Indiana kayaking laws consider kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards to be non-motorized vessels and thus exempted from some Indiana boating laws, rules, and regulations. Here’s what you need to know to safely and legally kayak or canoe in Indiana.
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.
Indiana Kayak Laws Summary
- Kayak Definition – Indiana kayak laws consider kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards to be non-motorized vessels exempted from some boating laws.
- Indiana Kayak Registration – Non-motorized boats including, but not limited to, canoes, rowboats and paddleboats… (Kayaks) are exempted from registration in Indiana.
- Motorized Kayak Registration – All (motorized) watercraft operating on Indiana waterways must be registered with the BMV and display valid watercraft decals unless otherwise exempt.
- Kayak Operator Licensing – There are no legal age requirements to operate non-motorized kayaks or canoes in Indiana.
- Motorized Kayaking Age – Persons 15 years of age and older may operate a motorboat or PWC until they become a licensed driver only if they complete an Indiana DNR approved boating education course. 15 and younger may operate a trolling motor of less than 10 horsepower on a kayak.
- Kayaking BWI Law – Indiana has Boating While Intoxicated law which prohibits operating or or allowing someone else to operate your motorboat or PWC while intoxicated. A Blood Alcohol Level (BAL) of 0.08% or more is considered intoxicated. But you can be arrested for a BAL between 0.08% and 0.05%.
- Kayaking Life Jacket Law – One Type I, II, III, or V life jacket on board per person. Indiana law requires children under 13 to wear their life jacket.
- Kayak Lights Law – As far as lights are concerned, kayaks and canoes with motors are considered “power-driven vessels less than 15 horsepower.” they must have a white light visible 360 degrees 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 Indiana 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 Indiana.
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Indiana Kayak Registration
Do you have to register a kayak in Indiana? You do not have to register a kayak in Indiana. Kayaks, canoes and paddle boards are considered non-motorized boats by the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles and thus exempted from registration.
Do you have to register a kayak with a trolling motor in Indiana? Yes, all (motorized) watercraft operating on Indiana waterways must be registered with the BMV and display valid watercraft decals unless otherwise exempt.
So if you mount a trolling motor on your canoe or kayak in Indiana it becomes a “motorized” boat and has to be registered.
Related Article: Paddle Board Registration
Indiana Kayak Registration Resources
- Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) is responsible for kayak and canoe registration.
- You can register online or at a BMV office.
Indiana Kayaking Education Laws
Do you need a license to kayak in Indiana? You do not need a license to operate an unpowered vessel in Indiana.
Do you need a license to operate a motorized kayak in Indiana? Persons 15 years of age and older may operate a motorboat or PWC until they become a licensed driver only if they complete an Indiana Department of Natural Resources approved boating education course. They must also carry an Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles ID.
Effective January 1, 1996, all motorboat or PWC operators in Indiana are required to have their valid Indiana driver’s license on them while operating a motorboat on Indiana public waterways.
Boat-ed.com Indiana Boater Education Course (affiliate link)
A person who’s not licensed by the BMV has to take a boater education course and have their boating ID card on them while operating a motorboat.
No one under 15 may operate a motorboat greater than 10 horsepower.
Indiana Kayaking Alcohol and Drug Laws
Can you get a DUI on a kayak in Indiana? Yes you can get a DUI on a kayak in Indiana. In Indiana it’s illegal to operate or allow your vessel to be operated by anyone, while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Indiana BAL (Blood Alcohol Level) level limit is 0.08% or higher to be considered intoxicated.
In Indiana you are considered under the influence:
- You have a BAL of 0.08% or more.
- You’re under the influence of any drug such that a person’s thoughts and actions are impaired and you have a loss of control of your normal faculties. (This opens a wide interpretation of intoxicated to the point where your prescription meds, lack of sleep, an allergic reaction to something or any other influence that could “impair” your ability to safely operate a motorboat can be called into question and be grounds for arrest.)
- In fact, you can be arrested in Indiana for a BAL of 0.05% to less than 0.08%, making the “effective” BAL limit 0.05%.
Indiana BWI Penalties
Indiana under the influence penalties:
- First Offense – Class C misdemeanor and loss of all driving privileges, boating and driving and possible jail time.
- Repeat Offense – Further offenses within 5 years will result in further fines, loss of all driving privileges, and jail time.
- Causing Death – If you operate a motorboat while intoxicated and cause the death of another person, you can be charged with a felony.
- Mandatory Violator Education – regardless of conviction you may be required to complete a boating education course to reinstate your driving privileges.
The bottom line is that Indiana is following the trend in the United States. Which is that boating while intoxicated is now considered the same as driving a car while intoxicated and being treated and penalized similarly.
So the safe bet as the operator of any watercraft is to forgo drinking if you plan to operate your kayak or canoe, especially with a motor on it.
Related Article: Can You Get a DUI on a Kayak?
Indiana Kayak Life Jacket Laws
Do you have to wear a life jacket on a kayak in Indiana? All vessels are required to have a wearable USCG-approved Type I, II, III, or V personal flotation device for each person. PFDs must be in good condition, properly sized for each person, and be readily accessible.
Indiana PFD Age Rules
Indiana boating law requires that anyone under the age of 13 must wear a life jacket.
Indiana Type IV Throwable PFD
Do I need a Type IV “throwable” on my kayak in Indiana? No Type IV throwable PFD is required for unpowered kayaks and canoes . “Boats 16 ft. in length (except a canoe or kayak) or longer must have one Type IV USCG approved throwable PFD onboard and readily accessible.”
So your unpowered kayak or canoe is exempted from having a Type IV throwable PFD.
Related Article: Kayak Life Jacket Laws by State (50 State List)
Indiana Kayaking Lights Laws
What lights do I need on my kayak at night?
These lights must be displayed when away from the dock:
- Between sunrise and sunset
- During periods of restricted visibility
Power-driven vessels of less than 15 horsepower must have a white light visible 360 degrees for 2 miles.
Unpowered vessels 22 feet or less require a lantern or flashlight, visible from a distance of at least 2 miles. And the operator must display the light in enough time to avoid a collision.
Now, deploying a light to avoid a collision vs having it continuously visible are 2 very different things. I’d suggest having a pole-mounted white light visible at all times to satisfy the requirement instead.
NOTE: Red or Blue or any colored oscillating lights are reserved for police.
Lights While Not Underway (Moored or Anchored)
Vessels at anchor between sunset and sunrise shall display white light visible 360 degrees for 2 miles.
Indiana Kayaking Sounding Devices Laws
Do I need a whistle on a kayak in Indiana? Boats less than 12 meters (39.4′) in length are required to carry a whistle or horn or some other means to make an efficient sound signal.
The best “sounding” device for kayakers and canoeists is a whistle attached to your PFD in a place that’s quick and easy to reach.
Here’s what we consider to be the best whistle for kayaking.
VDS – Visual Distress Signaling Devices
In Indiana, there’s the concept of concurrent jurisdiction. That means federal waters under the authority of the USCG and withing the boundary of Indiana. Since the tip of Lake Michigan extends into the Northwest corner of Indiana, it qualifies. So on those waters the USCD Visual Distress Signalling equipment rules apply.
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)
Indiana Kayaking Fire Extinguisher Laws
Do I need a fire extinguisher on my motorized kayak in Indiana? No, you are not required to carry a fire extinguisher on boats with an outboard motor, including trolling motors on kayaks or canoes.
Additional Indiana Kayaking Resources
Indiana BMV Registration Information
Indiana Department of Natural Resources Boating Education and Safety.
Boating Law Enforcement
All Indiana Law Enforcement officers patrol Indiana waterways and enforce Indiana boating laws.