Boating Laws in Arkansas

Arkansas Game and Fish is compliments of
Vision Realty, The Real Estate Professionals.

Registering a Boat
Mandatory Boating Education
Boating Law
Boating Under the Influence
Reckless Boating
Personal Floatation Devices
Launch Permits
Lake, River and National Forest Boundary Properties for Sale



Registering a Boat

Boats propelled by sail or motor 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.

Proof of $50,000 liability insurance is required at registration and must be carried on board if over 50 horsepower.  An identification number will be assigned to each registered boat.

Out-of-state boat with valid registrations may be operated for up to 90 days without registering in Arkansas.

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Report a Boating Accident

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

  • 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.

  • Give his or her name, address, and identification of his or her boat in writing to any person injured and to the owner of any property damaged in the incident.

  • 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.  Accidents involving death, injury or property damage of $500 or more must be reported.

Report a Boating Accident

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Mandatory Boating Education

Arkansas residents born on or after January 1, 1986 and of legal age to operate a motorboat, must have successfully completed an approved Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Boating Education Course and carry proof while operating a motorboat.

The Arkansas Boating Education Course is designed to teach the fundamentals of safe and responsible boating.  This is necessary to reduce loss of life, personal injury and property damage while increasing boating enjoyment for outdoor enthusiasts. 

The law affects operators of motor-powered craft and sailboats.  The basic boating course is free-of-charge and includes:  Arkansas Boating Law, Boat Classification, Registration and Trailering, Personal Flotation Devices, Rules of the Road (water), Maintenance and Boating Accidents.

For information about boating education and classes, contact Arkansas Game and Fish Commission at

501-223-6377 (Little Rock)
or 1-877-493-6424 (toll free).

Class schedules are also posted on the web at

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Boating Law

Operating a Boat in excess of five m.p.h. in a posted no-wake zone within 100 feet of a recreation area, dock, pier, raft, float, anchored boat or dam intake or other obstruction is illegal.

Lights - Boats must be equipped with the described lights during darkness:

  • 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 reasonable distance.

  • 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.

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 horse-power except when under the direct supervision of a person over 17.

SCUBA - A driver's flag means that scuba divers are in the water nearby.  Slow down and use caution.  Boats are required to operate at idle speed within 100 feet of a diver's flag.  More information is available about scuba from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

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 Crops of Engineers dam.  Operating a vessel in a manner contrary to signs, markers or buoys placed by the Crops controlling speed, skiing or operation of vessels is prohibited.

For information about boating education and classes, contact Arkansas Game and Fish Commission at 501-223-6377 (Little Rock)
or 1-877-493-6424 (toll free).
Class schedules are also posted on the web at

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Boating Under Influence

Operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol is illegal.  A blood alcohol content of .08% or greater is considered intoxicated and the operator is subject to arrest.

By law, anyone who operates a motorboat in the state of Arkansas has consented to being tested for intoxication.

Fines range from $250 up to $5,000 with potential incarceration and restriction from operating a motorboat.

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Reckless Boating

On Arkansas Game and Fish Commission lakes and access, you may not legally, unless otherwise noted:

  • Water ski or use personal watercraft.

  • Create a hazardous wake.

  • Obstruct an access area, parking area, launching ramp or access road.

  • Build a structure on Commission-owned (or controlled) lakes unless it complies with Commission policy.  Further information is available by calling 501-223-6371.

  • Possess firearms except while legally hunting waterfowl.  During open hunting seasons, firearms may be transported by boat, if unloaded and cased.

Operation of a boat, water ski(s) or personal watercraft in a reckless or negligent manner is prohibited.  This includes weaving through congested vessel traffic, operating within 100 feet of a towboat that is underway, jumping the wake of another vessel too closely and swerving at the last possible moment to avoid collision.

For information about boating education and classes, contact Arkansas Game and Fish Commission at

501-223-6377 (Little Rock)
or 1-877-493-6424 (toll free).

Class schedules are also posted on the web at

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Personal Flotation Devices

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.

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.

For information about Personal Floatation Devices,
contact Arkansas Game and Fish Commission at

501-223-6377 (Little Rock)
or 1-877-493-6424 (toll free)

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Launch Permits

Annual launching permits can be purchased to launch boats from Corps of Engineers facilities nationwide. 

Visit your local Corps office

or call

501-324-5551 for more information.

US Army Corps of Engineers.

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