Oregon Kayaking Laws (Rules and Regulations)

Oregon Kayaking Laws - Rules and Regulations

Oregon kayaking laws are set and governed by the Oregon State Marine Board. And the Oregon State Police, along with 32 county Sheriff’s Offices, enforce those kayaking rules and regulations.

Many of Oregon’s waterways are considered state-owned and therefore are open to public access. According to Oregon Department of State Lands, the people of Oregon are the owners of the “submerged and submersible land underlying all navigable and tidally influenced waterways.”

If an Oregon waterway has not had a navigability determination, then ownership and public access is unclear.

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

Oregon Kayak Laws Summary

  • Oregon Kayaking Laws – Oregon law considers kayaks and canoes to be vessels moved only by paddles or oars and thus non-motorized vessels.
  • Oregon Kayak Registration – Non-motorized kayaks and canoes under 10 feet in length are exempt from registration. Vessels over 10 feet must have a waterway access permit. 
  • Motorized Kayak Registration – Both motorized and non-motorized paddlecraft over 10 feet must carry a valid Waterway Access Permit when using public waterways. 
  • Kayak Operator Licensing in Oregon – Persons 16 years or older must have a valid boater education card in order to legally operate a power-driven personal watercrafts over 10 hp.   
  • Motorized Kayaking Age – It is against the law for anyone under 16 years of age to operate a personal watercraft (PWC) without the presence of a person 18 years or older.  
  • Kayaking BUI Law – Oregon considers a person to be operating illegally when their blood alcohol content is .08% or above.
  • Kayaking Life Jacket Law – All vessels must be equipped with a Type I, II, or III PFD for each person on board. Any persons under 13 years of age must be wearing their PFD. (see below for kayak and canoe specifics)
  • Kayak Lights Law – All boats, including PWCs, must have running lights between sunset and sunrise. Power-driven boats must adhere to the requirements according to boat length.
  • Kayaking Sounding Devices – Vessels less than 39 feet 4 inches in length must carry either a whistle or compressed air horn. Non-motorized paddlecraft are exempt from this requirement.  
  • Kayaking VDS Law – Boats operating on federally controlled waters must have U.S. Coast Guard-approved visual distress signals.

That only summarizes Oregon 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 Oregon. 

Amazon and Affiliate Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means we will earn a commission (at no extra cost to you) on the products or services you purchase using the links.

Oregon Kayak Registration 


Do you have to register a kayak in Oregon? No. Paddlecraft, including canoes and kayaks, should be registered and have a valid permit if in excess of 10 feet in length. However, these non-motorized vessels do not require registration.


Do you have to register a kayak with a trolling motor in Oregon? Yes. Any motorized vessel, including kayaks and canoes with electric or gas trolling motors, must have a valid registration permit. 


Oregon Vessel Titling: “Any watercraft with any type of motor must be titled and registered with the Oregon Marine Board. A title is required in order to register.” – Oregon State Marine Board 

Waterway Access Permit/Invasive Species Sticker

Effective January 1, 2020, Waterway Access Permits are required for all boats 10 feet and longer (formerly the Aquatic Invasive Species Permit).

Registration Resources

Related Article: Paddle Board Registration

Oregon Kayaking Operator Education Laws


Do you need a license to kayak in Oregon? For paddlecraft, including canoes and kayaks, a valid waterway access permit is needed for boats over 10 feet in length. 


Do you need a license to operate a motorized kayak in Oregon? “All boaters who operate a motorboat over 10 horsepower (hp) and youths 12-15 operating a motorboat of any size are required to take an approved boating safety course and apply/carry a boater education card.” – Oregon State Marine Board.


The minimum age to obtain a boater safety card is 12 years old. Persons younger than 12 cannot operate a motorized boat legally.

Youth aged 12 – 15 may operate a motorized vessel of 10 hp or less without adult supervision and may operate above 10 hp if accompanied by a person 16 years or older (18 year or older if the vessel is a personal watercraft). 

