Do You Have to Register a Canoe?

Growing up in Florida next to every body of water you can think of (ocean, lake, river, ponds) I had an ample amount of times to canoe. We never had to worry about any canoe or kayak regulation, however, some states do have to worry about registering their canoe with the state.

For the majority of states, you do not have to register a canoe. The states you do have to register your canoe in are Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

These certain states require the citizens to register for a canoe based off of different things. A lot more states used to have registration for canoes, but more and more state governments have taken the law away because it is not pertinent that nonmotorized vessels, like canoes and kayaks, be registered.

The Regulations for Registering

Iowa$10 – $12– No registration for canoes shorter than
13 feet
-Valid for 3 years
Illinois$13– No registration for canoes owned by
an organization or used in sanctioned
racing events
– Valid for 3 years
Minnesota~$16– Base price is $10 but there are some
additional fees
-Watercraft shorter than 10 ft needs no
Ohio$9 – $36– Can choose to register for 3 years for
$22 or $36 (depending on length)
or register annually
Pennsylvania$12 – $22– One year for $12 or 2 years for $22
– Registration is only needed if canoe
is being used in a state park or is
Wisconsin$22 – $37– All water vessels must be registered
– 16 ft or less canoes are $22

The registration for your boat is like your car license plate, it is a number registered with the state government to prove that your boat has been legally registered.

It also allows the government and port authorities to identify your vessel while it is in use. Each state has different requirements and costs to register their non-motorized boat or vessel.


If the canoe or kayak is longer than 13 feet than you have to pay for registration. 13-15 feet canoes or kayaks are $10 to register and 16 to 18 feet are $12.

Some states require that the number is renewed each year but Iowa allows the registration to be good for up to three years.


It is required to register canoes in this state as well unless the canoe or kayak is owned by an organization, which also includes non-profit organizations. You also don’t have to register your canoe if it is used only for racing in sanctioned events.

If it does not meet that criteria then you will have to register it. It is $13 to do so and is also good for up to 3 years.


In Minnesota, it is suggested that you rent canoes from the state so then you do not have to go through the hassle of registering it. Or they even suggest borrowing one from a friend that is already registered.

They make these suggestions because it is a little more expensive to get a registration in Minnesota. That is because they add an extra $5 for Aquatic Invasive Species fee as well as a renewal fee on top of the base fee which is $10.50.

So if you would like to register a canoe in Minnesota then you would go down to a registrar office or go through the process online and spend around $16 to get your canoe legalized.


All boats are required to be registered including any and all recreational vessels. They all have a decal that is good for three years and each decal comes with a $3 writing fee.

If the canoe is less than 16 feet for three years it will be $22 to register it. If you only want it for two years then it will cost $15 and they also have a registration option for one year and it is only $9

Then if the boat is in between 16 and 16 feet, it is $36 for three years, $25 for two years and $14 for one.

If you choose to renew it before the time is done then you only would have to pay $5. However, if the time is up, then it will be the full price to renew, so it would be wise to keep an eye on when your decal expires so you can renew it.


There are a few different factors that may make you register your canoe in this state.

If you wish to canoe or kayak in any of the state parks here in Pennsylvania than you must register your vessel. To do so, you have to send in your application and then they will send back your decal.

If you do not wish to canoe in state parks than you do not have to register.

However, there is also an option to purchase a launching permit which is either one to two years, depending on the one you purchase. It allows for you to canoe on any water in Pennsylvania.

If the kayak or canoe has a motor than it does have to be registered no matter what. The registration has to be visible somewhere on the canoe according to Pennsylvania state laws.

Depending on if your canoe or kayak has a motor and depending on where exactly you want to go on the water, you might not have to register the vessel in this state.


All vessels have to be registered, especially the ones over 16 feet in this state. However, not all have to have a title. A title is like a car title or the registration, it just shows the proof of ownership.

Canoes under 16 feet are $22 plus there is $3.75 transfer fee. Then, over 16 feet is $37 plus $8.85 transfer fee. These decals are good for three years.

Once you have received your registration decal, there is a specific way you have to put it on. Numbers must be placed on each side of the forward half of the vessel and must be read from left to right.

The numbers must be at least 3” high BLOCK letter and should contrast with the color of the vessel and be clearly visible and legible. Two-toned and camouflage numbers are not legal and should not be used. Then the letters must be separated from the numbers by a space at least 2” wide.

Decals must be affixed 3” behind (towards the stern) and in line with the number.

Why Do You Have to Register in Certain States?

It might seem like a pain to have to register your canoes or kayaks because when you think of those things you think recreational vessels that should be easy to use.

It is also may seem irritating that it is only in certain states, because the majority of the states does not make the citizens register it if they have one.

However, registering in these certain states provides help for the government and port authorities on certain aspects.

Having a registration is like having a license plate. It helps the police know that the car you are driving is legal and registered with the state. The same thing goes for port authorities or the people out on the water.

If the patrols on the water in these certain states come up and see that you do not have a decal on your vessel, then they will question the integrity of the canoe.

Having this registration gives proof of ownership and peace of mind to this water patrols.

It also allows for good documentation. If the canoe is docked somewhere with other ships and boats around it, then the port authorities can quickly come by and see that it is a canoe that belongs to someone and is not just abandoned or not registered.

Having a registration is also a major requirement if one is going canoeing in state parks.

State parks are already very watched over and protected. They want to keep it nice for people and make sure that it will not be destroyed in any way shape or form by others.

Having this registration allows people to be held accountable for canoeing or doing any activity in the park.

It is just a good precaution to have by the state so they are aware of who comes in.

Along with that, it is also the law.

A lot more states did use to have the law to register non-motorized boats, but most have taken them away now because they do not think they need it anymore. The states that still have this law still feel it is necessary to have.

How to Register

Each state is different on how to register. Most are able to do them online like Minnesota and Wisconsin.

For all of the states, you can go into a registrar office and sign up for one right there. Specific ones, like Pennsylvania for going into state parks, must be mailed in. If you need a temporary one for the time being though, you can go into the commission’s office and get one.

In Ohio, you either have to go in person to a boat registration agent or you can mail in an application, you cannot register online.

So, for all six states, you can go into any registration office and sign up for one, not all six states all it to be done online, and most allow an application to be sent in for registration.

Once you receive your decal or instructions back, follow exactly what your specific state would like you to do on how to put the decal on and where to put your registration form.

So, if you are in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin, and want to enjoy canoeing in your free time, make sure your non-motorized vessel is registered and ready to go so you cannot get in trouble with the law!

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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