arkansas.jpg (7178 bytes) OLCheader.gif (15076 bytes)

Arkansas Boating Law


Boats propelled by sail or motor (including trolling motors) of any type must be registered when operated on public waters.

Arkansas boat owners may register a boat at the office of the County Revenue Agent in the county where the boat is principally used or in their home county. To register any boat you must have the following: 1) proof of ownership (current registration or bill of sale; 2) proof of personal property assessment and proof of current paid taxes.  Out-of-state boats with valid registrations may be operated for up to 90 days without registering in Arkansas. An identification number will be assigned to each registered boat.  Homemade boats must have a hull identification (serial) number for registrations.  A H.I.N. may be may be obtained through the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Boating Division at 501-223-6379.


The operator of any boat involved in an accident is required to immediately:

  1. Render assistance to other persons affected by the incident to save them or minimize danger so far as he can without serious danger to his own boat, crew and passengers;
  2. Give his name, address and identification of his boat in writing to any person injured and to the owner of any property damaged in the incident;
  3. Notify the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission or the local Sheriff's office of the accident so an officer can investigate the accident. To report a boating accident, call 1-800-482-9262.  Officers will then be dispatched to the scene of the accident.   Accidents involving death, injury or property damage of $500 or more must be reported.

Over half of boating fatalities are fishermen who fall out of small boats that capsize from movement within the boat, overloading or hitting a submerged object.

Refer to Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Lands, Lakes and Accesses for boating regulations specific to Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Lakes.

LIGHTS: Boats must be equipped with the prescribed lights during darkness.

  1. On state-controlled waters, lights on boats, including those on non-powered boats, must be sufficient to make the boat’s presence and location known to any other vessel within a reasonable distance.  An example is shown below.
Required Lights1
Required Lights2
  1. On federally-controlled waters, non-powered boats must have a readily accessible light source to be used in sufficient time to prevent a collision. Motorboats operating on federally-controlled waters must have a combination red and green light on the bow and a white light aft.  An example of a readily available light source is shown below.
agfc_biglight1.gif (3923 bytes)
agfc_biglight2.gif (3909 bytes)

FIRE EXTINGUISHERS are required of inboard boats, open boats with built-in fuel tanks and boats with bilges where flammable gases may accumulate.

CHILDREN under age 12 may not operate a boat powered by a motor over 10 horsepower except when under the direct supervision of a person over 17.

SPEEDING in excess of 5 m.p.h. within 100 feet of a recreation area, dock, pier, raft, float, anchored boat or dam intake or other obstruction is illegal.

SCUBA: A diver’s flag means that scuba divers are in the water nearby. Slow down and use caution within 100 yards of a flag. Avoid operating a boat in the vicinity of a diver’s flag. More information about scuba is on the Fishing Limits page.

BOAT CAPACITY: Loading a vessel beyond its stated safe carrying capacity is illegal.

CORPS OF ENGINEERS: No vessel may enter within 100 yards downstream of a Army Corps of Engineers dam. Operating a vessel in any manner contrary to signs, markers or buoys placed by the Corps controlling speed, skiing or operation of vessels is prohibited.

PROHIBITED OPERATION:  Operation of any vessel, water-ski(s) or similar devices in a reckless or negligent manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person is prohibited; including but not limited to, weaving through congested vessel traffic, operating within 100 feet of a towboat that is underway, jumping the wake of another vessel too close to such other vessel, or when visibility around such other vessel is obstructed and swerving at the last possible moment to avoid collision shall constitute reckless operation of a vessel.  Operation of a vessel in negligent manner, including but not limited to, inattentive operation, failure to keep a proper lookout, failure to observe the inland navigation rules of the road as implemented by the United States Coast Guard, or operating in a manner which results in a collision with another vessel of object is prohibited.

Persons under 12 years of age may not operate a boat powered by more than 10 horsepower except under the direct and audible supervision of a parent, guardian, or other person over 17 years old.

