Boating Basics

Non-Lateral Markers

Non-lateral markers are navigational aids that give information other than the edges of safe water areas. The most common are regulatory markers which are white and use orange markings and black lettering. These markers are found on lakes and rivers.


Squares indicate where to find food, supplies, repairs, etc. and give directions and other information.

Controlled Area

Circles indicate a controlled or restricted area such as speed limit, no fishing or anchoring, etc. Obey the restrictions described near the circle.

Keep Out

Crossed diamonds indicate areas off-limits to all vessels.


Diamonds warn of dangers such as rocks, shoals, construction, etc. The hazard will be described near the diamond. Always proceed with caution.

Information, controlled, exclusion, and danger non-lateral markers
Information, controlled, keep out, and warning non-lateral markers

Channel Marker Buoys

Center Channel Marker Buoys are white with either black or red vertical stripes. They mark mid-channels or fairways and may be passed on either side. Be aware that outside of Wisconsin, black-and-white striped buoys usually indicate an obstruction to navigation.

Mooring Buoys are white with a blue horizontal band and are found in marinas and other areas where vessels are allowed to anchor.

Safe Channel Buoys indicate that the safe boating channel is between them. When heading upstream, green marks the left side of the channel and red marks the right.

Non-lateral marker of the U.S. Aids to Navigation System (ATON): Safe Water Markers are white with red vertical stripes and mark mid-channels or fairways. They may be passed on either side.
Two Center Channel Marker Buoys, a Mooring Buoy, and two Safe Channel Buoys