Georgia Kayak Laws (Rules and Regulations)

Georgia Kayaking Laws -Rules and Regulations

Georgia is a paddler’s dream, speckled with mighty rivers, lazy canals with abundant wildlife, and 100 miles of coastal shoreline. And to help you paddle safely and legally, we’ve put together a summary of the Georgia kayaking laws, rules, and regulations so you’re prepared for your next kayaking adventure.

Not a Lawyer Disclaimer: I am not an attorney. More importantly, I am not your attorney. This article is not legal advice. If you desire legal advice, consult a competent, licensed attorney in your area.

Georgia Kayaking Laws Summary

  • What is a Kayak? – Georgia considers kayaks and canoes to be non-motor powered vessels that have no mechanical propulsion (i.e., are paddled, poled, oared or windblown)
  • Georgia Kayak Registration – vessels without mechanical propulsion, like kayaks and canoes, are exempted from registration.
  • Motorized Kayak Registration – All mechanically-propelled vessels operating on Georgia’s public waterways must be titled and registered.
  • Kayak Operator Licensing – If you are under 12 years old, you may legally operate a vessel under 16 feet in length which is either non-motorized or powered by a motor of 30 horsepower or less only if they are accompanied by a competent adult. If you’re 12-15, you have to complete a boater education safety course or be accompanied by an adult. For 16 years and up, you can operate any vessel as long as you complete a boater education safety course.
  • Motorized Kayaking Age – You need to be at least 16 years old to operate a motorized boat on your own in Georgia, but there are some possibilities for younger boaters. See below for specifics.
  • Kayaking BUI Law – Georgia has Boating Under the Influence (BUI) laws—0.08% BAL is considered under the influence. .02% BAL if you’re under 21.
  • Kayaking Life Jacket Law – One life jacket on board per person. And children under 13 must wear a USCG-approved Type I, II or III PFD.
  • Kayak Lights Law – If a vessel is less than 23 feet long, and underway at night or during periods of reduced visibility, kayaks must carry a 360 degree white light visible for 2 miles.
  • Kayaking Sounding Devices – Required only for vessels 26 feet and longer; however carrying a whistle is recommended.
  • Kayaking VDS Law – All vessels are required to carry night signaling devices. Manually propelled vessels are exempt from carrying day signaling devices. On federally controlled waters (coastline), all vessels are required to carry U.S. Coast Guard-approved night VDS devices.

That only summarizes Georgia boating laws applied to kayaking and canoeing. The details are more in-depth and specific. Read on to find out how to paddle legally in Georgia.

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Georgia Kayak Registration Laws

Do you have to register a kayak in Georgia? The quick answer is no. Kayaks, Canoes that have no mechanical propulsion (i.e., are paddled, poled, oared or windblown) are exempted from registration.

Do you have to register a kayak with a trolling motor in Georgia? The quick answer is yes. Each mechanically-propelled vessel that is operated, used, or stored on the “waters of this state” (Georgia) must be titled. Except that manually-propelled vessels (like kayaks and canoes) are exempted from registration.

Putting a trolling motor on a canoe or kayak makes it a mechanically-propelled vessel requiring registration.

Related Article: Paddle Board Registration

Georgia Kayak Registration Resources

Georgia Kayaking Education Laws

Do you need a license to kayak in Georgia? The short answer is no. Georgia doesn’t have a kayaking license requirement, however there are some limitations:

  • Persons under 12 years of age cannot operate a vessel longer than 16 feet. You may operate a vessel smaller than 16 feet long, which is non-motorized or powered by a motor of 30 horsepower or less ONLY when accompanied by an adult.
  • Ages 12 through 15: you cannot operate a vessel longer than 16 feet. You may operate a vessel under 16 feet long if you have passed a boating safety education course OR you are accompanied by an adult.
  • Ages 16 and up: with proper identification (driver’s license or government-issued ID) you can operate any boat in any Georgia waters. Operators born after January 1, 1998 must have passed a boater education course.

Do you need a license to operate a motorized kayak in Georgia? If you were born on or after January 1, 1988 you’re required to have successfully completed a boating education course approved by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources or show proof of the equivalent (course approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) or another state course). Georgia Boater Education Course (affiliate program)

Georgia Kayaking Alcohol and Drug Laws

Can you get a DUI on a kayak in Georgia? The quick answer is yes. It is a violation of Georgia law to operate a vessel while impaired by alcohol or other drugs. You’re considered under the influence if your blood or breath alcohol (BAL) level is 0.08% or more, or if drugs are detected. Also, anyone operating a vessel who is under 21 years of age and has a BAL of 0.02% is in violation of Georgia law.

