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Where Can I Anchor on Lake Washington?

For the last couple weeks, I’ve been cruising Lake Union and Lake Washington. As a boater who prefers anchoring to tying up at marinas, these lakes present a bit of a problem. While several bays look appealing, anchoring is highly restricted.

Apparently anchored boats have caused problems in the past. Lake Washington is surrounded by the area’s most expensive residential real estate, and the wealthy waterfront residents don’t like when someone sets up camp in their front yard. Historically, too many of the boats that set up camp were, shall we say, undesirable. Think derelict boats with squatters living aboard, dumping sewage and other pollutants overboard and periodically sinking. Or boats blasting music late into the night, disrupting the neighborhood.

So where can you anchor?

The Waggoner Cruising Guide, Northwest Boat Travel, Salish Sea Pilot, and ActiveCaptain aren’t very helpful. They describe where anchorage is theoretically possible but don’t clearly state where overnight anchorage is legally permitted. Extensive Google searching revealed little more. A few blogs where people wrote about anchoring overnight in various coves and some inconclusive forum discussions. So I set about finding out the truth…

Several municipalities border the lake, each with its own set of laws. The Seattle side is easy: anchoring, overnight or otherwise, is only permitted in Andrews Bay. The east side is more complex: Renton, Bellevue, and Mercer Island are all patrolled by Mercer Island Marine Patrol, which enforces a no-anchoring policy. The King County Sheriff enforces laws in Kirkland and the northern part of the lake, and they allow overnight anchoring in Juanita Bay and in front of St. Edwards State Park. Below is a more detailed look where you can and cannot anchor on Lake Washington.

Lake Union: No overnight anchoring. No day use anchoring except for special events.

Andrews Bay: Andrews Bay, which indents Seattle’s Seward Park, is the most popular anchorage on the lake, and with good reason. It’s spacious, reasonably shallow with good holding, and is surrounded by a public park. The overnight anchoring policy is also clear: boats are permitted to anchor for 72 hours in a seven day period, and Seattle Police routinely patrol the cove.

Dinghy landing is allowed only in specific places. More information can be found here.

Anchored in Andrews Bay
Dinghy landing in Seward Park

Meydenbauer Bay: According to Mercer Island Police, who are contracted to patrol the Bellevue lakefront, overnight anchoring is not permitted.

Fairweather Bay: According to Mercer Island Police, who are contracted to patrol the Bellevue lakefront, overnight anchoring is not permitted.

Cozy Cove: According to Mercer Island Police, who are contracted to patrol the Bellevue lakefront, overnight anchoring is not permitted.

Yarrow Bay: According to Mercer Island Police, who are contracted to patrol the Bellevue lakefront, overnight anchoring is not permitted.

Juanita Bay: Short term overnight anchoring is legal, according to King County Sheriff. Keep quiet—Kirkland has an ordinance that prohibits noise emissions that are audible from 300 feet away. Shore access is available at Juanita Beach Park.

Snowy morning in Juanita Bay

St. Edwards State Park: Short term overnight anchoring is legal according to King County Sheriff. Because there are no houses ashore, there are no neighbors to complain about anchored boats. This is an exposed anchorage, however, and is only useable in settled weather.

Regardless of where you anchor, be a good neighbor. Each police department indicated that they don’t seek out anchoring violators, but when waterfront homeowners call and complain they’re obligated to respond. Keep noise levels low, don’t try to land your dinghy in someone’s yard, and don’t move in.