Thankfully, the governing bodies that oversee Oklahoma’s boating regulations and laws, understand that less is more.
Oklahoma canoe and kayak laws allow for non-motorized vessels to be exempt from registration. However, it is mandatory for all canoes and kayaks to have onboard a life jacket for each person and a loud sound-making device like a whistle.
Oklahoma Canoeing/Kayaking Laws Overview
Governing Body – The Oklahoma Highway Patrol Marine Enforcement Division is responsible for regulating boating laws in the state of Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol Division along with Lake Patrol Section troopers (OHP Marine Enforcement Section troopers) and the U.S. Coast Guard (on federal waters) are the agencies charged with enforcing those laws.
Canoe Registration – Unpowered (human-powered) boats are not required to be registered.
Title – You will need to title your canoe or kayak in Oklahoma. The law states that every vessel capable of being used as a method of transportation in Oklahoma will need a title. This is a separate process from titling your outboard motor (which is also mandatory).
Information on both registration and titling can be found HERE on page 25 of the official Oklahoma Boating Manual.
Canoe/Kayak License Requirements – If the craft is powered only by means other than an assisted device like a motor (ie. if it’s human-powered), no or registration is required.
Canoe/Kayak Operator Requirements – No certification or special education is required to operate a non-powered canoe/kayak OR a powered canoe/kayak with a motor of less than 10 HP (that would include pretty much all canoes with trolling motors)
Who needs an Oklahoma boating education certification? – If you operate a motorized boat powered by an engine of 10 HP or greater, and you’re between the ages of 12-15, the state of Oklahoma requires you to obtain and carry an Oklahoma Boating License on the boat at all times during boat operation.
Motorized Canoeist Requirements/Age – If you are operating a motorized (MONSTER) canoe with a motor more powerful than 10 HP, then you’ll need to have your Boater Safety Certification.
Otherwise, if your vessel (canoe or kayak) has a motor smaller than 10 HP (or any electric trolling motor) you won’t need any certification.
Keep in mind that a 70-lb thrust trolling motor is about equal to a 1 HP gas motor, so if you’re using an electric motor on your canoe or kayak, you won’t even approach the 10 HP limit.
Operating Under the Influence – No person is allowed to operate or be in physical control of a canoe while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Anyone caught with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher will be in violation of BUI (boating under the influence) laws.
Emergency Equipment Requirements – As in most jurisdictions, a wearable personal flotation device needs to be accessible to everyone in a vessel in the state of Oklahoma.
The minimum legal requirements for emergency equipment on your vessel (canoe/kayak) includes the following:
- Life jackets— U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets, of the right size and type, for everyone on board
- A white navigation light—during low visibility such as fog, heavy rain, night time, dawn or dusk. It must be visible from all angles (or at minimum, a “navigation” light deployable in sufficient time to prevent a collision)
- Visual Distress Signal – Not necessary in UNLESS you are on Federal waters after sunset and before sunrise.
- Sound Producing Device – Typically an emergency whistle capable of making a “loud” noise.
Do I Need a License or permit of any kind in order to canoe or kayak in Oklahoma?
While Oklahoma does require registering a motorized craft (battery-powered or liquid fuel-powered), it does not require non-powered kayaks or canoes to be registered.
Also, you won’t need registration or titling if you bring your canoe or kayak from another state (where it is operated legally with valid registration if required) and use it in Oklahoma for less than 60 days.
Do I Need a Title for my Canoe or Kayak in Oklahoma?
Oddly, Oklahoma law states that any vessel capable of being used for any transportation must be titled. In addition, all outboard motors over 10 HP need to have their own certificate of title.
You may download the appropriate forms from this official Oklahoma government Tax Commission website.
Do I Need a License or Registration in Oklahoma if my Canoe or Kayak has a Motor?
You’ll need to register your motorized canoe in Oklahoma. All motorized vessels over 10 HP (the law is unclear about including those with trolling motors) in Oklahoma need to have a valid annual registration.
Canoe/Kayak Operator Requirements for Motorized and Non-Motorized Vessels in Oklahoma
Do I have to be a certain age in Oklahoma to operate a canoe with an electric trolling motor?
Oklahoma does not restrict the age of anyone operating a non-motorized vessel. However, if your canoe or kayak has an outboard (or gas) motor, here are the rules:
- Anyone under 12 years old may not operate a canoe or kayak with a motor bigger than 10 HP.
- Anyone between 12 and 15 years of age may operate a canoe with a motor bigger than 10 HP if they have successfully passed the boater certification course AND are directly supervised by a competent adult who is in a position to take control of the vessel if necessary.
To obtain your valid boating certification (so you can operate a PWC or other motorboat), visit the Official Oklahoma Boating Safety Course website.
Alcohol – Operating Under the Influence in the State of Oklahoma
Is it illegal to drink alcohol while paddling my canoe in Oklahoma?
It is illegal in Oklahoma to operate a boat while intoxicated. A boater is considered “intoxicated” if his/her blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08% or higher.
