Do You Have to Register a Canoe in Wisconsin ?

Wisconsin is among the largest states in America, with the best water bodies for canoeing and kayaking. Lake Michigan and other rivers attract paddlers from other states for recreational and commercial purposes. Do you have to register a canoe in Wisconsin?

As a general rule, a manually propelled canoe is exempted from Wisconsin registration laws. However, all motorized canoes must be registered and given a decal number which must be displayed on your canoe. The department of natural resources manages all registration processes and issues the registration certificate.

Main Canoe Registration Laws in Wisconsin

Below is a summary of laws for registering a canoe in Wisconsin you should know.

  • Non-motorized canoes are exempted from registration. However, all manually propelled canoes above 12 feet must be registered under the department of natural resources.
  • Canoes registered in other states must apply for the Wisconsin certificate after 70 consecutive days of being used in the state.
  • You are allowed to run with the temporary registration certificate for 60 days. And ensure you always have the temporary certificate on board.
  • Military and public canoes are exempted from the registration laws. But they must provide evidence that they are serving the United States of America.
  • All canoes that belong to the state or a division in the state are also exempted from registration. Such canoes must be able to provide the necessary evidence.
  • A canoe specialized as a ship’s lifeboat is exempted from the registration. The lifeboat canoe must be suspended on the side of the ship unless in time of emergency.
  • All canoes in Wisconsin for ten days to participate in recreational competitions are exempt from registration. However, the competitions must be registered under the Wisconsin municipality or any government department.
  • The canoe registration certificate is valid for 3 years. The certificate is valid from 1st April of the year you took it up to 31st March of the third year.
  • You can choose to do voluntary registration under the department of natural resources. Voluntary registration is highly encouraged because it helps to collect funds for the maintenance of canoeing activities.

Benefits of Registering a Canoe in Wisconsin

Registering the canoe in Wisconsin comes with several advantages. For example, the decal number helps to identify the canoe in case of an accident. It also helps to find a missing boat, especially when stolen. You will be happy to have your canoe back in your hands.

This is the only way to get the boaters’ education from the local authority. The officers in the department of natural resources teach about boating safety before realizing the certificate.

It is also a way to collect taxes and other funds that support the maintenance of the waterways and natural resources.

Documents Necessary to Register a Canoe in Wisconsin

  1. Your national identity card
  2. Provide a copy of the bill of sale
  3. Builders certificate for new canoes
  4. An affidavit stating that you will only use the canoe for personal purposes
  5. A copy of a notarized power of the attorney

The Canoe Registration Process in Wisconsin

You can easily register your canoe online in Wisconsin. However, there is a manual application process in the department of natural resources. Below is how to manually register your motorized canoe.

Step 1. Do adequate research and collect all necessary documents. You can download the application form from the natural resource website.

Step 2. Fill out the application form with appropriate details, including the date. Then attach all necessary documents like the title of ownership and bill of sale.

Step 3. Take the documents to the Department of Natural Resources. If the officer in charge agrees with them, he/she will rubber stamp and tell you to proceed with payment.

Step 4. Choose a suitable payment method, and you will receive a receipt. Allow the officer to confirm the payment, and you will receive a temporary registration certificate. Wait a few weeks to receive the original and permanent certificate in your mailbox.


Do you need an operating license for motorized canoes in Wisconsin ?

The law states that anyone born after 1st January 1989 must undergo the boaters education and be given an operating license. In addition, those operating boat engines above 10hp must undergo boating safety education.

Engine operators younger than 14 years must be in the company of an adult with the registration certificate.

What are the canoeing safety rules for Wisconsin ?

Here are some of the safety rules you should keep in mind when canoeing in Wisconsin:

–       Study the weather forecast and choose the appropriate day to take your canoe for a spin. A rough storm and heavy rainfall can be dangerous for canoes.

–       Inspect your canoe for any cracks before putting it in water.

–       Do not paddle your canoe under the influence of alcohol

–       Always canoe in open areas for easy identification in case of emergency.

–       Put on a life jacket and a reflector vest

–       Do not overload your canoe

What documents will you receive after submitting the registration and titling forms in Wisconsin ?

First, you will receive the certificate of registration or the registration card. This pocket-sized card makes it portable when you are out with your canoe.

Secondly, you will get two decal numbers. Each decal number has an expiration date that is color coded.

Lastly, you will receive the Wisconsin certificate of title, an important document showing the canoe ownership.

Is it a must to have colored lights on a canoe in Wisconsin ?

It depends if the canoe is motorized or not. All motorized canoes must have a colored light at the front. You must display the light once the sun goes down. Non-motorized canoes are exempted from this rule.

Wrapping Up

Is your canoe motorized? If not, then you are exempted from the registration laws of Wisconsin. However, non-motorized canoes above 12 feet must have a certificate of registration. All motorized canoes from outside Wisconsin can run for 60 days without showing the necessary documentation. The same applies to military canoes and government service canoes.

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