Laws that govern kayaking in Arizona

Laws governing kayaking in the State of Arizona are generally governed by Title 5, Chapter 3 of the Arizona Revised Statues; Title 46, Chapter 131 of the United States Code; or Title 33 of the Code of Federal Regulations. 

I’ve outlined the most common questions applicable to kayaking on the Lower Salt River below, though a number of other rules apply in other bodies of water and in other states. Please note that this is provided solely for your convenience—I am not an attorney, this is not legal advice, laws change frequently, and it’s your own responsibility to know the laws and regulations that govern kayaking.

Non-motorized watercraft

Since kayaks, canoes, and SUPs do not have a motor, they are considered recreational, self-propelled watercraft, which means they are exempt from many of the motorized watercraft regulations. 

Kayak registration

Non-motorized watercraft are exempt from boating registration in Arizona.

Minimum age requirement

There is no minimum age requirement for kayaking in Arizona, as long as the boat does not have a motor.

Mandatory boating safety or education course

Arizona does not require a boating safety or education course to operate a kayak. However, if you’re interested in taking one, a safety course, there is a paddle sports safety course available for free online.

Personal Floatation Devices (PFD) requirements

Every watercraft (including kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards) must have a US Coast Guard-approved wearable floatation device on board for each person on the boat, and it must be readily accessible for immediate use. A child 12 years of age or younger must wear a PFD at all times on the water. Self-propelled watercraft are not required to have a throwable floatation device on board.

Whistle or other sound-producing device requirements

Every kayak must have a whistle or other efficient sound-producing device (other than a human-voice) on board.

Lighting requirements

At minimum, every kayak must have a white light ready at hand that can be used in sufficient time to prevent collision.

Operating a Boat Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs (BUI)

Federal law makes it a crime to operate any watercraft—including kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards—under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In Arizona, that means that you’re presumed to be intoxicated at 0.08% BAC, and possibly intoxicated at 0.05% BAC. Penalties are stiff and it is not worth the risk.

Reckless paddling

It is a class 2 misdemeanor in Arizona to operate a watercraft in a “careless, reckless or negligent manner.”