Utah Canoeing / Kayaking Laws


Thankfully, the governing bodies that oversee Utah’s boating regulations and laws, understand that less is more.

Does a Boat Have a Title?
Does a Boat Have a Title?

Utah 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.


Utah Canoeing/Kayaking Laws Overview



Governing Body – The Utah Department of Natural Resources is responsible for all rules pertaining to boating in the state, and it’s also the government division responsible for enforcement of those laws.

Here’s the booklet they have published to explain the specifics.

Canoe Registration – Canoes and kayaks that are not motorized (powered only by muscles) do NOT need to be registered or licensed in Utah.

However, if your canoe or kayak has ANY type of motor (no matter the horsepower or pounds of thrust) it must be registered and numbered appropriately on each side of the vessel with the assigned registration numbers.

Title titling is not required for a non-motorized canoe or kayak OR a motorized canoe or kayak with a motor of less than 25 HP. If your paddle craft was manufactured in 1985 or later and has a motor bigger than a 25 HP motor (I believe that is physically impossible???), it will need to be titled!

In other words, don’t worry about titling your kayak or canoe okay?!

Information on both registration and titling can be found HERE.

Canoe/Kayak License Requirements – If the craft is powered only by means other than an assisted device like a motor, no license or registration is required. Otherwise, it must be registered.

Canoe/Kayak Operator Requirements – No certification or special education is required to operate a non-powered canoe/kayak.

Motorized Canoeist Requirements/Age – Amazingly, Utah does not require a boater education card in order to operate a motorized vessel. More to the point, you won’t need any certification or minimum age to operate a canoe or kayak with or without a motor in the state of Utah.

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.

Boating under the influence laws are the same as driving under the influence and carry the same penalties.

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 Utah.

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 sounding device—horn, whistle or bell
  • A white navigation light—during low visibility such as fog, heavy rain, night time, dawn or dusk.
  • Bailing Device – a hand bailer or manual bilge pump is required equipment

Unlike in some states, ALL these requirements apply to canoes and kayaks rather than just larger vessels.


  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn




Do I Need a License or permit of any kind in order to canoe or kayak in Utah?



While Utah does require registering a motorized craft (battery-powered or liquid fuel-powered), it does not require non-powered kayaks or canoes to be registered, titled or licensed.


Do I Need a License in Utah if my Canoe or Kayak has a Motor?



You’ll need to register your motorized canoe in Utah. All motorized vessels (including those with trolling motors) in Utah need to have a valid Utah registration

However, no title is necessary if your canoe or kayak is powered by a motor of less than 25 HP.

Note that if your motorized canoe or kayak is registered in another state, you won’t need to register or title your boat if it’s only used temporarily in Utah for 60 days or less.


Canoe/Kayak Operator Requirements for Motorized vessels in Utah



Do I have to be a certain age in Utah to operate a canoe with an electric trolling motor?

Utah does not restrict the age of anyone operating a non-motorized vessel. The only indication of age restriction is this statement from the official state law document:

Motorized boats and sailboats may be operated by a person under 16 years of age only if they are under the direct supervision of a responsible person who is at least 18 years old.

Children ages 12 through 17 may operate a PWC (Jet Ski, Waverunner, Sea-Doo, etc), upon completion of a Utah Division of Parks and Recreation approved boating education course.

In a nutshell, kids under 16 operating a powered canoe need to have an adult on board. The rest of the age rules apply primarily to those interested in personal watercraft (PWCs).

To obtain your valid boating certification (so you can operate a PWC), visit the Official Utah Boating Safety Course website.


Alcohol – Operating Under the Influence in the State of Utah



Is it illegal to drink alcohol while paddling my canoe in Utah?

It is illegal to drink beyond a threshold of 0.05% blood alcohol content. Boating under the influence in Utah is the same as driving under the influence, and the penalties are the same.

Having said this, Utah is very clear that they allow open bottles of alcohol on boats for responsible consumption by anyone onboard – including the operator (as long as blood alcohol content does not exceed 0.05%)


Utah 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 Utah?

You’ll need a number of items of gear for legal and safe travel on Vermont’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.

Of course, if you’re in a canoe (especially in big waters) with a kid of any age, it’s virtually a no-brainer to ALWAYS have him/her wearing a PFD, but the law specifically requires anyone under the age of 13 to wear a PFD at all times while on the water.

Throwable Flotation Devices – Not mandatory

Manual Bailing Device – Mandatory for all non-self-bailing boats or vessels. A bail bucket or bilge pump is required, but having both is recommended.

Visual Distress Signals – Not required

Navigation Lights – Unpowered vessels require, at minimum, a bright white lantern with enough luminosity to prevent a collision.

Sound Devices – Officially, Utah law says a loud sound-producing device that can produce a 4 – 6 second blast needs to be on board any powered or unpowered vessel 16 feet or longer.

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).

ACR makes the best Emergency Locator Beacon … in my opinion!


Do Adults Have to Wear Life Jackets in a Canoe or Kayak Vessels in Utah?



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 the 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 (Utah Boating Law)



According to Utah boat laws, all boats within the state boundaries need to have a device that makes a very loud noise. In Utah, 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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is whistle.jpg
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
The HyperWhistle is the loudest whistle currently on the market

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 (Utah Boating Law)



Do I need special lights for my canoe in Utah?

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 Utah encourages users of kayaks and canoes (after dark) to display the bow red/green lights as well when underway.

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 regulations in all states and provinces.

*Visual Distress Signals (VDS) – Not required in Utah.


Utah 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.


Paddling Utah

Utah is a very unique place to paddle! Unlike most of the country, Utah has vast expanses of treeless terrain which has an alluring beauty.

Utah has some of the most beautiful waterways in the nation, including the
Colorado River, Lake Powell, Bear Lake, and the Great Salt Lake.

Interesting Paddle Facts!

If you’ve ever wondered where MOST paddlers paddle, here’s the answer, and it may surprise you!

Of all paddlers in North America, 59% paddle on lakes, 45% on rivers, 19% on oceans, 16% on ponds and 15% on streams.

Ever wonder how long most paddlers get out on the water?

77% of all paddlers are out only for day trips, while 9% go for an overnight trip. A total of 11% of all canoeists and kayakers head out on multi-day trips like 3 days up to several months. Most of those trips are 3-6 days.


Utah Boating Rules and Certification Information

Utah’s Boating Rules and Regulations can be found HERE

Paddlesports Location Information for Utah

Utah Boater Safety Course


Pete Stack

After 40 years of experience canoeing, camping, fishing, hiking and climbing in the Ontario wilderness, Pete is eager to combine his love for the outdoors with his passion to write. It is our hope that his knowledge can be passed on through this site and on Rugged Outdoors Guide on YouTube.

Recent Posts

error: Content is protected !!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This