PADDLERsmart! USA Knowledge Base

Module 04 - Safe Boat Operation



The Lateral Marking System is standard across every state. Using colors and numbers, these lateral buoys create invisible ‘traffic lanes’ along common routes. All boaters are required to use this marking system in order to navigate safely. Lateral buoys will also mark a junction (a point where two channels meet) or a bifurcation (the point where a channel splits into two).

The Numbers:

The numbers on the buoys and markers indicate whether you’re headed upstream or downstream. The numbers climb higher as you head upstream (or inland). If the numbers are descending, it means that your paddle craft is headed downstream (or toward the sea).

The Colors:

The colors of buoys and markers indicate on which side of the buoy your paddle craft should safely pass. The buoys and markers will be red, green or both red and green.


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