Operation at such a rate of speed as to create hazardous wash or wake upon approaching or passing vessels is prohibited.

Operation at a speed exceeding 5 miles per hour within 100 feet of a designated recreation area, a dock, pier, raft, float, boat, dam intake structure, or other obstruction is prohibited unless a contrary speed limit as posted.

Operators of vessels 26 feet or less in length may not allow any person to ride or sit on the gunwales or on the decking over the bow while underway unless they are engaged with adequate guards or railing to prevent passengers from being lost overboard.  This does not prevent fishing from a forward deck while under the power of a trolling motor.

Loading a vessel beyond its safe carrying capacity as stated on the manufacturers capacity plate or overpowering a boat with a motor that exceeds the maximum safe horsepower on the capacity plate is prohibited.

No person shall operate or give permission for the operation of a motorboat which is not properly equipped or numbered.

Sirens are prohibited except on law enforcement vessels.

Operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is prohibited.  A blood alcohol level of .10% establishes that the operator is under the influence.   Operators who register .10% or above are subject to arrest.  Any person who operates a boat on the waters of the state is consenting to a test to determine if they are intoxicated.


Boats under 16-feet long, canoes and kayaks must have one wearable (Type I, II or III) PFD in serviceable condition and of proper size for each person on board.

Boats, 16 feet or longer, must have one wearable (Type I, II or III) PFD in serviceable condition and of proper size for each person on board and one Type IV (throwable) PFD in each boat.

CHILDREN under the age of 13 must wear a well-fitting PFD at all times while aboard a boat. The only exceptions are when they are within the enclosed area of a houseboat, cruiser or within the railings of a party barge while the boat is not underway.

PERSONAL WATERCRAFT: Occupants of personal watercraft (such as Jet skis, Sea-doos, etc.) are required to wear PFDs.

WATER SKIERS must wear a Type I, II, III or V PFD. Water-skiing is not allowed from one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise. Boats towing water-skiers must have, in addition to the driver, an observer at least 12 years of age or a wide angle convex marine mirror to observe the person being towed.

Type I PFD, or offshore life jacket, provides the most buoyancy. It is effective for all waters, especially open, rough or remote waters where rescue may be delayed. It is designed to turn most unconscious wearers in the water to a face-up position. The Type I comes in two sizes. The adult size provides at least 22 pounds buoyancy, the child size, 11 pounds.

agfc_pfd_typeI.gif (7341 bytes)

Type II PFD, or near-shore buoyant vest, is intended for calm, inland water or where there is a good chance of quick rescue. This type will turn some unconscious wearers to a face-up position in the water but not as effectively as a Type I device. An adult size device provides at least 15 pounds buoyancy, a child size provides 11 pounds. Infant sizes provide at least seven pounds buoyancy.

agfc_pfd_typeII.gif (7326 bytes)

Type III PFD, or flotation aid, is intended for calm, inland water where there is a good chance of quick rescue. It is designed so conscious wearers can place themselves in a face-up position in the water. The wearer may have to tilt his head back to avoid turning face-down in the water. Examples of Type III PFDs are float coats, fishing vests and vests designed with features suitable for various sports.

agfc_pfd_typeIII.gif (7571 bytes)

Type IV PFD, or throwable device, is intended for calm, inland water with heavy boat traffic where help is always present. It is designed to be thrown to a person in the water and grasped and held by the user until rescued. It is not designed to be worn. Type IV devices include buoyant cushions, ring buoys and horseshoe buoys.

agfc_pfd_typeIV.gif (8871 bytes)

Type V PFD, is a special use device intended for specific activities and may be carried instead of another PFD only if used according to the approval condition on the label. Some Type V devices provide significant hypothermia protection. Varieties include deck suits, work vests, board sailing vests, and inflatable PFD’s. If a type V PFD is used in place of a type I, II or III, it must be worn at all times.

agfc_pfd_typeV.gif (8022 bytes)

85% of victims of fatal boating accidents died because
they weren't wearing a PFD.