Nebraska Kayaking Laws (Rules and Regulations)

Nebraska Kayaking Laws - Rules and Regulations

Nebraska kayaking laws are set and governed by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. This is a nine-member board that is first appointed by the Governor of Nebraska and then approved by the state legislature. 

Each board member who is part of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission oversees a district. There are a total of nine districts, the ninth district consisting of the entire state. 

The commission is responsible for: 

  • The conservation of Nebraska’s natural resources
  • Scheduling hunting seasons 
  • Managing state parks and recreation areas 
  • Providing hunter and boater education 
  • And many other services 

Below is a summary of what you need to know about Nebraska’s kayak laws.

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.

Nebraska Kayak Laws Summary

  • Nebraska Kayaking Laws – Nebraska law, considers kayaks and canoes to be non-motorized vessels.
  • Nebraska Kayak Registration – Non-motorized kayaks and canoes not used for commercial purposes are exempt from registration. According to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, any vessel not powered by gas, diesel, or electricity does not need registration. 
  • Motorized Kayak Registration – Motorized boats need to be registered at the owner’s County Treasurer’s office. Additionally, if the boat was made after 1972, it will require a title. 
  • Kayak Operator Licensing in Nebraska  – Boaters born after December 31, 1985, who operate a motorized vessel in Nebraska must have completed a Boating Safety Course and carry a course certificate while operating a motorized vessel. 
  • Motorized Kayaking Age – A person must be at least 14-years-old to drive a motorized vessel or personal watercraft in Nebraska. They must have also completed the education course. 
  • Kayaking BUI Law – Nebraska has a Boating Under the Influence (BUI) law. A person is operating illegally when their blood alcohol content is .08% or above. 
  • Kayaking Life Jacket Law – All vessels, except sailboards, must be equipped with a Type I, II, III, or V life jacket that is the correct size for each person on board (see below for kayak and canoe specifics). 
  • Kayak Lights Law – All vessels, motorized or non-motorized, that are in use between sunset to sunrise must use lights.
  • Kayaking Sounding Devices – In Nebraska, all vessels, including class 1, 2, 3, and 4, must have a whistle or some kind of mechanical sound-producing machine. 
  • Kayaking VDS (Visual Distress Signal) Law – Non-motorized kayaks are not required to have distress signals during the day but must have them at night. On federally controlled waters, all types of vessels are required to carry U.S. Coast Guard-approved night VDS devices.

That only summarizes Nebraska’s boating laws as they apply to kayaking and canoeing. The details are more in-depth and specific. Read on to find out how to paddle legally in Nebraska.

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Nebraska Kayak Registration


Do you have to register a kayak in Nebraska? No. Nebraska law does not require the registration of any vessel not powered by gas, diesel or electric.” – Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.


Do you have to register a kayak with a trolling motor in Nebraska? Yes. Any vessel that can be propelled in water must be registered. Registrations last for three years, and on the third year expire on December 31.

This would include a trolling motor on a canoe or kayak.


Nebraska Vessel Titling: Any vessel that is considered to be powered by gas, diesel, or electric and was manufactured after November 1, 1972, must have a title. A title is required before the vessel can be registered. Any vessel made before 1972 doesn’t need a title, but still must be registered. 

Registration Resources

Nebraska Game and Parks Commission website – Boating Registration and License Information

Nebraska Kayaking Operator Education Laws


Do you need a license to kayak in Nebraska? No, you do not need a license to kayak in Nebraska. 


Do you need a license to operate a motorized kayak in Nebraska? 

No, you still do not need a license to operate a motorized kayak or any other motorized vessel in Nebraska. There is no “boating license” in the state. However, a person born after December 31, 1985, must successfully complete a boating education course.  


A person must be at least 14-years-old and complete a six-hour classroom boating safety course with a passing score of 70% or better before operating a motorized vessel. 

Nebraska Kayaking BUI Laws

Can you get a BUI on a kayak in Nebraska? If you operate any motorized vessel and have a blood alcohol content of 0.08%, then yes, you can get a BUI in Nebraska. The penalty could entail a fine of up to $1,000, up to six months in jail, and a loss of boating privileges for six months. 

It is unclear if you can get a BUI for drinking and operating a non-motorized kayak in Nebraska. However, the risk remains the same. According to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, alcohol impairs your: 

  • Judgment
  • Vision 
  • Balance
  • Coordination 

Our advice is not to drink and kayak. 

There is no threshold for blood alcohol content for minors. 

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

Nebraska Kayak Life Jacket Laws

Do you need a life jacket to kayak in Nebraska? Yes. All vessels (motorized and non-motorized, except for sailboards) must have one Coast Guard-approved life jacket that is a type I, II, III, or V for each person on board. 

Nebraska PFD (Personal Floatation Device) Details:

  • All children under the age of 13 must wear life jackets on vessels, motorized or non-motorized. 
  • Any person on a motorized or non-motorized vessel must wear a life jacket.
  • The only exception where life jackets are not needed is on sailboards. 

PFD Age Laws

At what age is wearing a life jacket required in Nebraska? Life jackets must be worn by children under the age of 13, regardless of the vessel length.

Type IV Throwable PFD

Do I need a Type IV “throwable” on my kayak in Nebraska? No, non-motorized canoes and kayaks do not need to carry a throwable PFD. 

Related ArticleKayak Life Jacket Laws by State (50 State List)

Nebraska Kayaking Lights Laws

What lights do I need on my kayak at night? All vessels, motorized and non-motorized, must have lights turned on while in use anytime between sunset to sunrise. 

For non-motorized kayaks or canoes, you must have a white light that can be seen at least two miles away.  

Motorized vessels must have white, red, and green lights displayed, based on the class of the vessel. All motorboats and sailboats should carry a lantern or a flashlight in case of emergencies. 

Nebraska Kayaking Sounding Devices Laws

Do I need a whistle on a kayak in Nebraska? Yes. Every vessel in Nebraska needs to have a whistle, bell, or some sound-producing device. 

There are a variety of whistles that come in different shapes and sizes that easily attach to life jackets. It’s highly recommended that you select a whistle that is Coast Guard approved. 

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

VDS – Visual Distress Signaling Devices

Non-motorized vessels, such as kayaks and other manually propelled boats, are not required to carry distress signals during the day but must carry them at night. 

Night Signals

There are Coast Guard approved pyrotechnic and non-pyrotechnic distress signals. The most common example of a pyrotechnic distress signal is flares. Examples of non-pyrotechnic distress signals include: 

  • Electric distress lights
  • Code flags
  • Orange distress flags

Day Signals

Motorized vessels that are over 16 feet and all vessels over 26 feet must carry daytime VDS signaling devices. Details about distress signals can be found in the course study materials for the Nebraska boating safety course. 

Nebraska Kayaking Fire Extinguisher Laws

Do I need a fire extinguisher on my motorized kayak in Nebraska? No. A fire extinguisher is only required if the motor has an enclosed fuel tank, enclosed space, or enclosed engine. 

Even though it is not required, it may not be a bad idea to have a fire extinguisher just in case of an emergency. Type B fire extinguishers are made to put out flammable liquids like gasoline or oil. For vessels less than 26 feet, a B-1 fire extinguisher is recommended. 

Additional Nebraska Kayaking Laws Resources

Nebraska  Boating Under the Influence (BUI) Law

Boating Law Enforcement

Nebraska Game and Parks law enforcement administrators are the main enforcement personnel for Nebraska’s boating laws.

Boating 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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