Boating & Watercraft Laws

Laws of the Water

There’s no better place in the region for boating of all kinds than the crystal clear lakes and rivers of Beavers Bend.

Make Your Day On The Water Safe And Enjoyable For You And Everyone Around You, Please Review These Boating Safety Regulations And Watercraft Laws.

Oklahoma Boating Law Basics:

Education Requirements and Age & Operator Restrictions

Restrictions for Children Under 12 – No person under the age of 12 may operate a vessel powered by a motor or combination of motors in excess of ten (10) horsepower, a personal watercraft (PWC) or any sail-powered vessel sixteen (16) feet or greater in length, they:

  • Must possess during operation, a boating safety education certificate indicating they have successfully passed a state approved boating course or equivalency exam and
  • Must be supervised by a competent adult who is at least 18 years of age. If the vessel is a PWC, the adult must be visually supervising within 500 yards of the PWC. If the vessel is other than a PWC, the supervising adult must be on board and in position to take immediate control.

Proof of Identity and Boating Education – All vessel operators must carry with them during operation either their boating safety education certificate/card as approved by the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety or photo identification proving the operator is at least 16 years of age.
Non-Residents & Visiting Boaters – Visiting boaters who have completed another state’s boating safety course as recognized by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and approved by the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety are exempt from Oklahoma’s boater education requirement.

Laws for Required Wearing of PFDs:

In addition to the federal PFD carriage requirements, Oklahoma has the following requirements for wearing a PFD:

  • If boating on a vessel that is less than 26 feet in length, children under the age of 13 must wear a Coast Guard approved PFD whenever underway.
  • Every person on board a personal watercraft (PWC), sailboard, or any person being towed behind a vessel must wear a Coast Guard approved Type I, II, III or V PFD. Ski belts do not meet this requirement and should be carried aboard as excess equipment only. Inflatable PFDs are not intended for use while participating in tow activities or other high impact sports.


Reckless & Negligent Operation:

No person shall operate any vessel or manipulate water skis or similar towed devices in a reckless or negligent manner. The failure to exercise the degree of care necessary to prevent endangering life, limb, or property is considered reckless and negligent.
Some activities considered Reckless or Careless Operation in Oklahoma –

  • Speeding in no-wake zones or boating in areas marked as restricted.
  • Operating at excessive speed in congested areas and at times of restricted ability.
  • Allowing a passenger to ride on the gunwale, bow, transom or in any other position obviously dangerous is illegal when operating at greater than idle speed unless the boat has adequately designed guards or railing of at least 24 inches.
  • Operating or giving permission to operate a boat or PWC when wind warnings have been posted or other hazardous conditions exist that pose a risk to persons or property.
  • Failing to yield or stop for an authorized emergency vessel making an audible or visible signal.
  • Parking, mooring or beaching a boat at the edge of or within a marked swimming area.

Additional laws that apply to personal watercraft (PWC)

  • A PWC may not be operated between sunset and sunrise unless equipped with required navigation lights.
  • If the PWC is equipped with an emergency engine cut off lanyard, then it must be properly attached between the operator and the cut-off switch during operation.
  • It is illegal to weave your PWC through congested traffic or swerve at the last minute to avoid a collision.
  • It is illegal to disturb, chase or harass wildlife with your PWC.

Special Activities, Restrictions & Requirements:

  • Watercraft used to tow a water skier or similar device must have the capacity to accommodate 2 or more people.
  • In addition to the boat operator, a person of at least 8 years of age must be aboard to observe the person being towed. The exception to this is if the boat is equipped with a wide angle convex mirror or mirrors so that the operator can face forward and still be in a position to observe the participant at all times.
  • When towing a person on water skis or similar device, the participant must wear a properly fitting vest style PFD approved by the U.S. Coast Guard.
  • You may not tow a parasailer, skier or similar device between sunset and sunrise.
  • Vessels engaged in scuba diving and snorkeling must display a red and white diver down flag measuring at least 20 inches by 2 inches with 4 inches of white. You may not post a diver down flag with the intent of diving or snorkeling within 100 yards to any functional boat ramp.
  • Vessels engaged in diving activity and are restricted in their ability to maneuver, must hoist a blue and white alpha flag that measures when conducting operations in federal and international waters.
  • It is illegal to transport firearms or discharge weapons from a vessel except for the legal purposes of hunting animals and fowl.

Operating Under the Influence:

Operating a boat while intoxicated is a federal offense. State Boating Under the Influence (BUI) are becoming more stringent. As on the roadways, on-water enforcement officers may administer sobriety tests and conduct a blood alcohol content (BAC) examination.

  • No person shall operate any vessel, personal watercraft, water skis or similar device while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Boaters who have a BAC of 0.10% or greater as measured in the person’s breath or blood are considered to be under the influence, or any operator that is under the influence of another intoxicating substance to a degree that makes him or her incapable of safe operation is considered BUI.
  • Oklahoma law prescribes fines and possible jail times for those who violate state BUI laws.
  • By operating your vessel in the water of Oklahoma, you have consented to be tested for drugs or alcohol if requested by a peace officer. Refusal to submit to testing may result in increased penalties upon conviction.

Registration and Titling Requirements
All motorized vessels used principally in the waters of Oklahoma, must be titled and registered. The following are the only exceptions:

  • Boats properly registered in another state using Oklahoma waters for less than 60 consecutive days.
  • Vessels federally documented with the U.S. Coast Guard. However, federally documented vessels using Oklahoma waters for more than 60 consecutive days must be registered with Oklahoma and display a current validation decal – display of Oklahoma registration number is not required.
  • Non-motorized boats that are propelled manually, like canoes, kayaks, rowboats, punts and rubber rafts.

To register your vessel, you must visit one of the 300 motor license agents statewide or Write or Call:

Oklahoma Tax Commission
Motor Vehicle Division
2501 North Lincoln Blvd.
Oklahoma City, OK 73194
(405) 521-3221

Once in receipt of required information, fees and applicable taxes, the state will issue a Certificate of Registration. This must be kept aboard the boat at all times and be readily available for inspection by an enforcement officer at all times.
Be sure to keep your boat and motor titles in a safe place – this is your proof of ownership.
The Certificate of Registration and Validation Decals must be renewed each year by June 30th!



The Adventure Begins in Your Inbox

Subscribe today for discounts and deals, travel tips, and exclusive video content.

By signing up for our newsletter, you’re agreeing to our privacy policy.