State By State Kayak Registrations

Traveling across US - with kayaks. Is there a single source of information on rules in each state for the registration of kayaks vs. paddling passes vs. boat launches vs. invasive species decals. So many online sources offer conflicting information. Do states accept other states passes? How to know ahead of time what the rules are? We will be going through at least 14 different states.

Not that I know of

– Last Updated: Feb-13-14 2:15 PM EST –

the best we could do is have you list the states that you are travelling through.

I do know from personal experience that


do not require paddlecraft registration nor invasive stickers.

Of course all an change at a moments notice.

I travel for work,
and travel throughout the USA and Canada. In my opinion the most dependable source for boating information comes from each states wildlife protection law enforcement agency. (to many different acronyms to list).

The Paddling.Net launch site map has never given me bad information in regard to fees or restrictions, but chances are this source may be incomplete.

I have also just called paddling shops in the area and gotten help with launch areas and local regulations.

One thing to be cautious about is that some states do not consider all rivers to be public accessible for navigation. This is where I have found paddling shops to be very helpful in getting permission to paddle on “private” areas of river, or access to landing areas.

None that I know of
I once tried to list each state’s PFD requirements. There is no such list; you must search by individual state, and where in each state’s bureaucracy you get the answer will vary.

Figure on doing a lot of tedious searching. You’d be better off telling us which states you plan to visit and hearing from paddlers themselves, as someone else suggested.

I would not recommend contacting the state’s fish and wildlife law enforcement arm (which someone also suggested). In my previous state of residence, any question about kayaks was treated as if it concerned powerboats. If the person I asked did not know, they would give it the benefit of the doubt in THEIR favor whatever way would be the most restrictive or revenue-generating. Cynical but true.

Also, the requirements will vary depending on who governs the body of water you plan to paddle in–even within the same state. That was the case in Colorado for zebra mussel inspections.

NC, SC, TN and VA to that list

Jack L

We are the UNITED states of America

– Last Updated: Feb-13-14 2:41 PM EST –

Um, er, not actually, UNITED, more like seperatists
- each doing their own thing for a money grab
with non-motorized, non-polluting, pack-in pack-out folks
who for the most part don't shoot/kill anything,
and pay taxes anyways for those parks, marinas, etc.

I hate the idea of putting a sticker on my kayaks/canoes

Best of luck, keep the paddles wet, cockpits dry

As someone with three . . .
. . . law degrees, but who’s not currently practicing law, and who has paddled all over the US and Canada, I must honestly report that I have never once worried about any of these things in 50 years.

Most registration things only apply to state residents. Access rules, if they exist, should be posted at the access. If there’s no posting, I assume I can put in.

I always have a PFD and usually wear it, so that issue doesn’t cross my mind.

Finally, I have always found paddling “law enforcement officers” to be very, very few and far between. And the few of them I’ve met have been very polite and non-Nazi-like. They understand out-of-state people are not familiar with local paddling rule trivia. The most I’ve ever had was a warning not to fish until I got a license. But I don’t fish.

Oh, I forgot my biggest criminal act. I paddled in Yellowstone without registering at some office. I didn’t know I was supposed to. The ranger at the take out gave me some bureaucratic grief, but relented when she realized I was just a harmless old guy from her home state of Connecticut, who had already finished his trip.

What are the rules for your state?
Hit each state’s web site about boat registrations, see what each says about registering paddle boats. But I bet that most indicate the requirements are for residents only.

Anagram for UNITED = UNTIED
And getting more so as time goes on.

No Glenn
While CT does not require paddlecraft registration, try to launch your boat at a BWCA entry point and you may be unhappily meeting with a ranger. MN requires registration and only if your state requires registration, are you off the hook.

I would think…
that registering a kayak (if required by state law) is analogous to registering your car. You need to have your car registered in the state that you live - but you don’t register it in every state you drive through.

Wisconsin does not require self-propelled watercraft to be registered. Iowa (my home state and no one’s sea kayaking destination of choice) requires registration and three inch high letters on the side of kayak - if the kayak is over 12 feet (I think it’s 12 feet). Anyway, we had the big honkin’ letters on our old eddylines…got new cetus boats last year and I am NOT putting them on it…my story if stopped in Iowa is that it’s not my boat, I borrowed it from a friend in Wisconsin.

Include LA and MS also

– Last Updated: Feb-13-14 4:10 PM EST –

You can include Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama in the list of states that don't require registrations.

In Iowa
it’s any kayak 13 feet or longer. I was stopped by a DNR officer who actually got a tape out and measured my Necky Manitou. It was as advertised - 12.5 feet. Just like I told him.

Been there, and I didn’t worry
I’ve been around the Ely area and launched in several places. Some had notices asking me to fill out a piece of paper, so I did. When I don’t see any notices, I launch and think about mermaids and sparkling waters, not legal mumbo jumbo.

I just drive around North America and when I see some place I want to paddle, I do. I park my van where convenient and go to sleep. I don’t worry or even think about what’s tomorrow. That would be too stressful and boring and organized a thing for me. No plans, no schedules, no reservations. I figure things out when I get there, wherever it is.

That’s just me. Others can worry and plan and reserve and register and fill out papers if they like.

Illinois wants money from everyone
even if your boat is registered in another state. You are supposed to get one of their stickers. So far I’ve been over there half dozen times and haven’t been checked. They also want your SSN for the account which I really don’t like.



And then there’s trespassing laws

– Last Updated: Feb-13-14 11:48 PM EST –

By your logic, if no sign is posted against being on land whose access status is unknown to you, you can legally go there. "Ignorance is bliss" sums it up.

Not so fast!

Some states put the onus on you, the wannabe accesser, to know what is private and what is not. The landowner does NOT have to post No Trespassing signs at all. You could be (a) shot at, (b) fined, and possibly worse, if you try to breeze by on Ignorance Is Bliss.

Haha, you worry, I’ll paddle
Trespassing? Never happened unless deliberate.

If a public road abuts a navigable body of water, that’s a public access. There are such places on most rivers, lakes and other bodies of water in the US.

I have gone across private land with permission. I’ve also deliberately crossed publicly-owned land to paddle on publicly restricted reservoirs with outdoors groups who then litigated and won access rights in court.

But the OP isn’t talking about that. He’s talking about trying to research all sorts of state laws and regulations before doing the bloody simple act of putting a kayak on his roof and driving.

I suppose he could study Google Earth for every every parcel of land around every potential water body for paddling and then request the deeds to all the surrounding property to see who owns it, and then send a form in triplicate to secure advance permission from the landowners. This is all so silly.

Shot at? Fined? “Possibly worse”? Good gracious. I don’t paddle in Iraq. I guess I should sign all sorts of legal contracts and waivers before I dare go paddling on that nice lagoon I saw in Sopchoppy. And I think I’ll worry about it for the next two months.

Add another to the list
Washington State has no registration for paddle craft. In Oregon you have to buy a permit that has something to do with noxious species, or something. If you’re from Washington, or Idaho you don’t need the permit as long as you are no further than a mile off the Columbia River into Oregon waters. You must have the permit if you launch from the Oregon side. I assume the same rules apply to other boundary waters like the Snake.

Me too
I had an IA DNR officer check the length of my Old Town Pack one time. He just had to make sure I was’t screwing the state out of their $13 fee.

I’m not worrying
Just pointing out that Ignorance Is Bliss doesn’t always get you off the hook.

You keep repeating that you WERE a lawyer. I doubt it was property rights lawyering in all 50 states.