Do You Need A License For A Kayak In Illinois?

It’s a common query we get from most of our readers. Do I need a license for a kayak in Illinois? Well, yes, you do. Having the license is necessary for your safety and the legal kayaking in Illinois.

The laws consider kayaks, paddleboards, and canoes to be powerless vessels and free from Illinois boating rules and regulations.

Well, it can be confusing, but you have detailed information ahead. Therefore, stick to this guide and get the clear concept of the kayak Illinois license.

Summary Of Illinois Kayak Laws

Do You Need A License For A Kayak In Illinois

Kayak In Illinois Definition

The laws consider kayaks, paddleboards, and canoes to be powerless vessels and free from Illinois boating rules and regulations.

Kayak In Illinois Registration

Powerless vessels like kayaks, paddleboards, canoes, and SUPs are powerless vessels and free from boating registration.

Motorized Kayak In Illinois Registration

It’s a must to have the Illinois certificate of expiration decals, numbers, and legal certificate to legalize your operation of powered kayaks.

Kayak In Illinois Operator Licensing

The law doesn’t include any age requirements for operating powerless canoes or kayaks.

Motorized Kayaking Age

People who are under the age of 10 should not have the chance of operating motorized vessels. Age between 10-132 years is allowed to operate the motorized vessel, but they should be under their parents’ supervision.

But if you are 18 years old, you can get a valid certificate of boating safety for operating your motorized vessel. An over ten horsepower motor should power the vessel.


Illinois laws do not allow the operating of any kind of watercraft while being influenced by alcohol or drugs. The “watercraft” term we used includes all the non-motorized or motorized vessels. (Kayaks, SUPs, Canoes, etc.)

Life Jacket Law

According to this law, each person must have one jacket put on. Wearing your children their life jackets on all boats under age 13 is a requirement of Illinois laws.

Lights Law

A kayak that is no longer than 23 feet and underway during the night or when the visibility is reduced must have a white light with 360 degrees visible light that a person can see from 2 miles.

Sounding Devices

This requirement is for kayaks that are at least 26 feet long or longer than this. However, the sounding device should be a whistle.


All the kayaks, whether motorized or non-motorized, are required to have signaling devices. Because at night this becomes the big help to rescue you when you fall into trouble.

Although manually propelled, kayaks are free from carrying signaling devices for a day. On waters controlled by the federals, all the kayaks have to fulfill one requirement carrying a night VDS device approved by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Registration For Kayak In Illinois

Are you looking for ways you can register your kayak in Illinois? It’s not a requirement to register all the kayaks in Illinois unless operated through powered motors.

But if your kayak includes trolling motors, then you have no other choice left but to register for that motorized kayak of yours. It should be titled in the Illinois state; only then can you legally use your motorized vessel in Illinois.

Do You Need A License For A Kayak In Illinois ? Way To Register

To register your kayak, boat, or canoes (motorized), first get a watercraft registration application to fill it out. For completing the registration process, you must have to ready your hull identification number.

Vessels less than 16 feet also require the authentic manufacturer’s statement of origin. You must have to pay the Illinois Department of Natural Resources relevant fees.

Additionally, if the boat is between 16 to 21 feet, you need to submit the tax form as proof of paying off the state’s taxes on your watercraft. Boats over 21 feet long are also requested to submit the tax form.

Soon you will get the registration certificate which you should always keep with you on your boat. You will also receive the number for your boat and a decal that should be attached to your boat’s front part ports and starboard sides.

Registration Cost

Before you decide to go for registration, you must know how the registration will cost. The registration cost varies depending on the length of your kayak, boat, canoes. Check them; they are mentioned below.

  • Any vessel that does not cross 16 feet in length will cost $18 as the registration fee. The amount will be the same no matter a renewal registration or new.
  • Vessels that are longer than 16 feet but less than 21 feet cost $50 as the registration fees. A renewal registration costs the same.
  • Boats over 21 feet but do not cross 26 feet will cost $60 for the registration. But the renewal registration will cost $50.

Illinois BUI Penalties

If there is a law, there should be punishments for breaking any of the rules. BUI also has penalties you must know of to keep yourself safe from breaking the rules by mistake.

The penalties Include;

First Offense:  1 year in jail and/or $2500 fine.

Repeat Offense:  complete the course of safe boating, not make any mistakes while boating, or else repeating the same mistake will cost you a $25,000 fine and three years in jail.

Causes Injuries:  your privileges regarding boat operating will all be suspended, and you will be charged with 4 class felony.

Causing Death:  A 2 class felony can be charged.


We hope you can get ready and register for a license for a kayak in Illinois if your one is motorized. If it is not operated with trolling motors, then there is no need for you to register for a license.

Please don’t get confused with it again. Get a license for your motorized kayak at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

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