Colorado Jet Ski Laws: A Simple Cheat Sheet With All You Need To Know

Jet skiing in the summertime is a recipe for a great time. In order to ensure you don’t come across any trouble, you have to be sure that you know the regulations for jet skiing in the state of Colorado. Rules and regulations can vary from state to state and it is a need-to-know in order to be able to enjoy your time on the water.

If you are under 14 years of age you cannot operate a PWC on Colorado’s public waters. If you are 14 to 15 years of age you can operate a PWC as long as you have passed an approved boating safety course and received a Colorado Boating Safety Certificate.

Registering your PWC

Colorado Registration Fees

Less than 20 ft. in length$35.25
20 ft. to less than 30 ft.$45.25
30 ft. or greater$75.25
Aquatic Nuisance Species stamp: Motorboats & Sailboats from Colorado$25.00
Aquatic Nuisance Species stamp: Motorboats & Sailboats from another state$50.00

This information is provided by the Colorado Parks & Wildlife website.

Numbers and Stickers

Once you receive your registration number and the validation stickers you must display these items in the following ways:

  • There cannot be any other numbers shown on the bow of your vessel
  • The letters have to be separated from the numbers with space or hyphen
  • Each number has to be painted, applied onto your vessel as a decal, or place to be shown on both sides of the bow
  • The numbers must be read from left to right on both sides
  • Each number must be in block letters and three inches high
  • The color of your numbers must also be in contrast to the color of your vessel

Hull Identification Number

A Hull Identification Number (HIN) is a 12-digit number that is assigned by the manufacturer to vessels built after the year 1972. HIN helps be able to determine the differences between multiple vessels.

In case your vessel is stolen you should write down your HIN number and put it somewhere safe.

The Basics

PWC Rules and Regulations

  • Each person on the PWC has to wear a PFD type 1, 2, or 3 and it must also be approved by the U.S. Coast Guard
  • The safety ignition switch must be fully functional and have a lanyard attached to it to ensure it does not get lost or misplaced
  • You must have a whistle or horn on board your PWC that is also U.S. Coast Guard approved
  • You cannot remove any backfire flame arrestor or ventilator if it is installed by your manufacturer
  • It is illegal to operate a personal watercraft vehicle between the hours of sunset and sunrise especially when your vision is a bit restricted
  • You cannot operate a PWC within 500 feet of a designated swimming area
  • Reckless operation of your PWC is not allowed. Example of this are:
    • If you maneuver your PWC in a way that causes harm to others or your passengers
    • last minute avoidance of collision
    • weaving through traffic carelessly
    • jumping a wake too close to other vessels
    • carrying more passengers on your PWC than is recommended

Reckless Operation of a Vessel

Failure to Regulate Your Speed

When you operate your vessel at a faster speed than recommended you are putting those around you and yourself in danger. Especially during vessel traffic, poor weather conditions, and closeness to shore you will need to follow the speed regulation.

Examples of this are:

  • operating your vessel at extreme speed in the close vicinity of another vessel, PWCs, or dangerous waters
  • operating at a greater speed than “slow, no wake speed” that is posted in a “no wake” zone
  • going faster than the speed limit posted near the body of water you are operating on
  • going at a speed that can be harmful to your vessel
Improper Distance Between Others
  • If you are operating your vessel faster than 5 mph while operating within 100 ft of the shore, dock, pier, raft, float, or an anchored or moored vessel you are operating your vessel improperly and putting others around you at risk.
Unsafe Conditions
  • Not having enough PFDs, fire extinguishers, backfire flame arrestors, ventilation systems or navigational lights are putting yourself and others at risk.
  • You also put yourself and others in danger when you overload or overpower your boat, or when you are operating the vehicle while intoxicated.
Reckless Operation Specifics
  • This is when you weave through traffic, swerve last minute to avoid a head-on collision with other vessels or even overload your vessel beyond the recommended capacity.
Riding on the Bow, Deck, or Gunwale of a Vessel
  • Riding on anything that is not equipped with fixed seating can lead to the potential of falling overboard into the water. Do not allow any of your passengers or even yourself to sit on the seat backs, transom, gunwale or on seats on raised decks or a bow.

Alcohol and Drugs

In the state of Colorado, you are considered to be boating under the influence if your blood alcohol concentration is greater than 0.08%. If you are convicted of BUI you can receive a fine of $100 to $1000 with at least 5 days of jail time.

You can also lose the privilege to boat for about three months.

If you are the owner of a PWC or vessel you must be aware that it is illegal to let anyone under the influence of drugs or alcohol operate your vessel.

Required Equipment

Personal Flotation Devices

Type 1Offshore Life Jackets This vest can turn an unconscious person in the water to face up in the water. It was made for rough waters and for situations where rescue might take a long time.
Type 2Near-Shore VestsThis vest is fit for calmer waters and faster rescues. If you were to wear this while unconscious it may not be able to turn your face up in the water.
Type 3Flotation AidsThis vest can also be a full-sleeved jacket and it is great for calm waters and fast rescues. This will definitely not turn your face up in rough waters. This is generally worn for water sports.
Type 4Throw able DevicesThis type of flotation device is a cushion or ring buoys and are typically used to throw at someone in trouble. They are not made to last for long hours in the waters, or non-swimmers, or the unconscious.
Type 5Special-Use DevicesThis type of flotation device was made for activities like kayaking, water-skiing These typically look like white water vests, deck suits, and personal flotation device hybrids.

Requirements for PFDs

  • A type 4 PFD that is approved by the U.S. Coast Guard must be on board a vessel that is 16 feet or longer and it must also be easily accessible for emergency use
  • Vessels have to have one of the five personal flotation devices and they also must be wearable and a proper size so that anyone can wear it
  • Any person that is on board a PWC must wear a PFD that is approved by the U.S. Coast Guard
  • All PFDs have to be in a serviceable condition and easily accessible

Fire Extinguishers

You can classify your fire extinguishers by letter and number symbol. The number helps you decipher the size of the extinguishers, and the letter indicates the type of fire that is extinguished as well.

TYPE A FIRESThese types of fires are combustible solids such as wood
TYPE B FIRESThese types of fires are flammable liquids like gasoline or oil
TYPE C FIRESThis type of fire is mainly electrical fires

All vessels are legally required to have a Type B fire extinguishers on board your vessel in case of any extreme of dangerous situations occurring.

Your fire extinguisher should be placed somewhere easily accessible in the case of a situation where it needs to be used immediately.

What To Do In a Boating Accident

In the event of a boating or PWC accident you must do the following:

  1. Stop the vessel immediately and safely
  2. Assist the person who was injured and assess the injuries they have gotten
  3. Give in writing the name of the person, their address, and the vessel identification number to the owner of the property that was damaged
  4. To report an accident you can contact the sheriff’s or harbormaster’s office or any other police department


According to the law of the state of Colorado, any law enforcement officer is allowed to enforce the laws.

They have the power to stop your vessel if they feel that they have enough evidence to do so. In order to avoid any potential fines follow the guidelines below:

Carry the Card

  • Anyone operating a PWC and has completed the boater education course must carry the card they received while they are on the PWC at all times. This is to ensure they have it available in the case they are stopped for inspection by an officer.


  • If you do not carry your boater education card with you while riding a PWC and you are stopped by an office you are likely to receive a fine.

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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