Wyoming Canoeing / Kayaking Laws



Thankfully, the governing bodies that oversee Wyoming boating regulations and laws, understand that less is more. They have chosen not to micromanage every aspect of public and private life, and as such, they have enacted boating laws that are most important and consequential, as well as necessary.

6 Best Packrafting Trips In The US
6 Best Packrafting Trips In The US

Wyoming 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.

Canoes and kayaks are mostly left alone and are only included in regulations if they have a motor.


Wyoming Canoeing/Kayaking Laws Overview



Governing Body – The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is charged with determining laws and statutes related to boater licensing, and vessel registration.

A variety of law enforcement officers from different state governing bodies are charged with the task of enforcing boating and water safety laws.

Canoe Registration – Canoes and kayaks that are not motorized (powered only by muscles or wind) do NOT need to be registered or licensed in Wyoming. All canoes and kayaks with a motor must be registered.

Title – titling is not required for a canoe

Cost to Register – Not Applicable for non-powered boats.

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.

Canoe/Kayak Operator Requirements – No licensing is required for any operator of a canoe or kayak without a motor.

Motorized Canoeist Requirements/Age – In order to operate a motorized vessel in Wyoming, you’ll need to be at least 16 years of age. This age requirement allows for operation of a vessel without supervision.

Anyone under the age of 16, may operate a motorized vessel only under direct supervision of an adult who would be ultimately responsible for the safe operation of the vessel and any consequences that could result from careless or improper operation of the craft.

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 once the craft is underway. According to Wyoming Law, it is an offense to have a blood alcohol level above 0.10% while operating a vessel.

Emergency Equipment Requirements – As in most jurisdictions, a personal flotation device needs to be accessible to everyone in a vessel. All boaters under the age of 13 must be WEARING a PFD at all times (in a canoe or kayak) while the boat is moving. The PFD must be US Coast Guard approved.

Appropriate lighting is required if your canoe or kayak is away from the dock during the night. All canoes or kayaks navigating after dark must have a bright white light visible from all sides for 2 miles.

Hand-powered vessels (that’s us!) need to have a bright light available for immediate deployment to avoid collisions.


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

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


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

You’ll need to register and license your canoe or kayak if it has a trolling motor or a small outboard gas or diesel motor. You can register and gather more information by reviewing the Wyoming State Watercraft Rules.


If you care enough to research even further, you can find all the specific State Laws and statutes relating to water vessel registration and related issues, by visiting the Wyoming State Boating Information webpage using THIS LINK .

IMPORTANT: While it’s not necessary to register a non-motorized canoe or kayak, according to law, EVERY vessel over 10 feet in length must display an AIS (Aquatic Invasive Species) decal. You can find out more information about the cost and how to get one HERE.


Wyoming Canoe/Kayak Operator Requirements for Motorized vessels



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

Wyoming does have a minimum age to operate a motorized watercraft ALONE (like a canoe or kayak with a trolling motor). The age is 16 years.

However, there is no minimum age requirement to operate a vessel as long as the operator (if under the age of 16) is directly supervised by an adult who is responsible for the safe operation of the vessel.

And perhaps even better news is that you don’t actually need (by law) to have any official certification to operate a boat, so it’s best to be wise and discerning (as a parent/caregiver) as you approach this topic with young people looking to own a motorized vessel like a larger boat or even a canoe/kayak with a trolling motor.

It’s never a bad idea to take a safety course, and we’d recommend THIS ONE for your Wyoming Boater Education Card.


Alcohol – Boating Under the Influence (Wyoming Boating Laws)

Is it illegal to drink alcohol while paddling my canoe?

It is illegal to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.10% or higher. This would include not only motorized vessels that have a set of rules from which canoes are typically exempt but also kayaks and canoes that are not motorized in any way.

In Wyoming, as in most governmental jurisdictions, there are rules and limits placed on the consumption of alcohol. A boater is considered to be under the influence of alcohol in Wyoming if he/she;

  • Is under the influence of alcohol and/or a controlled substance to a degree which makes him or her incapable of operating a watercraft safely
  • Has a blood, breath, or urine concentration of alcohol of 0.10% or more
  • Has a blood, breath, or urine concentration of alcohol of 0.10% or more as measured within three hours of the time of vessel operation

Wyoming Canoe/Kayak Emergency Equipment Requirements

Every state has a 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?

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

You will be required by law to have a readily accessible and wearable PFD (personal flotation device) for everyone on board your craft.

If your canoe or kayak is over 16 feet in length, the law states that you need to have one Coast Guard-approved throwable flotation device like a ring buoy or float cushion. However, on a personal note, I really believe that rule is intended for a vessel that is motor-powered and can hold more than just 1 or 2 occupants.

I’ll go on record as stating that I don’t think you’ll get a violation strike against you if your 16’6″ kayak does not have a throwable float cushion to rescue someone.

Paddlers also need to have an “efficient” noise-making device and appropriate lighting (a bright flashlight is typically sufficient, though you’ll need a 360-degree bright white light if you’re on the water overnight).

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 Need to Wear Life Jackets in Kayaks and Canoes in Wyoming?

Canoes or kayaks less than 16 feet in length need to have aboard a type I, II, III, or V personal flotation device for each person. It must be Coast Guard approved.

Canoes 16 feet and over in length need a type I, II, III, or V personal flotation device for each person and at least one type IV on board as a throwable device.


Emergency Sound Device (Wyoming Boating Law)



According to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, all motorized boats need to have a device that makes a very loud noise.

We like that Wyoming law does not mandate canoes/kayaks without a motor to have such a device, but we STRONGLY suggest you have one anyway!

For any boats that are not a kayak or canoe (or other 1 – 2 person vessels), that usually means an air horn. However, for canoes and kayaks, there’s no good reason to not carry at least a whistle that is easily attached to your PFD.

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
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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.


Emergency Lighting (Wyoming Boating Laws)



Do I need special lights for my canoe in Wyoming?

From sunset to sunrise all motorized watercraft and sailboats must display red and green combined lantern in the front of the boat and a white light aft visible 360 degrees when underway.

All watercraft at anchor or adrift between sunset and sunrise must display a white light to show all around the horizon and visible for two miles.

Hand-powered watercraft must have lighting ready at hand to avoid a collision.

From sunset to sunrise no other lights which may be mistaken for navigation lights shall be used.

Different classes require different lighting.  Refer to the watercraft regulations for more information.

The law in Wyoming says that any vessel on the water between dusk and dawn must have specific lighting.

The rule is that you should have red and green sidelights and a white stern light that’s visible from 2 miles, WHEN THE CRAFT IS MOVING.

If the craft is on the water overnight at anchor, but is NOT MOVING, then only a bright white light visible from 360 degrees is required.

IMPORTANT: Wyoming law states ALL watercraft at anchor overnight must have a bright white light visible all around, but then it states that hand-powered craft must have lighting ready at hand to avoid a collision.

We’re not totally sure if that means you need a bright 360-degree stern light or just a good flashlight if you’re in a canoe or kayak overnight.

But, to avoid any confusion, here’s an excellent portable stern light that sets you up like a larger vessel with fixed lighting, but it’s meant for a canoe.

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)!

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.


Fire Extinguishers (Wyoming Boating Law)

Do you need a fire extinguisher in any canoe or kayak in Wyoming? No, you don’t need a fire extinguisher in a canoe or kayak. Fire extinguishers are meant for vessels typically with a combustible fuel source, motor, etc.

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.

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.


Wyoming’s Boating Rules

Wyoming’s Boating Rules and Regulations can be found HERE

Boater Information for Wyoming

Wyoming 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.

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