Oregon Kayaking BUI Laws 

Can you get a DUI on a kayak in Oregon? Yes, you can get a DUI on a kayak in Oregon. It is against the law to operate a vessel of any kind, motorized or not, while impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. You can get the equivalent of a DUI, a BUI (Boating Under the Influence) in Oregon with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08%. 

In Oregon, a person can be charged with a DUI/BUI even if their BAC is under .08%, if their behavior is impaired to a degree that their mental or physical facilities are affected to a noticeable extent. 

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

Oregon Kayak Life Jacket Laws 

Do you need a life jacket to kayak in Oregon? Yes. All vessels must have one Coast Guard approved personal flotation device of Type I, II or III for each person on board. All persons under 13 years of age must be wearing a Type I or II PFD, unless under the deck or in an enclosed cabin.

Oregon PFD Details:

  • All vessels must be equipped with a Type I, II, or III PFD for each person on board or being towed.
  • All vessels have at least one Type I, II, or III PFD that is USCG–approved, wearable, and of the proper size for each person on board.
  • Boats that are 16 feet or longer must also carry a Type IV throwable cushion. 

PFD Age Laws

What age do you have to wear a life jacket in Oregon? Life jackets must be worn by all youth under 13 when they are on any type of vessel, unless they are in an enclosed area under the deck or in a cabin.

Type IV Throwable PFD

Do I need a Type IV “throwable” on my kayak in Oregon? On vessels 16 feet and longer must have a USCG–approved Type IV throwable flotation device onboard. 

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

Oregon Kayaking Lights Laws 

What lights do I need on my kayak at night? All boats should have lights readily available for use if on waterways between sunset and sunrise.  Non-motorized boats under 16 feet in length are required to have lights only when underway between sunset and sunrise or when visibility is restricted.

The following chart is provided by the Oregon State Marine Board and details the requirements for lights according to boat size.

Oregon Kayaking Sounding Devices Laws 

Do I need a whistle on a kayak in Oregon? All boats less than 39 feet 4 inches are required to have either a whistle or a compressed air horn on board and readily available for use.

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

VDS – Visual Distress Signaling Devices

On federally controlled waters, all vessels are required to carry U.S. Coast Guard-approved night VDS devices. Personal Watercrafts (PWCs) must have nighttime visual distress signals but are not required to have daytime VDS. 

In Oregon, “federally controlled waters” include the mouth of the Columbia River and all coastal waters. All vessels, regardless of length or type, are required to carry night signals when operating between sunset and sunrise.

Night Signals

All vessels are required to carry proper night signals, regardless of length or type. They must be carried from sunset to sunrise.

Day Signals

While most vessels are required to carry day signals, there are a few exceptions. Those exempt from carrying day signals are recreational vessels less than 16 feet in length, non-motorized sailboats less than 26 feet in length, and non-motorized boats such as canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards. 

Oregon Kayaking Fire Extinguisher Laws 

Do I need a fire extinguisher on my motorized kayak in Oregon? “Fire extinguishers are not required on outboard motorboats of open construction less than 26 feet in length. – Oregon State Marine Board.

This rule applies to boats between 16 – 26 feet in length.

Boats under 16 feet in length and paddlecraft such as kayaks are not required to carry fire extinguishers. Nonetheless, we recommend carrying a small class B-I fire extinguisher if you have a trolling motor on your kayak or canoe.

Additional Oregon Kayaking Laws Resources

The best resource to view all boating laws and requirements is the Oregon State Marine Board webpage. Here, you can find all necessary permitting and registration info, boater safety education resources, equipment regulations, and boat launches and docks open to the public. 

Boating Law Enforcement

Oregon State Police and county Sheriff Departments are mainly responsible for enforcement of boating laws. Enforcement responsibility may be transferred to State Park Rangers or Coast Guard officers if the waterway is on either state park property or USCG controlled waters.

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.

Related Articles