However, if a boater is impaired by any substance, including prescription drugs, marijuana, or other narcotics, they can still be charged with impaired boating if they fail to pass a field sobriety test.
Oklahoma Boating Emergency Equipment Requirements
Every state has a slightly different take on what is required or suggested regarding life jackets. I’m a pretty good swimmer, but it’s just become a habit now for me to wear a PFD at all times.
In my case, I’ll cheat a bit and take it off or open it for a while if it’s insanely hot and the water is calm, but as a rule, I’d say wear one all the time!
What are the required items I’ll need legally while canoeing/kayaking in Oklahoma?
You’ll need a number of items of gear for legal and safe travel on Oklahoma’s waterways.
Life Jacket – You will be required by law to have a readily accessible and wearable PFD (personal flotation device) for everyone on board your craft. They need to be Type I, II or III (or a wearable V)
Throwable Flotation Devices – Not mandatory in canoes or kayaks.
Manual Bailing Device – Not officially mandatory, but it’s a VERY good idea to have one.
Visual Distress Signals (VDS) – Not required unless your vessel is in Federally-controlled waters.
If you are on coastal waters or Federally controlled waters after dark, your canoe/kayak will need to have a minimum of 3 night VDS’s (or day/night VDS’s like a flare or red meteor). You do not need to carry a daytime VDS if you are operating a human-powered canoe or kayak.
Note: The VDS requirement assumes you are on the water after dark.
Navigation Lights – Unpowered vessels require, at minimum, a bright white lantern with enough luminosity to prevent a collision. These lights are required only when the boat is anchored or moving anytime between sunset and sunrise.
Sound Devices – Officially, Oklahoma requires canoes and kayaks to have a loud sound-producing device audible for great distances. Loud human voices are not acceptable.
Fire Extinguishers – Not required in canoes/kayaks
Emergency Locator Beacons – Not required, but I’ve included this piece of equipment because I believe it is something EVERY canoeist and kayaker should have regardless of where they will paddle. ACR makes a very good model (pictured below).
Do Adults Have to Wear Life Jackets in Canoes or Kayaks in Oklahoma?
Canoes or kayaks of any size/length need to have aboard a Type I, II or III US Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device for each person.
Kids under 13 years old must WEAR the PFD at all times while in a canoe or kayak.
IMPORTANT: It’s worth a mention to note that the PFD must be in good condition (not full of rips/tears with broken straps, etc.) AND must be readily accessible, AND must be of the proper size for the intended user.
Emergency Sound Device (Oklahoma Boating Law)
According to Oklahoma boat laws, all boats within the state boundaries need to have a device that makes a very loud noise. In Oklahoma, any powered or unpowered canoe or kayak MUST have a whistle or powered horn. A loud human voice is not acceptable.
We regularly use the FOX 40 whistle that you can get HERE for around $10!
That said, if you’re feeling adventurous, there is a louder whistle that exceeds the typical 115 to 120 decibel level of the Fox 40 line of whistles. The Hyper-Whistle is a great alternative to the Fox 40 though it’s a few dollars more and a tiny bit bigger.
It offers a 2-mile range and can hit up to 142 decibels (dB). You can check it out on Amazon for only about $5 more than the Fox 40.
You may also choose to have an air horn or other device that does not require your lung power, but I find a whistle is more than adequate given its smaller size, lower price, and because it’s maintenance-free and never has to be replaced or recharged or “checked” unless it’s lost.
Canoe/Kayak Emergency Lighting (Oklahoma Boating Law)
Do I need special lights for my canoe in Oklahoma?
If you are operating an unpowered canoe or kayak, you’ll need to have AT LEAST a bright white lantern that produces a light that is visible from every angle and displayed in sufficient time to prevent a collision.
All craft (including canoes/kayaks) must display a white light visible from all angles if anchored anywhere OTHER THAN a designed mooring area.
The State of Oklahoma encourages users of kayaks and canoes (after dark) to display the bow red/green lights as well when underway. I’ve included a photo and link below to the best option (which is also the cheapest) for a canoe or kayak.
This is the best (and least expensive) option for a portable bow light that satisfies all state/provincial boating regulations.
This is definitely the light I would get if I didn’t already have an excellent light that I use for longer wilderness trips (smaller but not as impressive as this one)!
A stern mounted white light such as this one is exactly what is mandated for use if your canoe or kayak is (for some reason) moored away from shore overnight.
Here’s our choice for an excellent small, effective, and compliant stern light for dusk to dawn voyages.
Here’s a light very similar to the one I actually use in real life on my trips!
Visual Distress Signals (VDS) – Required only on Federally-controlled waters in the state.
Here’s the most convenient night VDS that is compliant with all states and provinces.
Oklahoma Canoe / Kayak Fire Extinguisher Law
Fire extinguishers are not required for canoes or kayaks for obvious reasons. If you should find yourself in a situation where a fire breaks out in your canoe, a simple splash of water (or barring that, a controlled capsize) should do the trick nicely.
Oklahoma Boating Rules and Certification Information
Oklahoma’s Boating Rules and Regulations can be found HERE