Do I Need To Register My Kayak In PA?

do kayaks need to be registered in pa

Pennsylvania is one of the hotspots for avid kayakers. I have been in this place three times already, and their kayaking destinations have never failed for me. The Youghiogheny River in Ohiopyle and the Three Rivers Water Trail in Pittsburgh have been my favorites so far.


I posted most of my kayaking adventures in Pennsylvania in my private Instagram account. In one of my posts, a colleague of mine made this comment on the photo: "do I need to register my kayak on PA?" Well, such a question did catch my attention right away. Of course, as a kayaker, I need to help my friends to get a similar thrill and fun as I did.

Right now, the answer to this question is quite tentative. Some factors or settings might require you to register your boat. However, it is essential that you will fully know the legal policies of Pennsylvania when it comes to kayaks and canoes. In this way, you will avoid getting penalized.

Take into account that the processing of registering a boat is pretty similar to titling a land vehicle. There are certain permits and qualifications that you need for me to ensure that you can pass the test.

Sometimes, the process can be fully rigorous, as people are not that aware when it comes to requirements for boat titling and registration. If you are interested in taking your boat to PA, you have to make sure that you have full knowledge of the boating prerequisites.


In the registration process, the following boats must be accredited by the PA Fish and Boat Commission:

  • Vessels that are operated by electric motor, diesel, or gasoline.
  • Marine vessels that are listed by the U.S Coast Guard as boats for recreational uses. These are water vehicles like yachts.
  • Sailboats that are utilizing diesel, electric motors, and gasoline.

The term boat is defined by the Fish and Boat Commission of Pennsylvania as a type of watercraft which function is to help people traverse or cruise through waters. Therefore, any variety of boat--including kayaks--should be included in this description. Even canoes and other manually operated contrivances are part of the scope as well.

There's a Registration/ Titling page that the state of Pennsylvania has provided to ensure that you are aware of the full requirements of the registration process.

Do I Need to Register My Kayak in PA?

It is pretty important that we talk about unpowered boats here. After all, our beloved kayaks belong to this category. These boats are considered as a special case. Hence, it is crucial that you understand every policy that revolves around them.

The state of Pennsylvania describes unpowered boats as vessels that don't have an external source of power for its operation. Basically, they are the boats that don't use motors at all. Kayaks, inflatable boats, sailboats, and canoes do belong in such a category.

Interestingly, the basic premise is that these boats are not required to be registered. That's good news, right? But wait, that's not the end of the story yet. Such rule will be superseded if you are going to use the boat on lakes, rivers, or any water bodies that are under the jurisdiction of the PA Fish and Boat Commission. Specifically, these areas are the state forests and state parks that are within Pennsylvania. If you are going to kayak on some private areas, you need to seek the permission of the owner first if boat license is part of the process.

Another option for these unpowered boats is for them to operate through the Boat Launch Permit. It is a permit that you can still acquire from the PA Fish and Boat Commission. Meanwhile, the Mooring Permit can also be used by kayakers for them to be able to paddle on state parks. You can acquire them from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of State Parks of Pennsylvania.

In short, you can always kayak in Pennsylvania if your kayaking area is not under the jurisdiction of the Fish and Boat Commission and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of State Parks. But the thing is, most of the enjoyable scenery out there is present in these locations. You will lose nothing if you register your boat while you are in PA. In fact, it is the most recommended thing to do, especially if you do not want to commit infractions at all.

Here's a breakdown of the things that you need to present if you wish to kayak anywhere in Pennsylvania:

  • Full registration of the kayak
  • Official and authentic Commission Use Permit
  • Mooring Permit (from the DCNR)

Boat Titling In Pennsylvania

Boat Titling In Pennsylvania

Another thing that you ought to know is titling procedures. You see, if you just transfer in Pennsylvania and you are planning to acquire a new boat, titling might be a necessary process of acquisition.

Right now, any boats in Pennsylvania that have been sold, purchases, or transferred have to be titled if the following predicaments apply.

  • The boat is operated via an inboard motor. This should include personal watercraft or any engines that have been released from 1997 or later.
  • The boat is operated via an outdoor motor. The latter has to be 14 feet long in minimum. It should be a 1997 model or newer.
  • The current title of the boat is legally registered in Pennsylvania.
  • The existing title is from another state of the United States but operationally used in Pennsylvania.

Take note that if the boat has an existing title, all of its future owners have to acquire the title and convert it to their ownership. Otherwise, you will never be able to boat in any state parks of Pennsylvania.

Difference Between Registration and Titling

There are distinct differences between boat titling and registration in the state of PA. Any kayaker should take note of this.

Boat registrations have the same standing as car registrations. There will be a card that will be issued to you once you have successfully registered your boat. It has a validity of only two years in Pennsylvania. It has been stated that these registration cards will automatically expire on March 31st of the second year of their validity. It is also an important thing to know that once your boat has been registered, you are already free to boat on other states of the U.S. and Canada. However, always remember that these registrations are not proof of ownership.

The one that secures you guaranteed ownership is the title. It is the very thing that you need if you are asked to validate if you own the boat or not. Most of the time, these titles are necessary for sellers whenever they are dealing with their boat. Keep in mind that these titles should only be purchased once and must be issued by the Fish and Boat Commission.


Do I need to register my kayak in PA? The answer to this question is both yes and no. You will need to register it if you are going to kayak on the state parks and state forests of Pennsylvania. If you are not going to row your boat on these states, you are just free to let it run without any registrations. However, if I were you, I would have my kayak registered to avoid any legal sanctions.

That's it for now. If you have questions or suggestions, feel free to drop them in the comment section below.

4.7/5 - (7 votes)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here