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Laws for Canoes, Kayaks and Paddleboards on Arkansas Waterways

Life Jackets
USCG approved wearable PFD (life jacket) graphic All vessels must have at least one United State Coast Guard-approved wearable PFD (life jacket) for each person on board. All life vests must be in good condition and of proper size

Children 12 and under must wear a life jacket, which must be securely fastened while on board any vessel.

Glass Containers Are Prohibited
Except for containers for substances prescribed by a licensed physician, no person shall possess or use glass containers on Arkansas waters within a vessel easily susceptible to swamping, tipping or rolling. For purposes of this act, “vessel” shall not include a houseboat, party barge, jon boat, runabout, ski boat, bass boat or similar craft.

Glass container images However, people engaged in removing glass previously discarded by others and found within the banks of an Arkansas navigable waterway may not be charged with a violation for possessing that glass if it is being transported in a secure trash container.

Fasten Cooler Lids
All coolers, iceboxes or containers for foodstuffs and beverages must be sealed or locked to prevent their contents from spilling into the water while on board a canoe, kayak, inner tube or other vessel easily susceptible to swamping, tipping or rolling while on Arkansas waters.

Attach and Use a Litter Container
Canoes, kayaks, inner tubes and other vessels easily susceptible to swamping, tipping or rolling that are transporting foodstuffs or beverages on Arkansas waters must have a litter container that is capable of being securely closed. All litter must be contained in this container until the litter may be safely and lawfully disposed.

Use a Floating Holder for Beverages
When onboard a canoe, kayak, inner tube or other vessel easily susceptible to swamping, tipping or rolling, any beverage not contained in a sealed or locked container or litter bag must be attached to or held within a floating holder that prevents them from sinking beneath the water’s surface.

Paddling Ethics

Respect Private Property
Please respect private property along navigable streams and avoid stopping on private property unless it is an emergency. Private property may be marked by fences, signs or purple paint. Keep noise levels low and plan your stops on public land.

Share the Water
When approaching anglers or other paddlers, give them a wide berth and proceed quietly, so you don’t interfere with their recreation.

Paddling Safety

Rivers are ever-changing systems with inherent dangers. Here are some tips to help you safely enjoy your time on the water:

  • Never paddle alone.
  • Always file a float plan – tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return.
  • Check weather forecasts.
  • Carry a map of the stream so you can find your location at any time.
  • Carry a hand-held Global Positioning System unit; it will help you pinpoint your position and how to get back to a launch site.
  • Wear protective footgear and carry drinking water, sunscreen and insect repellent.
  • Plan your trip so that your paddling skills are equal to the water conditions.

Arkansas Water Trails logo Arkansas Water Trails

The AGFC constantly offers new ways for people to enjoy the outdoors. Arkansas Water Trails is a watchable wildlife program setting up a network of float trips that are well mapped and offer a variety of information. Learn more at Arkansas Water Trails.

For more information about paddle sports safety in Arkansas, please visit: