The Bristol Harbor Commission consists of five members who are appointed for three-year terms, and the Harbor Commission Advisory Committee has from three to six members who serve three-year terms. The two bodies oversee the assignment of Bristol Harbor uses and facilities. The Bristol Harbor Harbormaster manages traffic and moorings within the harbor. From May 15 until October 31, the Harbormaster office is open on Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 4pm and from 6pm until 11pm and on weekends from 9am until 5pm. During the winter from November 1 to May 14, the Harbormaster office is open on Monday through Friday from 8:30am until 4pm.
The Bristol Harbor Management Plan seeks to preserve and protect water quality, scenic values, and natural habitat. The plan recognizes five types of waters. Bristol Harbor's Type 1 waters are high-quality waters and natural shorelines. Type 2 is for low-intensity uses that do not detract from the existing water quality, scenic value, and natural habitat. Type 3 waters are for Bristol Harbor's high-intensity boating, marinas, mooring areas, public launch ramps, boatyards, and other facilities that support recreational boating and public access. Type 4 waters contain diverse uses including traditional and emerging water-dependent uses that are consistent with the preservation and restoration of ecological systems. Type 5 waters support a wide range of port-related activities in Bristol Harbor like water-enhanced businesses, restaurants, commercial fishing, and recreational boating. The high-priority uses of Type 5 waters include berthing, mooring, and servicing recreational and commercial fishing vessels and ferries; water-dependent or -enhanced commerce; navigational channels and berths; and preservation of historic Bristol Harbor features.
Average water depths in the Bristol Harbor area are 4.6 meters (15 feet) in the harbor, 2.4 meters (eight feet) in the Kickemuit River, and from 4.3 to 7.6 meters (14 to 25 feet) along the Bristol Narrows. Bristol Harbor contains several docks, wharves, or bulkheads that include those at Bristol Marine, the Bristol Yacht Club, Colt State Park, the Bristol Highlands Association, the Herreshoff Marine Museum, and many privately-owned docks.
There are seven mooring fields in Bristol Harbor. Boaters should check with the Harbormaster to find out about open moorings and possible waiting lists. Mooring Field 1 at Town Beach North in Bristol Harbor has about 48 moorings for recreational boats and an average depth of about 3.7 meters (12 feet). Mooring Field 2 is in Bristol Harbor and has as many as 525 moorings with an average depth of about 4.9 meters (16 feet) for both recreational and commercial boating. Mooring Field 3 in Bristol Harbor is located at USCG South/Walker's Cove and has about 82 moorings with an average depth of about seven meters (23 feet) for recreational and commercial boats.
Bristol Harbor's Mooring Field 4, the Hopeworth Mooring Field, has 29 moorings with an average depth of about 3.4 meters (11 feet) for recreational boats. Mooring Field 5 in Bristol Harbor is located on King Philip Avenue and has 38 moorings with an average depth of about 3.4 meters (11 feet) for recreational boats. Bristol Harbor's Mooring Field 6 has 58 moorings with an average depth of about 1.8 meters (six feet) for recreational boats only. Located from Sherman Avenue North to the Warren Town Line, Mooring Field 7 in Bristol Harbor has 94 moorings with an average depth of about 2.4 meters (eight feet) for recreational boats only.