Water, Parks and Trails Unit
About the Unit
The Water, Parks, and Trails Unit is dedicated to providing the finest quality law enforcement services to citizens enjoying the county’s abundant water, park, and trail resources.
The unit is comprised of a sergeant, two full-time deputy sheriffs, seasonal full-time licensed deputy sheriffs, and a volunteer reserve deputy sheriff group
The Water, Parks, and Trails Unit provides boat and water safety education and enforcement, county park and trails patrol and enforcement, and a water recovery team for water rescues and recoveries.
The Sheriff’s Office also investigates deaths and accidents involving boats, snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, and other recreational vehicles.
About the County
Washington County has been endowed with a plethora of natural resources. Our parks give residents and visitors an opportunity to explore the wonders of nature by offering a wide variety of recreational facilities, including camping, swimming,and fishing; as well as trails for hiking, biking, skiing and horse-back riding. There are facilities and picnic shelters throughout the parks and trails that grace Washington County.
Water and Boat Safety in Washington County
We are law enforcement for all the county’s lakes and rivers including Bone Lake, Forest Lake, Big Marine Lake, White Bear Lake, Lake Elmo, Big Carnelian Lake, Lake DeMontreville & Lake Olson, Lake Jane, the St. Croix River and Mississippi River…. And more.
Washington County waterways are exciting destinations for boaters from all over region, and for good reason. Whether you want to paddle your canoe or guide your kayak down the scenic St. Croix River, pull the kids on an inner tube behind your boat on an inland lake, or even fish for Northerns on deep Lake Elmo… you can do it all in Washington County.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Boat and Water Safety website - provides the public with safety information and education programs, and coordinates the efforts of other safety agencies and groups throughout the state. Minnesota Boating Guide, updated every year, summarizes Minnesota's boating laws and regulations and should be mandatory reading for all boaters in the county.
Boating Safety Tips
Some tips for Washington County boaters – every time you are on the water, verify that you have all the required safety equipment for your watercraft type. It is also a good idea to check navigation lights to be certain they work properly before staying late on the water. We would recommend carrying the tools and parts you need on board to make minor repairs in times of need. Your safety is the No. 1 concern.
If a Patrol Boat stops you on the water: Put your watercraft in neutral and maintain your course… the patrol boat will pull up alongside your boat and inform you of why you were stopped and conduct a safety check. In Minnesota, law enforcement must have a valid reason to stop you on the water.
Make sure your watercraft is properly registered and displays the required watercraft registration letters, numbers and/or stickers. Be sure to check the DNR Boating Guide for the exact specifications on labeling your registered watercraft. See Minnesota State Statute 86B.301.
Be sure to have your valid Watercraft registration on board to show/hand to a Patrol Deputy if he/she requests to see it.
Personal Flotation Device Requirements
You are required to have a Personal Flotation Device, one per person, on board your watercraft… boats, canoes, kayaks, paddle boats and even paddle boards. See Minnesota State Statute 86B.501.
If you have children under age 10 and your watercraft is underway (not anchored, docked, moored or beached), they must wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) approved by the Coast Guard and sized for their weight on at all times. See Minnesota State Statute 86B.501 and also the Minnesota DNR web site for additional information.
Depending on the size and configuration of your watercraft, you may need to have certain required equipment on board, such as fire extinguishers, sound devices, throwable Personal Flotation Devices (Type IV), and Navigation Lighting. Minnesota State Statutes and Administrative Rules explain these rules
A person may not ride or sit and a person may not operate a motorboat while a person is riding or sitting on (i) the starboard or port gunwales; (ii) the decking over the bow, sides, or stern; or (iii) the transom, of a motorboat while underway unless the motorboat is provided with adequate guards or railing to prevent passengers from falling overboard. Minnesota State Statute 86B.311 explains the law.
If you operate a Minnesota Registered Personal Watercraft (PWC), note you must be off the water no later than one hour before sunset. Get an updated sunset table in the back of the Minnesota Boating Guide.
Personal Watercraft (PWC) operators: A personal watercraft rules decal issued by the DNR needs to be on the craft in full view of the operator.
Minnesota DNR License Information - This site allows residents and nonresidents to purchase hunting and fishing licenses, safety certificates, passes, trail stickers, apply for hunting lotteries, enter harvest registration and renew ATVs, ORVs, OHMs, snowmobiles and boats.
Washington County has been endowed with natural resources that are aesthetically attractive and diverse. A variety of land forms, high-quality lakes, woodlands, wetlands, and two nationally significant river valleys give the county a wealth of natural amenities. The parks in Washington County give residents and visitors an opportunity to explore these resources by offering a wide variety of recreational facilities, including camping, swimming, picnicking, and fishing, among others, as well as trails for hiking, biking, in-line skating, horse-back riding and cross country skiing. These facilities are in parks and on trails throughout the county.
Parks Patrolled by the Water, Parks and Trails Unit
1. For a listing of Washington County Parks.
2. Each Park has specific rules and regulations posted on signs as your enter the Park and/or inside the Park’s Contact Station. Please take time to review the rules for each Park you visit.
3. The rules and regulations for Washington County Parks are outlined in the Parks Ordinance #199
4. Some Tips for enjoying our County Parks:
a. All County Parks, with the exception of Point Douglas Park, require a Valid Vehicle Park Permit. You can purchase a Day Pass or purchase an Annual Pass for your vehicle(s). Please make sure your vehicle permit is valid and placed on the passenger side windshield in full view from the front of your vehicle. You can purchase Permits at the Parks’ Contact Stations in Lake Elmo Park Reserve, Big Marine Park Reserve, St. Croix Bluffs Park Reserve and Square Lake Park when open and staffed. There are honor boxes located at the entrance to each park where you can also purchase a daily or annual pass. If you do not have a valid vehicle Park Permit, you will receive a citation.
b. Expired Vehicle Permit stickers can be removed from your windshield… if the date has passed on the permit, the sticker is no longer valid and should be removed from your vehicle.
c. Dogs must be leashed and are only allowed in certain areas of the Park if allowed at all. In most parks, dogs are limited to the Parking Areas and Summer Trails. They are not allowed in the campsites, swim beach areas, picnic areas or along the water. In Square Lake Park, dogs/pets are not allowed. Please be sure to understand the rules for the Park before you visit with your pet(s).
d. Please follow the posted speed limits and drive slowly through the Parks… there are a lot of wildlife, hikers, walkers, bicycle riders, and people enjoying the Parks.
5. If you have Hunting & Fishing Questions and/or require more information, see the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website:
a. Fishing Licenses
b. Hunting & Trapping
6. Other Parks in Washington County Managed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
a. William O'Brien State Park
b. Afton State Park
7. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior