New York Kayaking Laws (Rules and Regulations)


NY Kayaking Laws - Rules and Regulations

New York kayak laws are set and governed by the Department of Environmental Conservation and sanctioned employees of the Department of Environmental Conservation enforce those kayaking rules and regulations.

New York has more than 7,500 lakes, ponds, and reservoirs with over 70,000 miles of rivers. A fair amount of these waterways are restricted to non-motorized boating, making it a popular state for kayaking, canoeing, and sailboating.

Here’s a summary of what you need to know about New York kayak laws.

Legal Disclaimer: This article was written for informational purposes only. I am not an attorney and am not giving legal advice. If you have specific questions about your state’s laws, you should consult a local attorney.

New York Kayak Laws Summary

  • NY Kayaking Laws – New York law considers kayaks and canoes to paddle craft, a subsection of watercraft.
  • New York Kayak Registration – Watercraft without a motor do not need to be registered in New York.
  • Motorized Kayak Registration – All vessels equipped with any motor must be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles. This includes a trolling motor on a canoe or kayak.
  • Kayak Operator Licensing in New York – All persons born on or after January 1st, 1983 must have a boating safety certificate. By January 1st, 2025, all operators will be required to have a boating safety certificate.
  • Motorized Kayaking Age – All operators must be at least 10 years of age.
  • Kayaking BUI Law – New York has a Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) law that applies to all vessels. In New York, a BUI charge prescribes heavy fines, imprisonment, and suspension of operator privileges. A person is considered legally intoxicated when their blood alcohol content is .08% or above. (see below for further details)
  • Kayaking Life Jacket Law – All vessels must be equipped with a Type I, II, or III PFD for each person on board. (see below for kayak and canoe specifics)
  • Kayak Lights Law – All vessels must carry, at least, a lantern with a white light which can be exhibited in sufficient time to prevent a collision.
  • Kayaking Sounding Devices – All vessels require at least a mouth whistle on board. (see below for further regulations)
  • Kayaking VDS Law – Kayaks and canoes are exempt from carrying USCG approved day and nighttime visual distress signals.

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

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New York Kayak Registration

Non-Motorized

Do you have to register a kayak in New York? No. Only watercraft with a motor must be registered.New York State Boating & PaddlingOpens in a new tab.

Motorized

Do you have to register a kayak with a trolling motor in New York? Yes. All watercraft with any motor, regardless of size, must be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Registrations are good for three years from the registration date.

Titling

New York Vessel Titling: The New York Department of Motor Vehicles will issue a title to vessels that are model year 1987 and newer, at least 14 feet long, and registered in New York. Title certificates are used in place of registration for proof of ownership. Vessels not meeting these criteria do not need to be titled.

Registration Resources

New York Department of Motor Vehicles Boat Registration Page  – Online Boat RegistrationOpens in a new tab.

Related Article: Paddle Board Registration

New York Kayaking Operator Education Laws

Non-Motorized

Do you need a license to kayak in New York? No. New York only requires that operators of motor vessels have a boating safety certificate.

Motorized

Do you need a license to operate a motorized kayak in New York? A Boating Safety Certificate is required by all operators of motorized vessels born on or after January 1st, 1993. All operators of motorized vessels, regardless of age, will need a boating safety certificate by January 1st, 2025, with rolling dates until then.New York Brianna’s LawOpens in a new tab.

Youth

All operators must be at least 10 years of age.

New York Kayaking OUI Laws

Can you get a DUI on a kayak in New York? Yes, you can get a DUI on any watercraft in New York. In New York, it’s against the law to operate a vessel while impaired or intoxicated through the consumption of alcohol or drugs. You can get the equivalent of a DUI, a BWI (Boating While Intoxicated) in New York with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08%. If you refuse to voluntarily submit to a breath test, your privilege to operate may be immediately suspended, pending a hearing.

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

New York Kayak Life Jacket Laws

Do you need a life jacket to kayak in New York? Yes. All vessels must have one Coast Guard approved wearable life jacket for each person on board. The PFDs must be readily accessible, and all persons under 12 years of age, unless in a totally enclosed cabin, must wear a life jacket.

New York PFD Details:

  • All vessels must be equipped with a wearable, USCG approved life jacket for each person on board or being towed.
  • Life jackets are considered serviceable when free from tears, rot and punctures. All fasteners must be attached and functional. 

PFD Age Laws

What age do you have to wear a life jacket in New York? Life jackets must be worn by all youth 12 and under unless they are in a totally enclosed cabin. 

Type IV Throwable PFD

Do I need a Type IV “throwable” on my kayak in New York? No. Kayaks and canoes are exempt from law that requires vessels 16 feet and greater to have a Type IV throwable on board.

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

New York Kayaking Lights Laws

What lights do I need on my kayak at night? All vessels, including canoes and kayaks, must have a lantern with  a white light available to be exhibited in time to prevent a collision.

New York Kayaking Sounding Devices Laws

Do I need a whistle on a kayak in New York?  Yes. All vessels in New York are required to have at least a mouth whistle on board.

All mechanically propelled vessels 39 feet and greater must carry a whistle capable of producing a blast two or more seconds in duration.

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.

VDS – Visual Distress Signaling Devices

All vessels 16 feet and greater, except for rowboats, kayaks, and canoes, must carry USCG approved day and nighttime visual distress signals.

Night Signals

Kayaks and canoes do not require VSD signals onboard, although it is strongly recommended by New York. 

Day Signals

Vessels longer than 16 feet, excluding kayaks and canoes, must carry VSD signalling devices.

New York Kayaking Fire Extinguisher Laws

Do I need a fire extinguisher on my motorized kayak in New York? No. Even if you have a trolling motor on your kayak, if the fuel tank is of open construction, you aren’t required to have a 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 New York Kayaking Laws Resources

Boating Law Enforcement

New York sanctioned officers of the Department of Conservation enforce New York’s boat and water safety laws.

As always, USCG officers enforce federally controlled waters throughout New York.

Steve W

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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