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Do You Need a License

to Kayak In Minnesota?

Published January 26th, 2023

Kayaking is a popular pastime in Minnesota, with its many lakes and rivers providing ample opportunities for adventure and recreation. But, before you set out on your kayaking excursion, you may wonder if you need a license to kayak in Minnesota. The answer is yes, but the type of License required depends on the water you plan to kayak on.

In this article, we will explore the types of licenses required for kayaking in Minnesota and the rules and regulations you need to know to stay safe and legal on the water:

Do You Need A License To Kayak In Minnesota? Summary

Do you Need a License to Kayak in Minnesota?

do you need a license to kayak in Minnesota

Yes, kayaks and canoes need to be licensed in Minnesota through the MN Department of Natural Resources. You don’t need a license if your Watercraft is 10 feet or less in length. If you’ve owned your Watercraft in another state and you’ve been residing in Minnesota for more than 90 days, you don’t need to register it. However, powered boats and paddleboards with a trolling motor need a license.

Boating Law Enforcement in Minnesota

In Minnesota, boating law enforcement is primarily the responsibility of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Conservation Officers. These officers enforce state and federal laws related to boating, fishing, hunting, and other outdoor activities.

The DNR has a number of officers who specialize in boating enforcement, and they typically patrol the state’s lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water. They are trained to detect and enforce violations of boating laws and regulations, including those related to safety, navigation, and environmental protection.

Some of the specific duties of boating law enforcement officers in Minnesota include the following:

  • Conducting safety inspections of boats and Watercraft
  • checking commitment to boating safety equipment standards
  • Enforcing speed and wake restrictions
  • Checking for proper registration and licensing of boats and Watercraft
  • Enforcing laws related to the operation of Watercraft under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Investigating boating accidents and incidents

In addition to the DNR Conservation Officers, other agencies such as the Minnesota State Patrol and local sheriff’s departments also have the authority to enforce boating laws in the state.

General Kayaking Laws in Minnesota

general kayaking laws in Minnesota

Following are some general laws for kayaking in Minnesota. Kayak Registration Laws in Minnesota are:

Paddle-propelled Kayak Registration

Hand powered kayak 10 feet long or smaller is not required to register in Minnesota.

Motorized Kayak Registration

All motorized Watercraft, including motorized kayaks, must be registered with the Minnesota Registry of Motor Vehicles before they can be used legally on Minnesota’s waterways.

Kayak Titling Laws

In Minnesota, certain boats over 16 feet in length must be registered and given a title. However, canoes and kayaks are exempt from this requirement.

Kayak Operator Education Laws

Manually operated kayaks

In Minnesota, you do not need a license or any form of education to operate a kayak or canoe that is 10 ft or less in length. These types of watercraft only require operator licensing or education as long as they have no attached motor.

Motorized kayaks

When operating motorized kayaks, adult operators must only have a boating license from the specific Watercraft. This License is necessary to operate motorized vehicles on the water.

Age requirements

  • Children less than 13 years of age cannot operate a motorized watercraft in Minnesota.
  • Children between the ages of 13 and 17 are required to have someone at least 21 years old on board or a Watercraft Operator’s Permit and be under visual supervision by someone at least 21 years old.
  • Operators between the ages of 14 and 17 must also have someone at least 21 years of age on board or a Watercraft Operator’s Permit.
  • Operators between the ages of 12 and 17 operating vehicles with over 25 horsepower must either have a Watercraft Operator’s Permit or someone at least 21 years of age within reach of the controls.
These age requirements are in place to ensure the safety of young operators and those around them on the water.

Kayaking Alcohol and Drug Laws

In Minnesota, driving a boat while drunk or on drugs is not allowed. If you get caught, it’s like getting a DUI, and it’s called a BWI. If your blood alcohol level is 0.08%, you will get in trouble. If it’s above 0.16%, it’s a more serious crime.

