Know your buoy

Know your buoy

Warm days, clear skies and a day at the lake may be calling your name.  But if you plan to operate a watercraft, remember that navigational aids in the water are strategically placed to provide information you need to know.


Five different types of buoys float throughout the reservoirs owned and operated by the Brazos River Authority. Whether you’re visiting Possum Kingdom Lake, Lake Granbury or Lake Limestone for the first time or the hundredth time, it’s imperative for everyone’s safety to recognize what they look like and understand what these buoys mean.  

A few moments of education can go a long way to helping you safely navigate the reservoir while still having a good time.

Know your shapes

Think of the buoys as traffic lights or stop signs. There are numerous different types of signs along roadways drivers must know. Buoys are just as important to everyone operating watercraft.

Some buoys alert boaters to nearby hazards, while others note protected swimming areas. Not just words, but shapes help identify what the buoy is saying.

•    A circle on a buoy indicates a restricted area.
•    A diamond indicates a dangerous area.
•    A crossed diamond indicates a prohibited area.
•    Vertical stripes mark the middle of the channel.

Mid-channel markers are either white with red stripes or red with white stripes like a candy cane. Boaters may pass these buoys on either side, and they are lighted for navigational assistance in low-light conditions. These buoys are strategically placed to indicate the center or the deepest part of the lake.

"Vertical Red, Vertical White, marks mid-channel, pass left or right." – Paddling.com

Crossed diamonds indicate areas that are off-limits to all vessels. BRA off-limit buoys are tall, thin, white buoys with black letters and orange symbols. Areas with buoys like this could surround zones where visitors are permitted to swim, are located near the dam, or in areas where there is a water intake or spillway. If a boat must enter a swim area, the boat operator is required to wait until all swimmers are clear of the area. It is the boat operator’s responsibility to ensure the swimmer’s safety. 

Thin, white buoys with black letters and an orange diamond indicate a hazard. These buoys, which read, “Hazards area,” indicate there could be the presence of rocks, shoals, construction, or stumps. Proceed with caution around these buoys and never assume every hazard will be marked by a buoy. 

The channel markers indicate the deepest portion of the lake for that area, and boaters are encouraged to stay within those markers. The BRA’s three lakes are water-supply reservoirs, and therefore the lake level will fluctuate throughout the year, especially during summer months when water usage and evaporation are much higher.


Watch your wake

Similarly designed buoys with an orange circle reading, “Slow No Wake,” indicate boaters must slow to the point they do not generate a wake or a wave created by the passage of the vessel. 

All watercraft operators are responsible for damages caused by their wake, no matter the size of the boat or personal watercraft, and no matter if they are in a wake zone or not, per state law. Wakes can be minimized by avoiding congested or confined areas, staying in the middle of the lake, and if equipped with ballast bags, by draining them while traveling. 

Damaging wakes can rock docks where children could be sitting enjoying the sun, overwhelm swimmers in designated swimming areas, put someone in a smaller boat in danger of overturning, or even cause shoreline erosion. 

An important key to boating safety is to be aware of those in the water around you and the effect of your boat’s passage. Watercraft at BRA reservoirs operating within 100 feet of the shoreline or any boathouse, dock, on-water facility, occupied watercraft or area in which people are swimming or diving are required to operate at a slow, no-wake speed.

An important thing to remember regarding buoys is that large weather events, careless boaters, or heavy flows in or out of the reservoir can move or damage buoys. So, if at any time the buoy looks out of place, know that it might be. Lake Rangers at Possum Kingdom Lake, Lake Granbury and Lake Limestone work year-round to maintain these buoys. If at any time you see one damage, missing, or possibly in the wrong location, feel free to email information@brazos.org or call 888-922-6272.

You cannot tie a boat or watercraft to a buoy, unless it is specifically a mooring buoy, per the Texas Water Safety Act. 

Knowing Texas’ water rules before hitting the lake can help keep you, your friends and family, and other visitors of the reservoir safe so everyone can return for many more adventures.