Ramps are located at the west end of Lee Road in Boynton Beach, FL.
Latitude/Longitude: 26.49838 -80.22204
20 Mile Bend Area Boat Ramps
The 20 Mile Bend Area boat ramps are located at the southern end of 20 Mile Bend Boat Ramp Road near Loxahatchee, FL. Latitude/Longitude: 26.67571 -80.38092
Hillsboro Area Boat Ramps
The Hillsboro Area boat ramps are located at the west end of Loxahatchee Road near Parkland, FL. Latitude/Longitude: 26.35614 -80.30005
An airboat permit is required to operate an airboat on the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in designated areas during specific times of the year. There are four types of airboat permits: Non-hunting, Alligator Hunting, Interior Deer and Hog Hunting, and Duck and Coot Hunting (phase 2 season only).
You must complete the following steps to apply for and obtain an airboat permit:
- Complete the online Airboat Operator Course.
- Read the Airboat Permit Special Conditions.
- Submit an application (application does not guarantee a permit).
- Successfully complete an airboat inspection.
- Pay $100 permit fee.
Permit fee: $100 per permit. Fees are non-refundable. A check or money order made payable to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is accepted.
Age requirement to apply: Applicants must be at least 18 years of age or older in order to apply for an airboat permit.
Complete the Online Airboat Operator Course: Each owner/operator must complete the Airboat Operator Course. If there are multiple operators for one boat, each operator must complete the course and be listed on the application as a sub-permittee in box 9. Take the Airboat Operator Course.
Read the Airboat Permit Special Conditions: Each airboat permittee must comply with Special Conditions attached to their Special Use Permit to ensure compatibility. Read the Airboat Permit Special Conditions.
Airboat Inspections: Prior to receiving a permit, you must make an appointment to bring your airboat to the refuge for an airboat inspection. Airboat permits will only be issued to airboats that pass inspection. After the airboat passes inspection and all other requirements are satisfied, the permittee will receive a decal to affix to their boat. Airboat permits may be suspended or revoked if inspection requirements are not maintained. The following criteria will be evaluated:
- Hull length is 16 feet maximum excluding the grass rake
- Width is 8 feet maximum
- Hull Identification Number present
- Current State Registration Decal present
- Registration numbers displayed a minimum of 3" high on each side of the bow, or a minimum of 6" high on each side of rudders
- Personal Flotation Device (PFD) for every occupant
- Fire Extinguisher present
- Must have an automotive-style factory muffler per Florida Statute 327.391
- Port and starboard lights (Coast Guard Requirement)
- Working white aft light to be seen 360‘
- Orange flag 10” x 12" or larger, flown at a minimum of 10 feet above the vessel's waterline.
Transferability: Permits are non-transferable and are assigned to a specific airboat. Each airboat permit allows a maximum of three airboat operators. Each airboat operator must complete the Airboat Operator Course and be listed on the permit to operate an airboat on the refuge.
Types of Airboat Permits
Non-hunting Airboat Use Permit (Permits issued by lottery)
A Non-hunting Airboat Permit allows you to operate an airboat on the refuge in designated areas during specific times of the year for fishing, frogging, wildlife observation, photography, and other wildlife-dependent recreational activities.
Application Period: May 1-15, 2023
Permit Period: The Non-hunting Airboat Permit is for airboat use on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from July to November. Non-hunting airboat use will be temporarily suspended during duck and coot seasons.
Location: Non-hunting airboat use is allowed only by permit in the refuge interior south of latitude line N 26° 23.876'. View the Non-Hunting Airboat Permit Map.
Number of permits available: Up to 10
How to Apply: There will be an open period when applicants can apply for the Non-hunting Airboat Permit lottery. To be considered for the lottery, applicants must (1) successfully complete the Airboat Operator Course, (2) read the special conditions, and (3) submit a Special Use Permit Application for General Activities (FWS Form 3-1383-G). Application instructions are at the bottom of the page. The refuge must receive your permit application, or it must be postmarked, by the last day of the Application Period. Applicants may submit one non-hunting airboat permit application annually. Successful applicants will be notified of lottery results.
Leftover permits: We will issue leftover Non-hunting Airboat Permits on a first-come, first-serve basis if the total number of applications received is less than the total number of permits available. For example, if we are issuing 10 permits and only have 9 applications, we will issue one leftover permit.
No Show Policy: If a permittee forfeits their permit for any reason, the permit will not be refilled until the following open period to apply for the lottery.
Alligator Hunt Airboat Permit
Permit period: Alligator Season
How to get a permit: An airboat permit is required for a hunter who wishes to use an airboat while alligator hunting at the Refuge. If you have been drawn by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for an Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge Alligator Harvest Permit and would like to use an airboat while alligator hunting, please follow the application instructions below to obtain an airboat permit and decal.
Number of permits available: Up to 6
Interior Deer Hunt Airboat Permit
Permit period: December 1-3, 2023
How to get a permit: An airboat permit is required for a hunter who wishes to use an airboat during the Interior Deer and Hog Hunt at the Refuge. If you have been drawn by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for an Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge Interior Deer/Hog Hunt Permit and would like to use an airboat while deer hunting, please follow the application instructions below to obtain an airboat permit and decal.
Number of permits available: Up to 10
Duck and Coot Hunt Airboat Use Permit
Permit period: December 9, 2023 - January 28, 2024
How to get a permit: An airboat permit is required for a hunter who wishes to use an airboat while hunting during Phase 2 of the state duck and coot season at the Refuge. Visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website to apply for the A.R.M. Loxahatchee Duck and Coot Hunt Airboat Permit. If you have been drawn by FWC for an A.R.M. Loxahatchee Duck and Coot Hunt Airboat Use Permit, you must submit an application to complete the process and obtain your airboat permit and decal from the refuge. Please follow the application instructions below to obtain an airboat permit and decal.
Number of permits available: Up to 5
After completing the Airboat Operator Course and reading the special conditions for airboat use, download the Special Use Permit Application for General Activities (FWS Form 3-1383-G). By signing this application you are agreeing that you are the individual who took the Airboat Operator Course, and that you understand your responsibilities while operating an airboat in the Refuge.
Applicants need to complete only these boxes:
Boxes 2-8: Applicant information
Box 9: List up to three subpermittees who have completed the Airboat Operator Course and will be operating the airboat
Box 19: Acknowledge completion of Airboat Operator Course
Box 23b: Provide Florida boat registration number for airboat
Box 26: Sign and date the permit
Submit your application by:
Email: email@example.com. Please include "Airboat Permit Application" in the subject line.
By mail to: A.R.M. Loxahatchee NWR, ATTN: Airboat Permit Application, 10216 Lee Road, Boynton Beach, FL 33473