However, it is okay to have alcohol on a boat and a higher than 0.08% blood alcohol level while using manual power to move the boat. But if a person on the boat cannot operate it properly due to drugs, including medicine, marijuana, or other illegal drugs, they can still be charged with BWI if they fail a test or show signs of being drunk.

Just like with a DUI, if you are found guilty of a BWI, you can face fines, jail time, and the loss of your boating privileges. Additionally, if you are found guilty of a BWI, it can affect your driving privileges.

Safety Kayaking Laws in Minnesota

Following are some safety laws for kayaking in Minnesota.

Life Jacket Laws

Every boat must have a special life jacket approved by the Coast Guard for each person on the boat. Also, kids under ten years old must wear a special life jacket when they are not in a room below the top deck or when the boat is not anchored.

Additional PFD Details

  • Everyone on board or being towed by a vessel must have an appropriate, USCG-approved PFD of Type I, II, III, or V.
  • All vessels must be equipped with enough PFDs of the correct size, and Type V PFDs must be equivalent to an approved device of another type, such as Type I, II, or III.
  • All children under the age of 10 must wear a life jacket. While on the upper deck of a boat unless they are under the supervision of a licensed captain. Or the boat is anchored for swimming or diving activities.

Throwable Type IV PFD

In Minnesota, 16 feet or longer boats must have a special safety device called a Type IV on board. But, this law does not include kayaks and canoes and does not have to have a Type IV device.

Light Indicator Laws

Paddle propelled Kayaks

Individuals on unpowered vessels, such as kayakers and canoeists, must have a white lantern or flashlight visible from at least two miles away on the horizon. This light must be displayed sufficiently to prevent collisions with other Watercraft.

Powered kayaks

Vessels under 40 feet in length powered by trolling motors (such as kayaks and canoes) must have red and green sidelights that can be seen from 112.5 degrees on each side or a combination of a 225-degree red and green bow light. Additionally, an all-around white light is required. However, when anchored, only white light is needed.

Sounding devices Laws

In Minnesota, kayaks and canoes are not required to have a sounding device, but motorized vessels measuring between 16 to 26 feet must have a hand, mouth, or power-operated whistle or horn.

The device must produce a continuous sound for two seconds that can be heard from at least one-half mile away. A whistle attached to a PFD is a convenient option for kayakers and canoeists as it is easily accessible in an emergency.

Visual Distress Signal Laws

In an emergency, a Visual Distress Signal (VDS) is a tool that can assist in quickly locating your boat. These signals come in various forms, including those visible during daylight hours, those that can be seen at night, and those that can be used at any time.

On Lake Superior, all vessels are required to have USCG-approved Visual Distress Signals (VDS) on board at all times. Specifically, between sunset and sunrise, all vessels must have night VDS on board.

This includes kayaks, canoes, electric distress lights, or three pyrotechnic devices. During the day, motorized vessels over 16 feet and kayaks and canoes with trolling motors must carry three daytime VDS signaling devices.

Fire Extinguisher Laws

Even if you have a trolling motor on your kayak, you don’t need a fire extinguisher if the fuel tank is not permanently attached or locked away. But as a safety measure, it is strongly recommended that you carry a small class B-I fire extinguisher. A fire on a boat can be dangerous without an extinguisher, especially if you are far from shore.

Safety Guidelines for Kayaking

Safety guidelines for kayaking are as follows:

General Kayaking Safety Guidelines

  • Let someone know your destination, route, and expected return time.
  • Plan an alternative place to get out in the event of an emergency.
  • Check the weather report before you leave, and get ready for rain.
  • Bring a weather radio for early warnings of inclement weather.
  • Dress appropriately for the weather with quick-drying, heat-retaining clothing
  • Wear bright colors or a life jacket that stands out, and don’t forget to buckle and zip it up.
  • Learn more about life jackets and their importance
  • Carry a first-aid kit with you and know how to use it.
  • Bring a cell phone or radio with you in case of an emergency, but remember that service may be limited in remote areas.
  • Bring a significant amount of food and water with you, drink often to keep from getting dehydrated, and drink a quart of water if you have a headache or can’t urinate.

