Some regulations to keep in mind before riding into the water in Pa.


HARRISBURG, Pa. — Kayaks, canoes, inflatable rafts and paddleboards are increasing in popularity with the summer heat.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is reminding operators of these watercraft that it is important to know what safety equipment and regulations apply.

“Currently, unpowered boats are not required to be registered, unless they are being used at a state-owned access such as a Commission access area or lake or Pennsylvania state parks and state forests,” said Ryan Walt, PFBC boating and watercraft safety manager.

“In these cases, you must either have your non-powered boat registered or have a launch permit issued by the Commission or the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.”

Registration or permit

The cost to register a non-powered boat or to buy a launch permit is the same — $10 for one year or $18 for two – but registration provides additional benefits to the owner, Walt added. “By registering your boat, the information is recorded in our system and we can help you and the authorities locate it if it is ever lost or stolen.”

Registration also makes the renewal process easier. “Once your boat is registered, we will send you a renewal notice three months before the period is up,” said Walt.

In addition to the registration requirement, important life-saving equipment is required to be carried on non-powered crafts.

Life jackets: Every person in a kayak, canoe, inflatable raft or paddleboard must have on board a readily accessible U.S. Coast Guard-approved, wearable type I, II, III, or V life jacket of appropriate size. Children 12 years of age and younger must wear their life jackets while underway on any boat 20 feet or less in length and on all canoes and kayaks.

Sound producing device: Unpowered boat operators are required to carry a device capable of sounding a prolonged blast for 4-6 seconds that can be heard by another boat operator in time to avoid a collision. An athletic coach’s whistle is an acceptable sound producing device. Clip it to your life jacket for easy access.

Lights: Any kayak, canoe, inflatable raft or paddleboard on the water after dusk must have a hand-held or installed white light to be displayed in time to avoid a collision with another craft. When anchored or moored after dusk, an all-round white light must be displayed where it can best be seen 360 degrees.

Paddleboards: Paddleboards are considered boats as defined by the U.S. Coast Guard if they are used outside the narrow limits of a swimming, surfing, or a bathing area. As such, they are subject to regulations administered by the U.S. Coast Guard and the PFBC, including life jacket, sound producing device and navigation light requirements.

Additional information about inner tubes, float tubes, and inflatable rafts: Pennsylvania has no general law prohibiting the launching of inner tubes or tubing on Pennsylvania rivers.

Whether it is legal to launch or retrieve inner tubes at a particular access area depends on the regulations for that site. For instance, it is unlawful to launch or retrieve swimming aids, such as inner tubes and similar devices, from access areas managed for fishing and boating by the PFBC. However, on PFBC-controlled lakes, float tubes can be used if the user is wearing a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket, is lawfully fishing, and is not propelled by a mechanical device.

Float tube

A float tube is defined as a device constructed to provide stable flotation and a level ride to a single angler in a manner that minimizes the possibility of capsizing. If using an inflatable raft on Commission property the raft must be at least 7 feet in length, made of durable, reinforced fabric and have at least two separate buoyancy chambers exclusive of any floor or bottom.

Registrations and launch permits may be purchased through PFBC offices, most county courthouses, boat dealers or through any other PFBC issuing agent.

The DCNR launch permit can be purchased from any state park office. For more information see the Boat Registration Section of our website at:


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