Does a canoe need to be registered in Maryland ?

If you’re in Maryland and looking to canoe in the state’s waters, there are two things you cannot afford to get wrong. First, you must be on the right side of the law, meaning that you’re compliant with Marylands state regulations on canoeing. Then, you must stay safe throughout your canoeing expedition.

That being so, one of the most typical worries about people planning to canoe in Maryland is whether they need to register their vessel. If that’s your worry too, calm your nerves as we’ll expound on the vital canoeing laws you must uphold.

In Maryland, non-motorized vessels like canoes and kayaks are exempt from registration. But, all individuals onboard a canoe in Maryland waters must have readily accessible life jackets. Besides, the state requires all canoes to have a sound-making device onboard, such as a whistle.


We’ll elucidate these regulations in depth in the subsequent sections. Check them out!

Maryland Canoe License and Operator Requirements

As earlier highlighted, if you own a human-powered canoe or kayak, you don’t need to register it for operation in Maryland waters. Also, Maryland state doesn’t require you to obtain a title for a non-motorized canoe or kayak. However, if the water vessel is motorized, you must register it and obtain a title.


Also, a non-motored canoe or kayak operator doesn’t require specialized training or certification to operate such a vessel in Maryland waters.

Who requires Maryland boating education certification ?

If you were born on 1st July 1972 or after this date, you must obtain a Certificate of Boating Safety Education for permission to operate a documented vessel in Maryland. This requirement also holds to individuals operating motored personal watercraft (PWC).


But again, as earlier stated, if your kayak is non-motored, you’re free to operate it license and certification free.

Maryland Canoe Boating Under Influence (BUI) Requirements

You’re prohibited from operating a canoe (whether motor powered or human-powered) in all Maryland waters while under the influence of alcohol or any other drug.

The state-allowed intoxication level is below 0.08%. Hence, anyone found drunk by more than this threshold is subject to prosecution under the Maryland BUI (boating under the influence) laws.

Lastly, as earlier stated, taking other drugs such as prescription drugs, marijuana, and any narcotics that can impair judgment is prohibited if you’re operating any water vessel in Maryland.

Maryland BUI penalties

Maryland state penalties for BUI are similar to those of motor vehicle operation under the influence (OUI) laws.

A first offender found guilty of BUI in the state is subject to a $1,000 accompanied by imprisonment of a one-year term. A repeat second-time offender meanwhile can receive a $2,000 fine and a 2-year imprisonment jail term. A third-time BUI iffense attracts a fine of $3000 and an imprisonment of 3 years.

Which body oversees Maryland’s Canoe requirements ?

You’ll be subject to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources laws when canoeing in Maryland. This is the body entrusted by the Maryland state with overseeing boat laws. Also, State Police officers and game and fish wardens have the mandate of enabling enforcement of the laws.

Maryland Canoeing Emergency Equipment Requirements

Maryland State requires all water vessels (canoes included) to have accessible safety kits such as wearable personal flotation devices. The other mandatory emergence equipment components include the following:

Life Jackets

You must wear a life jacket (or have one accessible)  approved by the U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets whenever you’re in a water vessel in Maryland waters. This requirement is also mandatory in all other states.

White navigation light

Maryland state also mandates all water vessels to have a white navigation light for deployment during periods of low visibility. This includes when there are fog, mist, and storms, during the night, and during the early hours of dusk/dawn.

Besides, the navigation indicator must be deployed at a point where it’s clearly visible from all angles to limit the chances of vessel collision. Lastly, during the night a bow red/green light when using a motorized canoe or kayak.

Visual Distress Signal

Having a visual distress signal (VDS) on your canoe or kayak is not compulsory unless it is in Federally-controlled waters. But, if you intend to operate it in such waters, ensure you take at least three VDS with you.

All in all, if your canoe is human-powered, you’re exempted from carrying a VDS. Also, the VDS requirement is only valid when you intend to operate your vessel during nighttime.

However, during the day, almost all vessels have visual distress signals on board apart from the following types:

  • Recreational Vessels measuring< 16 feet in length.
  • Non-motorized open sailboats measuring < 26 feet
  • Canoes, kayaks, and other Manually-propelled vessels.

Sound Devices

All canoes and Kayaks operating in Maryland state waters must have sound devices such as a whistle to give a signal in case it’s necessary. The rationale behind this requirement is that human sound is not loud enough to be audible from far distances.

The ideal sound devices for use in Maryland waters must produce a sound for at least 4-6 seconds. It should also be audible from a distance of at least ½ a mile.

Fire Extinguishers

You don’t need one, especially when having a human-powered canoe, as the chances of it catching fire are zero. However, for clearance of doubt, consider carrying a class B-I fire extinguisher, especially if you’re on a motorized canoe.

Emergency Locator Beacons

It’s not mandatory to have emergency locator beacons while on Maryland waters. Still, as an added precaution, carrying one is imperative.

Do You Need a Life Vest to Canoe or Kayak in Maryland ?

It is mandatory for all canoes on Maryland waters to have Type I, II, or III personal flotation devices for every person aboard the vessel. Also, it is compulsory that the US Coast Guard authorities approve the devices.

However, it’s not compulsory for people onboard to always wear a life jacket unless under special conditions, as indicated below.

In addition, as a general rule, any kid below age 13 must wear a personal flotation device (PFD) at all times while canoeing in Maryland waters on a vessel less than 21 feet in length. This requirement applies unless the canoe is moored or anchored.

It’s also vital that the PFD is in top-notch condition for optimal performance. Thus, avoid carrying worn-out PFD as this might compromise your safety. Besides, ensure the PFD is readily accessible when required. Finally, the PFD must appropriately fit the intended user.

Children Under 4 Maryland PFD Requirement

All kids aged four years and below must wear special PFD at all times while aboard a canoe on Maryland waters (whether motorized or not).

The PFD must have supplementary infant safety measures such as a strap for securing the child from the front to back. Also, the kit must feature a headrest to ensure the child’s head remains above the water’s surface in case of a boat capsize incident.

The two features make it easy to pull the child from the boat or water.

Maryland Type IV Throwable PFD

All motorized canoes measuring 16 feet or longer must have a Type IV throwable PFD when on Maryland waters.

Do you need a license to canoe in Maryland ?

As a general rule, you don’t need a license to operate a canoe with no attached primary or auxiliary mechanical propulsion in Maryland waters. Also, you don’t need to have special education to operate such a vessel.

But, to operate a motorized canoe or kayak, you must have a license if you were born on or after 1st July 1972. Also, the certificate/license must be approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA).

Are there Suitable Canoeing Lakes in Maryland ?

Maryland State is the only one in the US without natural lakes. Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy canoeing activities as there are numerous rivers and more than 100 artificial lakes.

Also, there’s an exemplary water trail system in Maryland that you can consider engaging in.


Like all the US states, Maryland has quite a number of boating regulations involving registration, licensing, and safety requirements. As a general rule, you don’t need to register while canoeing or kayaking on a human-powered vessel.

In addition, you don’t necessarily need to put on a life jacket while canoeing in Maryland. But, it’s mandatory to carry enough U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets for all the crew members. Lastly, you must have a sound device and a navigation light, especially when canoeing at night.

We hope that we’ve answered all your queries regarding canoeing in Maryland to the best of our knowledge. But don’t hesitate to reach out in case you have additional questions. Also, you’ve been a great pal by reading to the end. Thanks for your time and check out our rich boating repository for more.

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