Do canoes need to be registered in Illinois ?

If you’re a canoeing enthusiast, the Prairie State is undoubtedly one of the destinations to be at. Illinois is laden with a load of lakes and rivers, including Lake Michigan and River Mississippi, among many others.

But you don’t want to run into compliance problems with the authorities, so it would be best if you acclimatize yourself with the Illinois boating laws. Primarily, you’d definitely want to know whether canoes need registration to operate in Illinois.

As per the state of Illinois Kayak & Boat Registration Laws, unpowered water vessels such as canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards are exempt from registration. Hence, you don’t need to register your canoe or any boat without a motor.

In addition to registration laws, we have prepared an intricate elaboration of the other safety regulations you must undertake while canoeing in Illinois waters.

Let’s check them out in detail!

Do You Have To Register A Canoe In Illinois ?

As a general rule, In Illinois, you’re not required to register your non-motorized canoe, stand-up motor board, raft, or Kayak.

Also, you don’t necessarily have to display Water Usage Stamps when using a canoe or kayak in Illinois waters. Formerly, this sticker cost $6, and you were required to display it every time, but that requirement has since been abolished.

Do you have to Register a Motorized Canoe In Illinois ?

The Illinois Boating and Responsibilities handbook requires all motorized canoes and other water vessels with trolling motors to be registered.

Nonetheless, you’re exempt from registering your motorized canoe if you exclusively use it in your private waters.

Besides, the Illinois state exempts motorized vessels measuring less than 21 feet in length from operating under a title. Still, they have to be registered within 15 days of their purchase. Lastly, any canoe, kayak, or motorized vessel longer than 21 feet must possess a title.

Which water vessels are exempt from registration in Illinois ?

In addition to unpowered vessels such as kayaks and canoes without a trolling motor, the Illinois state exempts registration of the following others:

  • Any vessel belonging to a State or the Federal government
  • Also, you’re exempt from registering a vessel registered in another state that doesn’t use Illinois waters for at least 60 consecutive days.
  • Thirdly, it’s not mandatory to register a vessel belonging to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) that doesn’t operate on Illinois waters for 60 consecutive days.
  • Moreover, a water vessel operating exclusively as a lifeboat is exempt from registration.
  • If a vessel is registered in another country and uses Illinois water temporarily, it’s exempt from registration.
  • Finally, it’s not compulsory to register water vessels exclusively reserved for racing purposes and not any other use.

How to register a canoe in Illinois

As a general rule, you must fill in your details in a Watercraft Registration Application to register a canoe in Illinois. Also, you must have your Hull Identification Number ready before filling out the form.

In addition, registering a canoe measuring less than 16 feet requires an original Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin in place. Also, you need to pay the registration fees to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. This is the department that oversees the registration process.

For a canoe measuring between 16 and 21 feet, you must fill in a tax form to prove you’ve complied with the tax payment requirements for your canoe. Also, you will need to submit a tax form if you own a canoe measuring longer than 21 feet.

After a successful canoe registration, the authorities will give you a Certificate of Registration, boat numbers, and decal. You must always carry your certificate whenever you go out in the water with the canoe. Besides, you must have a decal attached to the canoe’s standard board and port side.

Cost Of Canoe Registration Illinois

A motorized canoe, kayak, or any motorized water body measuring up to 16 feet should cost you $18 in registration fees. The fee is valid both for renewals and new registrations. Also, a registration certificate remains valid within three years from the registration date. In case you want to register such a canoe with an optional title, you’ll spend $28.

The registration cost for a motorized canoe measuring between 16 and 21 feet is $50. Also, this is the cost of certificate renewal. Besides, you may opt to register for an optional title, which will cost $60.

Thirdly a boat measuring between 21 feet and 26 feet will cost $60 in registration. For such a canoe, it’s mandatory to have a title. But the registration renewal fee for such a boat is $50.

What are the Illinois PFD Boating Regulations

When using a canoe, kayak, and recreational vessels in Illinois waters, its mandatory for all individuals aboard to have a wearable PFD (Personal Flotation Device). In addition, these kits must be approved by the US Coast Guard. This includes Types I, II, III, and V PFDs.

However, while using Type V PFD, it’s compulsory to wear it always while in the water if it’s the only available kit. Wearing the rest at all times is not a mandatory requirement. Nonetheless, it is recommended to wear then for additional safety.

Individuals on a canoe measuring longer than 16 feet should possess a throwable Type IV PFD in their boat. The PFD must be accessible at any time when required.

Illinois PFD Boating Regulations for Children

Any kid aged less than 13 years aboard a water vessel less than 26 feet must wear a US Coast Guard-approved PFD at any time while in Illinois waters. This not only applies to canoes but also to kids in recreational vessels and kayaks.

What are BUI – Boating Under The Influence Illinois Laws?

In principle, it is prohibited to operate any water vessel in Illinois waters while intoxicated. You should take not only alcohol but also any other drug. Ideally, an intoxicated individual is anyone with a < 0.08% blood alcohol level.

Besides, anyone with an intoxicating drug in their blood or urine is prohibited from operating a vessel in Illinois.

The penalty for a first-time BUI offender in Illinois is a jail term of one year and a fine of up to $2500. A second-time BUI offender receives 3 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. That state can also charge such an offender with a class 4 felony.

Nonetheless, the charge can escalate to a class 2 felony if your intoxication-induced accident causes death.

Other Important Canoe And Boating Laws In Illinois

Do I Need Lights On My Canoe ?

As a general rule, you must have lights on your canoe, kayak, or any other water body if you’re using it at night. The standard lighting must be a 360-degree white lantern or, in other cases, a flashlight.

Besides, your light must be clearly visible from at least 1 mile away. This rule not only applies to motorized canoes but also all unpowered vessels measuring less than 23 feet in length.

When operating a non-motorized canoe measuring between 23 and 65.6 feet, you must install red and green side lights, visible from at least 2 miles away. Also, you must have a white stern light visible from two miles away.

Nonetheless, the minimal visibility distance requirement for vessels measuring between 23 feet in length and 39.4 feet is one mile.

Lastly, irrespective of your canoe size, it is essential to have a white light display while in an anchored position. This is also imperative in case you’ve moored anywhere in an undesignated mooring area, irrespective of the boat size.

What About Maritime Distress Signals?

When operating in Lake Michigan, you must give maritime distress signals. Ideally, this rule applies since the US Coast Guard runs the lake. Also noteworthy, the law is applicable for canoes, boats, and kayaks of all sizes, whether motorized or non-motorized.

Moreover, you must have day signals when operating a canoe or boat longer than 16 feet. Often a day signal is an orange smoke signal or a distress flag. During the night, the typical distress signals can be red flares. Also, you can consider using electronic distress lights.

Lastly, it is mandatory to have a sound signaling device like a whistle while on Illinois waters.

Illinois Minimum Age To Canoe And Boat

There is no minimum age requirement to operate a canoe, kayak, or any unmotorized vessel in Illinois waters. Nonetheless, you must be at least ten years old to operate a motorized vessel. Also, kids between 10 to 11 years old must use a motorized canoe under the close supervision of an adult.

Children aged 12 to 18 can operate a motorized water vessel independently as long as they possess a Boating Safety Certificate. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources offers this certificate following successful training.


Now you know what you need to comply with while in Illinois waters to avoid being at loggerheads with the authorities. Also, you must undertake the safety measures as a personal imperative as they will help you have a near seamless experience even when things turn turbulent while in the waters.

I wish you all the best while canoeing in the Illinois waters and hope you’ll enjoy your moments. Thanks for reading to the end. Adios.

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