Nevada Kayaking Laws – Rules and Regulations

Nevada Kayaking Laws - Rules and Regulations

Nevada kayak laws are set and governed by the Nevada Department of Wildlife. The NDOW enforces those kayaking rules and regulations.

Nevada has over 6,500 miles of rivers and streams and 228,000 acres of lakes and reservoirs. So, it’s not surprising that Nevada is popular for kayaking, canoeing and boating activities in general.

Here’s a summary of what you need to know about NV kayaking 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.

NV Kayaking Laws Summary

  • Nevada Kayaking Laws – Nevada law considers kayaks and canoes to be non-motorized watercraft.
  • Nevada Kayak Registration – Non-motorized kayaks and canoes are exempt from registration.
  • Motorized Kayak Registration – All motorized watercraft must have Nevada Certificate of Number and display a registration decal. This includes a trolling motor on a canoe or kayak.
  • Kayak Operator Licensing in Nevada – The are no age limits in Nevada for kayaking nor canoeing normally. However, if you are renting you need to meet state of residence boating education requirements and receive a safety briefing before operating.
  • Motorized Kayaking Age – There are only restrictions to operating motorized kayaks if the motor is over 15 horsepower, on interstate waters, and who were born during or after January 1, 1983.
  • Kayaking Alcohol and Drugs Law – Nevada prohibits operating any vessel while under the influence (OUI) of alcohol or any other controlled substance. A person is operating illegally when their blood alcohol content is .08% or above of is otherwise under the influence of a controlled substance that makes the person incapable of operating the vessel.
  • Kayaking Life Jacket Law – All vessels must have at least one USCG-approved life jacket per person on board.
  • Kayak Lights Law – Nonmotorized vessels must at least carry a white lantern or flashlight that is visible from all directions for at least two miles.
  • Kayaking Sounding Devices – Kayaks and canoes require a sound-producing device, especially during low visibility conditions. (see below for regulations)
  • Kayaking VDS Law – Visual distress signals are not required on any Nevada waters with certain exceptions including boating on federal waters.

That only summarizes NV 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 Nevada.

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Nevada Kayak Registration


Do you have to register a kayak in Nevada? All non-motorized vessels are exempt from registration. Nevada Department of Wildlife


Do you have to register a kayak with a trolling motor in Nevada? Yes. All motorized watercraft must be registered with the NDOW and display a decal and Nevada Certificate of Number. Certificates are valid until December 31 of the year issued.


Nevada Vessel Titling: Any vessel that requires registration requires a title. This includes motorized kayaks. Non-motorized kayaks and canoes do not require a title.

Registration Resources

Nevada Department of Wildlife page – Titling and registration links

Related Article: Paddle Board Registration

NV Kayaking Operator Education Laws


Do you need a license to kayak in Nevada? You do not need a license to operate a non-motorized vessel in Nevada.


Do you need a license to operate a motorized kayak in Nevada? Nevada law requires operators who use a motor of more than 15 horsepower and born on or after 1983 must take and pass a NDOW approved boat education course or proficiency exam. 


Children of all ages can operate a kayak or canoe on Nevada waters. There are exceptions for motorized kayaks including those with more than 15 horsepower.

Nevada Kayaking OUI Laws

Can you get a DUI on a kayak in Nevada? Yes, you can get a DUI (in this case OUI) on a kayak in Nevada. In Nevada, it is against the law to operate any vessel while under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or other harmful substances. 

You have no right to refuse a test while kayaking. If you have a blood alcohol content over 0.08% or more, you can be charged with an OUI which could include imprisonment and/or fines. If someone is injured while you OUI, you will be charged with a felony and could be imprisoned for 2-20 years and have fines of $2,000-$5,000. 

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

Nevada Kayak Life Jacket Laws

Do you need a life jacket to kayak in Nevada? Yes. All vessels must have one Coast Guard approved personal flotation device for each person on board. These floatation devices need to be within reach so you cannot have them in a container, tied, or locked down.

Nevada PFD Details:

  • All vessels must be equipped with a PFD for each person on board or being towed.
  • All vessels have at least one PFD that is USCG–approved, wearable, and of the proper size for each person on board. 
  • The PFD must be within reach at all times.

PFD Age Laws

What age do you have to wear a life jacket in Nevada? All children under 13 years of age must wear a life jacket while on a vessel in Nevada.

Type IV Throwable PFD

Do I need a Type IV “throwable” on my kayak in Nevada? Yes. Any vessel over 16 feet in length needs one Type IV onboard.

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

NV Kayaking Lights Laws

What lights do I need on my kayak at night? Powered Vessels (kayaks and/or canoes with a trolling motor) less than 40 feet long must have red and green sidelights visible from at least one mile away. A sternlight visible for at least two miles. If these conditions are not practical and the vessel is less than 23 feet long, you can use a lantern or flashlight. While anchored, only the white light is necessary.

Unpowered vessels: You must carry a white lantern or flashlight that can be seen at least two miles away on the horizon. The light must be displayed in sufficient time to avoid a collision with another watercraft. This applies to kayakers and canoeists on unpowered vessels.

Nevada Kayaking Sounding Devices Laws

Do I need a whistle on a kayak in Nevada? Whistles and other sound-producing devices are only required in low visibility or as a signal. Any sound-producing device including a whistle, or horn would suffice in Nevada State waters. However, on federally controlled waters any vessel less than 39.4 feet needs to make an “efficient sound signal, such as, handheld air horn, athletic whistle, an installed horn, etc.”

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

VDS – Visual Distress Signaling Devices

VDSs are not required on Nevada waters. 

Some exceptions include waters under USCG jurisdiction. In these cases:

  • All vessels are required to carry night signals if operating between sunset and sunrise.
  • Day signals are not required for vessels less than 16 feet in length or that are manually propelled.
  • All VDSs must be USCG approved.

Regardless of the law, it is highly recommended you carry a form of VDS.

NV Kayaking Fire Extinguisher Laws

Do I need a fire extinguisher on my motorized kayak in Nevada? Maybe. The NDOW says that a Type B fire extinguisher is required under circumstances if your vessel has any of the following:

  • “Inboard engine.”
  • “Closed compartments where portable fuel tanks may be stored.”
  • “Closed storage compartments in which flammable or combustible materials may be stored.”
  • “Permanently installed fuel tank (any tank where the removal of the tank is hampered by the installation of tie-down straps or clamps).”

If your motorized kayak fits any of these descriptions, you will need a B-I fire extinguisher.

Regardless of the law, we 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, especially if you’re far from the shore.

Additional Nevada Kayaking Laws Resources

Boating Law Enforcement

NDOW game wardens and other peace officers enforce Nevada’s boat and water safety laws.

USCG officers enforce federally controlled waters like Lake Tahoe and the Colorado River System (includes Lake Mead, Lake Mohave, and the Colorado River below Davis Dam) in Nevada.

US National Park Service has enforcement authority on Lake Mead and Lake Mohave.

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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