Navigation Aids - Channel Markers on our State System

Use Caution when boating on marked and unmarked lakes!

Watercraft operators are encouraged to be cautious on our lakes, whether they are marked or unmarked.

New Mexico's lakes are irregular in shape and the bottom contours can be highly unpredictable especially when boating conditions are poor or when traveling outside of the established red and green channel markers.

Learn more about boating safety. It is your responsibility to learn and understand what all of our buoys indicate both with the US Aids to Navigation System and the State Regulatory Buoys, and to comply with the navigation rules. Use caution when boating in unfamiliar waters and go slow in unfamiliar areas.

ATONS - Aids to Navigation System

Lateral Aids

May show green
reflector or light

Usually found in pairs
pass between these buoys

Looking upstream remember

"Red, Right, Returning"

Red Buoy will be to the Right (Starboard side) of your vessel while going upstream or returning from the sea.  Generally the dams are interpreted as the equivalent as the final downstream of a lake or as the place closest to the sea.

  May show red
  reflector or light
Illustration of solid green buoy, which appears as a green cylinder with a white numeral 3 in the middle.Port Side    Starboard SideIllustration of a solid red buoy, which appears as a red cylinder with a numeral 4 in the center.

Solid Green Buoy

Odd Numbered


   Solid Red Buoy

   Even Numbered

Usually Can Shaped top      Usually Nun Shaped on top.



Cardinal System Safe Water Mark

May show white reflector on top or light
Illustration of a red-striped white buoy, which appears as a cylinder with a white top and red and white vertical stripes on the side.

Red striped
white buoy

 May be Lettered  

Navigable water all around the Mark. (1)

It is good practice to be courteous in passing other vessels close to the mark by slowing your speed to control the size of your wake.


 In New Mexico it

 marks the center     

 midchannel of the 

 deepest channel on a 


 May be used in 

 narrow channels

 where installing green

 and red buoy sets is


Generally pass near and to the right of the Mark

Prior to revision as of July 1, 2003 this Mark was used to designate that you were not to go between this Mark and the nearest shore. This is no longer the use of this Mark.

USCG red rod


(1)   [Code of Federal Regulations] [Title 33, Volume 1] [Revised as of July 1, 2003]

From the U.S. Government Printing Office via GPO Access [CITE: 33CFR62.27] [Page 146]


--Table of Contents Subpart B--The U.S. Aids to Navigation System

Sec. 62.27 Safe water marks. Safe water marks indicate that there is navigable water all around the mark. They are often used to indicate fairways or midchannels, or the seaward end of channels. Safe water marks are colored with red and white vertical stripes.

Note: There was a 5 year phase in period of national use of the US Aids to Navigation even on inland waters that started on June 19, 1998 per the federal register Vol. 63, No.118 effective 7-20-98 and was merged/completed as of 12-31-2003.

More Information on US Aids To Navigation



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