Kansas Kayaking Laws (Rules and Regulations)

Kansas Kayaking Laws - Rules and Regulations

Kansas kayaking laws are outlined in the Kansas boating statutes and enforced by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism (KDWPT). Here’s what you need to know to safely and legally kayak or canoe in Kansas.

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.

Kansas Kayaking Laws Summary

  • Kansas Kayak Laws – Kansas statute defines a “Vessel” as “any watercraft designed to be propelled by machinery, oars, paddles or wind action upon a sail for navigation on the water.” As opposed to “motorboat” which means ” any vessel propelled by machinery, whether or not such machinery is the principal source of propulsion.”
  • Kansas Kayak Registration – Vessels without motor or sail or vessels properly registered in another state are exempt from Kansas boating registration.
  • Motorized Kayak Registration – All boats powered by gas, diesel, electric motors, or sail must be registered and numbered. (Kayaks and Canoes with trolling motors must be registered)
  • Kayak Operator Licensing – There are no legal age requirements to operate vessels propelled by oars or paddles. (kayaks, canoes and SUPs)
  • Motorized Kayaking Age – No one under 12 may operate a motorboat in Kansas unless supervised. Persons born after January 1, 1989, must complete and possess an approved boater safety course certificate. Education requirement doesn’t apply to persons over 21 years of age.
  • Kayaking BUI Law – Kansas has Boating Under the Influence (BUI) law which prohibits operating any “vessel” while under the influence. A Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or more is considered under the influence.
  • Kayaking Life Jacket Law – One Type I, II, III, or V life jacket on board per person. Kansas law requires children 12 and under to wear their life jacket, even when anchored.
  • 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 for vessels under 40 feet long; whistle or horn that’s audible up to one mile.
  • 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, all vessels are required to carry U.S. Coast Guard-approved night VDS devices.

That only summarizes Kansas 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 Kansas.

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Kansas Kayak Registration

Do you have to register a kayak in Kansas? You do not have to register a kayak without any kind of motor or sail in Kansas. Kayaks, canoes and paddle boards are considered vessels without motor or sail in Kansas and thus exempted from registration.

Do you have to register a kayak with a trolling motor in Kansas? Yes, all vessels powered by gas, diesel, electric motor, or sail and operating on Kansas waterways must be registered. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) processes initial boat registrations, renewals and registration replacements.

So if you put a trolling motor on your kayak or canoe in Kansas it becomes a “vessel powered by gas or electric motor” and has to be registered.

Kansas Kayak Registration Resources

Related Article: Paddle Board Registration

Kansas Kayaking Education Laws

Do you need a license to kayak in Kansas? You do not need a license to operate an unpowered vessel in Kansas.

Do you need a license to operate a motorized kayak in Kansas? No one under 12 may operate a motorboat unless they’re under direct supervision of a parent or person over 17. Any person born on or after January 1, 1989, and less than 21, must take a boater safety course in order to operate a motorboat, unless they’re under supervision by someone 17 or older.

A supervising person 17 or older has to have a boater safety certificate or be born before January 1, 1989.

Boat-ed.com Kansas Boater Education Course (affiliate link)

Kansas Kayaking Alcohol and Drug Laws

Can you get a DUI on a kayak in Kansas? Yes you can get a DUI on a kayak in Kansas. In Kansas it’s illegal to operate a vessel of any kind, including kayaks and canoes, with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. Anyone under 21 is considered intoxicated if they have a BAC of 0.02% or higher.

In Kansas you are considered under the influence:

  • You have a BAL of 0.08% or more.
  • If you’re under 21 and have a BAC of 0.02% or higher.
  • If alcohol makes you incapable of operating a vessel safely.
  • If you’re under the influence of any drug that makes you incapable of operating a vessel safely.

Kansas BWI Penalties

Kansas under the influence penalties:

  • First Offense – The first violation is a misdemeanor with jail time of up to 1 year and fines between $100 and $500.
  • Repeat Offense – jail not less than 90 days to 1 year. And fines from $100 to $500.
  • Under 21 – Boating privileges suspended for 30 days and on a second conviction suspended for 90 days. (This sounds like a slap on the wrist until you remember that the BAC for under 21 is only 0.02%)
  • Mandatory Violator Education – regardless of conviction you may be required to complete a boating education course to reinstate your boating operator privileges.

Related Article: Can You Get a DUI on a Kayak?

Kansas Kayak Life Jacket Laws

Do you have to wear a life jacket on a kayak in Kansas? You don’t have to wear a life vest, but all vessels are required to have a wearable USCG-approved Type I, II, or III personal flotation device for each person. PFDs must be in good condition, properly sized for each person, and be readily accessible.

Kansas PFD Age Rules

How old do you have to be to not wear a life jacket in Kansas? Kansas boating law requires that every person 12 years of age or younger must wear a Type I, II, or III PFD while aboard or being towed by a vessel.

Kansas Type IV Throwable PFD

Do I need a Type IV “throwable” on my kayak in Kansas? Vessels 16 feet and longer, except canoes and kayaks, must have a Type IV throwable device onboard.

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)

Kansas 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

Motorboats less than 40′ long must have a white light visible 360 degrees for 2 miles. And they must have bow lights with red on the port side and green on the starboard side.

Manually propelled boats (kayaks and canoes) must carry a flashlight or lantern that emits white light. And it must be ready at hand to deploy it in time to avoid a collision.

Now, deploying a light to avoid a collision vs having it continuously visible are 2 different things. I’d suggest having a pole-mounted white light visible at all times to satisfy the requirement instead.

NOTE: Red or Blue 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.

Kansas Kayaking Sounding Devices Laws

Do I need a whistle on a kayak in Kansas? All motorboats less than 40 feet long are required to carry a sound producing device like a whistle or horn that’s audible up to 1 mile away.

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

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

VDS – Visual Distress Signaling Devices

Visual Distress Signals let you signal for help if you have an emergency. There are daytime and nighttime VDSs. VDSs must be U.S. Coast Guard–approved, in serviceable condition, and readily accessible.

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)

Kansas Kayaking Fire Extinguisher Laws

Do I need a fire extinguisher on my motorized kayak in Kansas? No, you are not required to carry a fire extinguisher on boats less than 16 feet long so long as they don’t have an inboard engine, no closed compartments for fuel, double bottom construction, or permanently installed fuel tanks.

Regardless of the law, we highly recommend carrying a small class B-I fire extinguisher if you have a trolling motor on your kayak or canoe. The worst thing in the world is a fire on a boat with no way to put it out.

Additional Kansas Kayaking Resources

Kansas Canoe and Kayak Association

Boating Law Enforcement

The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism – Law Enforcement Division is responsible for enforcing Kansas boating laws.

Kansas Boating Statutes – Chapter 32, Article 11

Kansas 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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