Vermont Kayaking Laws (Rules and Regulations)


Vermont Kayaking Laws - Rules and Regulations

Vermont kayaking laws are set and governed by the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation. Vermont law enforcement officers enforce those kayaking rules and regulations.

Vermont is home to a number of waterways including the Connecticut River, Lake Champlain, and the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. Many other lakes and rivers dot the beautiful Vermont landscape, making it a great option for kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding and other water vessel activities.

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

Vermont Kayak Laws Summary

  • Vermont Kayaking Laws – Vermont law considers kayaks and canoes to be boats with no motor or sails.
  • Vermont Kayak Registration – Kayaks, canoes, and all other non-motorized vessels are exempt from registration.
  • Motorized Kayak Registration – All motorboats must be registered and display valid stickers. This includes a trolling motor on a canoe or kayak.
  • Kayak Operator Licensing in Vermont – Non-motorized vessels do not require a license to operate in Vermont.
  • Motorized Kayaking Age – No one under 12 years of age may operate any vessel powered by a motor of more than 6 horsepower, even if they have successfully completed a boating safety education course. (See below for further restrictions)
  • Kayaking BUI Law – Vermont 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 – A sounding device that can make an efficient sound signal is required on all vessels less than 39.4 feet in length. (see below additional for regulations)
  • Kayaking VDS Law – VDS are not required when operating on Vermont waters.

That only summarizes Vermont 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 Vermont.

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.

Vermont Kayak Registration

Non-Motorized

Do you have to register a kayak in Vermont? No. Canoes, kayaks, and other vessels not propelled by motor are exempt from registration. 

Motorized

Do you have to register a kayak with a trolling motor in Vermont? Yes. All vessels powered by a motor of 10 horsepower or more must be registered and display valid decals. Registrations are good for one year. Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles Motorboat Information PageOpens in a new tab.

Titling

Vermont Vessel Titling: All vessels powered by a motor that are 16 feet or longer must be titled if they are from the year 2004 or newer. Vessels can be registered and titled at the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles.

Registration Resources

Vermont Online Boat Registration & Titling Page – Boat Registration PageOpens in a new tab.

Related Article: Paddle Board Registration

Vermont Kayaking Operator Education Laws

Non-Motorized

Do you need a license to kayak in Vermont? No. Boater Education is not required for any non-motorized vessel in Vermont. 

Motorized

Do you need a license to operate a motorized kayak in Vermont? Yes. All persons born after January 1st, 1974 must successfully complete an approved boating safety education course to operate any motorized vessel legally.

Youth

No person under 12 years of age may operate any vessel powered by a motor of more than 6 horsepower, even if they have successfully completed a boating safety education course.

Vermont Kayaking OUI Laws

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

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

Vermont Kayak Life Jacket Laws

Do you need a life jacket to kayak in Vermont? Yes. All canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards must have on board one USCG approved wearable PFD for each person on board, and all persons 12 years of age and under must wear a properly sized coast guard approved life jacket whenever the boat is in operation.

Vermont PFD Details:

  • All PFDs should be readily accessible, in serviceable condition, and of the appropriate size for the intended user.
  • All wearable PFDs in Vermont are required to by a USCG-approved Type I, II, or III.

PFD Age Laws

What age do you have to wear a life jacket in Vermont? All persons 12 years of age and under must wear a properly sized coast guard approved life jacket when on the open deck of any vessel. 

Type IV Throwable PFD

Do I need a Type IV “throwable” on my kayak in Vermont? Possibly. All vessels 16 feet or longer in length must carry at least one throwable PFD.

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

Vermont Kayaking Lights Laws

What lights do I need on my kayak at night? All unpowered vessels less than 23 feet in length must have at least one bright light, lantern, or flashlight of white color which can be displayed in sufficient time to prevent a collision.

While anchored or adrift, the white light must be on.

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.

Vermont Kayaking Sounding Devices Laws

Do I need a whistle on a kayak in Vermont? Yes. All vessels under 39.4 feet must have some way of making an efficient sound signal, such as a whistle or air horn.

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 are required when operating on federal waters between sunset and sunrise. Motorized vessels are also required to carry day signals. Visual distress signals must be USCG-approved, in serviceable condition, and readily accessible. 

Night Signals

Night signals are required between sunset and sunrise when operating on federal waters in Vermont. Vermont does not require VDS on their waters. 

Day Signals

Visual Distress Signals are not required for non-motorized kayaks during the day.

Vermont Kayaking Fire Extinguisher Laws

Do I need a fire extinguisher on my motorized kayak in Vermont? 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.

Vermont Kayaking Laws Resources

Boating Law Enforcement

Law enforcement officers enforce Vermont’s boat and water safety laws.

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

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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