Georgia BUI Video

Georgia BUI Penalties

Georgia BUIs carry some hefty penalties:

  • First offense – $300 to $1,000 fine and up to 6 month in prison; up to 40 hours community service.
  • Second Offense Within 10 Years – $600 to $1,000 fine and up to 12 months in prison; up to 30 days community service.
  • Offenders with a passenger under 14 in the boat (or being towed) can be convicted of child endangerment with further penalties.
  • In the statutes there are further and more severe penalties for chronic repeat offenders.
  • All offenders have to complete a “DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program” and be evaluated for alcohol/drug dependency.

Can the police search your kayak in Georgia? The quick answer is yes. Enforcement of boating regulations is handled by Game Wardens of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources; however, any peace officer can enforce the law. Officers are legally able to stop and board your boat to ensure compliance with regulations.

RELATED ARTICLE: Can You Get a DUI on a Kayak?

Georgia Kayak Life Jacket Laws

Do you have to wear a life jacket on a kayak in Georgia? The quick answer is yes. All vessels are required to have a wearable USCG-approved personal flotation device for each person. PFDs must be the appropriate size, easily accessible, and in serviceable condition.

Georgia PFD Age Rules

Children under 13 must wear a USCG-approved Type I, II or III personal flotation device while onboard a vessel under 26 feet in length when underway.

Do I need a Type IV “throwable” on my kayak in Georgia? One Type IV throwable device must also be on board all vessels except Class A vessels (boats less than 15’ 11” which also includes personal-watercraft, canoes and kayaks. Vessels 16 feet in length or longer must have a throwable Type IV PFD that’s immediately available.

Related Article: Kayak Life Jacket Laws by State (50 State List)

Georgia Kayaking Lights Laws

What lights do I need on my kayak at night?

Unpowered Vessels Less Than 23 Feet When Underway

Kayakers are required to carry a white light onboard their kayak. The kayaker is to display the light if another vessel approaches, to avoid a possible collision.

  • If practical, exhibit the same lights as required for unpowered vessels less than 65.6 feet in length. Meaning Green and Red Bow Lights and a White Stern Light.
  • If not practical, you must have on board a 360-degree white light visible all around on the horizon for a distance of two miles.

These lights must be displayed:

  • Between sunrise and sunset
  • During periods of restricted visibility

NOTE: Red or Blue lights are reserved for police.

Lights While Moored or Anchored

Whenever moored or anchored away from a mooring area, between sunset and sunrise, you must display a white light that can be seen in all directions.

Georgia Kayaking Sounding Devices Laws

Do I need a whistle on a kayak in Georgia? On state waters vessels less than 26 feet aren’t required to have a sounding device. However, on Federally controlled waters (like the coastline and ocean) vessels less than 65.6 feet need a whistle or horn that’s audible for at least 1/2 mile. This includes kayaks and canoes.

The best “sounding” device for kayakers and canoes is a whistle attached to your PFD in a place that’s easy and quick to reach.

Here’s what we consider to be the best whistle for kayaking.

VDS – Visual Distress Signaling Devices

At Night

Vessels on federally controlled waters must be equipped with USCG–approved VDSs. All vessels, regardless of length or type, are required to carry night VDS signals when operating between sunset and sunrise.

During the Day

Most vessels must carry day signals, except:

  • Recreational vessels less than 16 feet
  • Non-motorized open sailboats less than 26 feet
  • Manually-propelled vessels (Canoes and Kayaks)

Georgia Kayaking Fire Extinguisher Laws

Do I need a fire extinguisher on my motorized kayak in Georgia? The quick answer is no. One USCG-approved B-1 type fire extinguisher is required for all recreational motorboats except Class A or Class 1 boats that don’t permit the entrapment of flammable gasses or vapors. (That’s your kayak with a trolling motor)

Non-motorized boats are exempt from the fire extinguisher requirements.

Additional Georgia Kayaking Resources

Georgia Kayaking Laws and Enforcement

Georgia kayaking laws and all other boating laws are enforced by:

Georgia Boating Safety Education Resources


I'm Steve, the research and technology workhorse behind Paddle Camp. I do tons of research on all our family's paddling gear before I buy or recommend anything. I grew up canoeing with my dad and brother. A few years ago I bought paddle boards for my daughters, myself, and my wife. Ever since then, we plan most of our vacations around kayaking, canoeing, or paddle boarding.

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