On water Safety Guidelines for Kayaking

  • Do not kayak if you have been drinking or taking drugs.
  • Kayak with extra care when the water is cold (boating accidents are 5x more likely to be fatal if water is colder than 60 degrees)
  • Never tie a person or a life jacket to a canoe or kayak.
  • Kayaking in a group is safer than paddling alone; try to stay in sight or hear of each other.
  • In places where there are a lot of motorboats, stay close to the shore and face waves straight on or at a slight angle to keep from capsizing.
  • If you fall out or capsize, keep your feet pointed downstream and off the bottom to avoid getting caught or stuck. Stay upstream of the boat to avoid getting stuck between it and a rock or log.

Kayak Registration Procedure in Minnesota

The kayak registration procedure is as follows:

Motorized kayaks

First, you will need to fill out the Boat Registration and Title Application form, which can be found on the DNR website or at the DNR License Center. This form will require you to provide information such as the boat’s length, manufacturer, type of hull material, propulsion, model, year, serial or HIN, and the name and address of the boat’s owner. You will also need proof of sales tax payment and your contact information.

After filling out the form, you will need to submit it along with all required documents and payment for the registration fee to the DNR License Center or a deputy registrar of motor vehicles. The registration fee will vary depending on the length of your boat and the type of propulsion.

Non-motorized kayaks

A watercraft license is optional for non-motorized kayaks that are 10 feet or shorter or for kayaks owned by out-of-state residents that are not required to be licensed in their home state and are not in Minnesota for longer than 90 consecutive days.

Renewing kayak registration

You can renew your kayak’s License at a deputy registrar of motor vehicles or the DNR License Bureau in St. Paul. You can also renew online using the online licensing system. If you are not the registered owner, someone else may renew for you if they have the DNR-generated renewal notice, a Consent to Renew Registration form, or if they can show proof of being the Power of Attorney.

Minnesota Watercraft Registration Fee Schedule

The watercraft registration fee schedule is as follows:

Type of Watercraft Registration Fees

  • Non-profit Organizations: $4.50
  • Rental or Lease Watercraft up to 19 feet: $9.00
  • Rental or Lease Personal Watercraft: $37.50
  • Canoes, Kayaks, Sailboats, Sailboards, Rowing Shells, Paddleboards, and Paddleboats: $10.50
  • Personal Watercraft: $37.50
  • Pleasure Craft under 17 feet: $18.00
  • Pleasure Craft 17-19 feet: $27.00
  • Pleasure Craft over 19 feet but under 26 feet: $45.00
  • Pleasure Craft 26 feet but under 40 feet: $67.50
  • Pleasure Craft 40 feet and over: $90.00
  • Dealer’s License: $67.50
  • Watercraft for Hire with Operator: $75.00
  • A transfer without Renewal: $4.50
  • Duplicate Registration Card: $4.50
  • Duplicate Decal Only: $0.00

Aquatic Invasive Species Surcharge

All Types of Watercraft: $10.60

Issuing Fees

  • New or Transfer: $8.50
  • Renewing and Transferring: $4.50 + $8.50
  • Renewal Only or Duplicate Card and Decals: $6.00

Do You Need a License to Kayak in Minnesota? - Conclusion

So, a License is not required for a manually operated kayak in Minnesota. However, boating law enforcement in Minnesota still applies to kayakers, and it is essential to follow general kayaking laws, kayak operator education laws, and safety kayaking laws to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience on the water.

Additionally, kayakers should be aware of Minnesota’s kayak registration procedure and the watercraft registration fee schedule. By following these laws and guidelines, kayakers can enjoy the beautiful waters of Minnesota while also ensuring their safety and the safety of others.

Jay Schwartz author of Kayak Guidance

About the Author - Jay Schwartz:

Hey there kayak lovers! I’m Jay Schwartz, the author here at Kayak Guidance! You know water sports – you know me! My life is all about it. Kayaking, Paddleboarding, Fishing, Snorkeling and so much more. I love to share my passion and knowledge with all of you. 

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