Texas Kayaking Laws (Rules and Regulations)


Texas Kayaking Laws - Rules and Regulations

Texas kayaking laws are set and governed by Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. Game wardens and the Law Enforcement Division of the Texas Wildlife Department enforce those kayaking rules and regulations.

Texas is one of the United State’s largest states and home to a myriad of waterways and lakes. So it’s not surprising that Texas is popular for kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding and other water vessel activities.

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

Texas Kayaking Laws Summary

  • Texas Kayaking Laws – Texas law considers kayaks and canoes to be vessels with no motor or sails.
  • Texas Kayak Registration – Kayaks, canoes, and all other vessels with no motor or sail are exempt from registration.
  • Motorized Kayak Registration – All motorized watercraft less than 16 feet in length must be registered and titled. This includes a trolling motor on a canoe or kayak.
  • Kayak Operator Licensing in Texas – Non-powered kayaks do not require a license to operate in Texas. Those born after September 1, 1993 must successfully complete a Boating Education Course to operate a motorboat.
  • Motorized Kayaking Age – Anyone under the age of 13 cannot operate a motor vessel with more than 15 horsepower unless a person 18 years or older who can legally operate the boat is also on board. (See below for further restrictions)
  • Kayaking BUI Law – Texas has a Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) law that applies to all vessels. A person is operating illegally when their blood alcohol content is .08% or above. (see below for additional regulations)
  • Kayaking Life Jacket Law – All canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards must have on board one USCG approved wearable PFD for each person on board. (see below for kayak and canoe specifics)
  • Kayak Lights Law – Kayaks must carry a white lantern, light, or flashlight.
  • Kayaking Sounding Devices – One whistle, horn, or other sound-producing device capable of producing an efficient sound that can signal intention and position during periods of reduced visibility is required. (see below additional for regulations)
  • Kayaking VDS Law – When operating between sunset and sunrise on coastal waters, USCG approved Visual Distress Signals (VDS) are required.

That only summarizes Texas 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 Texas.

Affiliate Notification: Paddle Camp is reader-supported. Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means we will earn a commission on the products or services you purchase using the links.

Texas Kayak Registration

Non-Motorized

Do you have to register a kayak in Texas? No. In Texas, title and registration numbers are not required on vessels with no motor or sail.

Motorized

Do you have to register a kayak with a trolling motor in Texas? Yes. All vessels powered by a motor must be titled and registered and display numbers. Registrations are good for two years.

Titling

Texas Vessel Titling: Canoes and kayaks do not have to be titled in Texas. Kayaks or canoes with a trolling motor must be titled when registered.

Registration Resources

Related Article: Paddle Board Registration

Texas Kayaking Operator Education Laws

Non-Motorized

Do you need a license to kayak in Texas? No. Boater Education is only required for vessels powered by a motor of more than 15 horsepower or on windblown vessels over 14 feet in length. 

Motorized

Do you need a license to operate a motorized kayak in Texas? Yes. Those born on or after September 1, 1993 must successfully complete a Texas Parks & Wildlife Department-certified boater education course and possess a valid photo I.D to operate any vessel with an engine of 15 horsepower or more.

Youth

No person may operate a motorboat powered by a motor of more than 15 horsepower on public waters unless the person is at least 13 years of age and has successfully completed a Boater Education Course or is supervised by another person who is at least 18 and can lawfully operate the motorboat.

Texas Kayaking OUI Laws

Can you get a DUI on a kayak in Texas? Yes. Texas’s BWI law prohibits anyone from operating any vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs. However, open containers of alcohol are allowed on the vessel. You can get the equivalent of a DUI, a BWI (Boating While Intoxicated) in Texas with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08%, or if under the influence of controlled drugs or other substances when operating any vessel.

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

Texas Kayak Life Jacket Laws

Do you need a life jacket to kayak in Texas? Yes. All canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards must have on board one USCG approved wearable PFD for each person on board, and all persons under 13 years of age must wear a Type I, II, or III PFD while underway.

Texas PFD Details:

  • All PFDs should be readily accessible, in serviceable condition, and of the appropriate size for the intended user.

Texas PFD Age Laws

What age do you have to wear a life jacket in Texas? Life jackets must be worn by all youth under 13 when on a kayak that is underway. 

Type IV Throwable PFD

Do I need a Type IV “throwable” on my kayak in Texas? No. Kayaks and Canoes are exempt from Texas’s law that all 16 foot and longer vessels must have a USCG-approved Type IV onboard.

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

Texas Kayaking Lights Laws

What lights do I need on my kayak at night? All paddlecraft must have at least one bright light, lantern, or flashlight of white color while not at dock. USCG-approved red and green side lights and a white all-around light may also be exhibited. White lights must be visible at a distance of at least two miles.

The light must be visible while anchored or stationary.

Powered vessels require USCG-approved red and green side lights as well as a white all-around light when not at dock. The white light must be visible at a distance of at least two miles, and the colored lights must be visible at a distance of at least one mile.

Texas Kayaking Sounding Device Laws

Do I need a whistle on a kayak in Texas? Yes. One whistle, horn, or other sound-producing device capable of producing an efficient sound that can signal intention and position during periods of reduced visibility is required.

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

Visual distress signals that are USCG-approved for nighttime use are required when operating between sunset and sunrise in coastal waters of the state. Visual distress signals must be readily accessible, in working condition, and unexpired. 

Night Signals

When operating in coastal waters, night signals are required between sunset and sunrise. 

Day Signals

Visual Distress Signals are required for kayaks during the day on any Texas waters for vessels over 16 feet in length.

Texas Kayaking Fire Extinguisher Laws

Do I need a fire extinguisher on my motorized kayak in Texas? No. Even if you have a trolling motor on your kayak, if the fuel tank isn’t permanently installed and 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 Texas Kayaking Laws Resources

Kayaking Law Enforcement

Game Wardens and Officers and Agents of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department enforce Texas’s boat and water safety laws.

As always, USCG officers enforce federally controlled waters in Texas.

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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