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Missouri Kayak Laws And Regulations

Mark Armstrong
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With famous rivers and natural beauty, the Show-Me State can be ideal for on-the-water adventures. But before you head out it can be useful to learn about some of the rules.

We have put together a quick guide with some information on Missouri kayak laws so you can have a great time while staying safe.

Missouri Kayak & Boat Registration Laws

Without A Motor

It is not necessary for you to register a non-motorized vessel in Missouri. This includes all kayaks and canoes that do not have a motor attached. It also includes sailboats up to 12 feet long.


All motorized vessels in Missouri need to be titled and registered. This law also applies to sailboats that are longer than 12 feet, as well as kayaks with trolling motors attached.

Cost Of Registration

The cost of registering your boat in Missouri will depend on its length. For vessels under 16 feet in length the cost is $25. For vessels measuring from 16 feet to 26 feet the cost is $55. There is also a $6 processing fee for each registration.

For a new title you will pay $7 plus a $2.50 title processing fee.

How To Register

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Motorized vessels in Missouri need to be titled and registered with the Missouri Department of Revenue. You will need to complete an application form and submit it along with the Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin, your personal property tax receipt and the relevant fees.

You can submit these documents at any Missouri License Office.

You will then receive the Certificate of Number and the validation decals. The registration number and decals need to be attached to your vessel. The numbers need to be at least 3 inches high and in a contrasting color to your boat so that they can be clearly read.

The numbers must be fixed to both sides of your bow, with the validation decal being fixed underneath the numbers on both sides of your vessel.

You will also receive a pocket sized Certificate of Number. This must be available on board your vessel at all times so that it can be inspected when required.

Missouri PFD Boating Regulations (Life Jackets/Vests)

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All vessels under 16 feet in length in Missouri must carry a wearable US Coast Guard approved PFD (Personal Flotation Device) for each person on board the craft. It is also possible to have a throwable PFD on board for each person instead of a wearable one. However, to meet federal law, the PFDs must all be wearable.

For vessels over 16 feet in length are required to have a wearable life jacket on board for each person on the vessel. The life jackets must be of a suitable size and in serviceable condition in order to meet legal requirements. It’s also necessary for the PFDs to be quickly accessible in an emergency.

Video: Boat Safety On Missouri Lakes


All children under the age of 7 must wear a US Coast Guard approved PFD while on board any craft that is underway. This rule does not apply if the child is in a completely enclosed cabin.

What About Alcohol Laws (BUI – Boating Under The Influence)?

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Missouri has a Zero Tolerance policy when it comes to alcohol and boating. It is against the law to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or other substances.

Missouri state law determines that you are boating while intoxicated if your blood alcohol level is 0.08% or more. You can be found guilty of a Class B misdemeanor for a first conviction and you will have to pass an approved boater safety course. With further convictions, the severity of your punishment will increase.

It is also illegal to be in possession of or use beer bongs while on any Missouri rivers. However, this does not apply to the Mississippi, Missouri and the Osage Rivers, unless you are the operator of the vessel.

Other Kayak & Boating Laws in Missouri

Do I Need Lights On My Kayak?

When paddling between the hours of sunset and sunrise it is necessary for you to display a white light on your kayak. This can be a flashlight or similar but needs to be readily available and displayed to avoid collisions. This rule also applies to sailboats that are less than 23 feet.

For larger motorized boats up to 65.6 feet you will need to display red and green sidelights as well as a white stern light or masthead light. The sidelights need to be visible from at least one mile away and the stern light or masthead light needs to be visible from at least two miles away.

All vessels will need to display a white light if anchored or docked away from a designated docking zone.

What About Maritime Distress Signals?

Maritime or Visual Distress Signals (VDS) are not required on Missouri waters as these signals are generally only required for federally controlled coastal waters. However, it is necessary that you have on board a sound producing device, such as a whistle, bell or horn. A whistle is sufficient for kayaks. 

No Glass Containers

In Missouri you are not allowed to carry glass bottles or containers while in a canoe, kayak or other similar vessel. This rule applies to all of Missouri’s navigable lakes and rivers.

Minimum Age Requirements

The minimum age to operate a motorized vessel in Missouri is 14. Under this age, children will need to have direct adult supervision. However, anyone born in or after 1984 is required to have a Boater Education Card and photo ID with them at all times while operating a vessel.

Wrapping Up

With fantastic access to some of the country’s great waterways, Missouri can be a kayaker’s dream. But it can be important to stay safe and on the right side of the law while you explore.

Make sure your PFD is in good condition (and it’s recommended that you wear it while you’re on the water). Remember to also bring a flashlight and whistle along with you and avoid alcohol.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments and feel free to share this to help others.

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2 thoughts on “Missouri Kayak Laws And Regulations”

  1. This is one idiotic law. Registering and having to title a kayak simply because it has a trolling motor? In what way is this justified besides government overstepping its boundaries and greed? I paid taxes when I bought the kayak and I’ll pay taxes on a trolling motor if I buy one.
    If I don’t put a trolling motor on it, I never have to pay property taxes on it, but if I do put a trolling motor on it, I have to pay property taxes every year? That’s double taxation and this leans more towards theft in my opinion. Is there any other taxes, licensing or registrations I would need to get for using a boat ramp or state owned road to get my kayak to the water?

  2. Regarding this portion of your article “However, it is necessary that you have on board a sound producing device, such as a whistle, bell or horn. A whistle is sufficient for kayaks”…

    Please provide the actual state statute number of this requirement. People are wonder if this is a legal requirement or just a “good practice” I’m having difficulties finding this as an actual regulation for the state of Missouri rivers


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