Use the My Boat box below to have information electronically delivered to your mobile device or print out directly from a laptop or PC or you can also contact your local county sheriff’s office and speak with a marine deputy.
Boat registrations from other states are valid in Idaho for 60 consecutive days. Out-of-state boaters are required to purchase an invasive species sticker before launching in Idaho waters ($30 for motorized boats registered outside of Idaho and $7 for a non-motorized boat). If you enter Idaho and see a sign for a boat inspection station you must pull into the station and have all boats inspected for invasive species. More information on the invasive species program can be found at http://invasivespecies.idaho.gov/watercraft-inspection-stations/.
You should also be aware of Idaho’s life jacket law for children; kids 14 years old and under on board boats 19’ or less must wear the life jacket at all times while the boat is underway. This requirement applies to both power boats and non-motorized paddle craft.
For more information regarding the legality of these activities contact your local County Marine Deputy. Click here to find your county sheriff’s phone number.
Yes, vessels powered by electric trolling motors need to be registered in Idaho. Adding the electric trolling motor makes the vessel a motor-driven vessel, and all motorized vessels must register.
Your vessel only needs to be registered if it has any kind of motor. This includes electric trolling motors.
Vessels 12 feet and under are $30. Vessels over 12 feet are $30, plus $2 per foot for each additional foot. There is also a $1.50 vendor fee included in the total cost. These fees cover one calendar year and all boat registrations expire December 31. In addition, boats registered in Idaho are required to pay an additional $10 surcharge for the Idaho Invasive Species Sticker. For convenience, this $10 surcharge for the Idaho Invasive Species Sticker is included in the annual boat registration renewal fees and a separate sticker is not required for boats registered in Idaho.
There is no legal requirement to carry boat insurance in Idaho. Due to the inherent risks associated with boating and taking into consideration the many factors that can lead to a boat accident, boat owners are advised to consult with their insurance agent to discuss options. Don’t forget, many insurance carriers offer a discount on your premium if you pass an approved boat safety course. To learn more about FREE boat safety courses click here.
If you are involved in a boating accident and the accident meets any of the following criteria, you must file a report with the sheriff in the county where the accident occurred:
- Damages to property involved in the accident are $1,500 or more.
- The accident results in an injury beyond first aid, missing person, or fatality.
An electronic copy of the report form can be downloaded. Once you fill the form out, take it with you to the local sheriff’s office.
PWC’s are small, jet-propelled boats designed to carry one to three people that sit on top rather than inside the vessel. Often referred to as “jet skis,” these watercraft are considered motorboats and are subject to the same regulations as motorboats, including equipment and responsible handling. Additionally, for a life jacket to be considered “readily accessible” on a PWC, it must be worn. All riders and persons being towed must wear their life jackets at all times while the PWC is under way.
There are no additional rules addressing PWCs, except when renting them. Idaho law requires those who rent PWCs to deliver education. Afterwards, each rider must carry the state’s verification of education card whenever operating (driving) a rented PWC. If one person out of a large group pays for the rental, he or she is legally responsible to make sure everyone else who rides also views the educational video and carries their own wallet card when they drive. Contact the IDPR Boating Program if you are a PWC rental business needing information.
Idaho counties have the authority to enact restrictions for personal watercraft that are more strict than state law. Examples of counties that have stricter laws than the state regarding PWC operation include Bonner and Kootenai Counties. It is your responsibility to know the rules for the county in which you plan to recreate.
PWC manufacturers recommend that all drivers be at least 16 years old, and that all riders wear a helmet, protective shoes/clothing, and a life jacket.
Special concerns for PWC Operators:
- There is a statewide no-wake zone. Slow to 5 mph within 100 feet of a dock, structure or person in the water.
- Wake jumping, when the craft is “airborne” close behind another boat is restricted. A safe distance is 100 feet.
- Towing a skier or tuber requires a manufacturer’s capacity rating for three people.
- It takes three to ski. The driver must have a passenger serve as the spotter and operate the skier-down flag. The PWC must have three-person seating for the operator, observer, and skier.
- Operating at night is prohibited without the proper combination of lights installed by the manufacturer.
- Yield the right-of-way to other powerboats and skiers.
Idaho has designated a 100-foot “no-wake zone” from all docks, structures and persons in the water on public waters statewide. Some counties have passed additional speed restrictions from the shoreline, between boats and at specific sites. It is a good idea to contact your local marine deputy before boating. County-specific ordinances dealing with speed limits are posted below. (This is not an all-inclusive list. Please contact your local county sheriff’s office for more information on county ordinances/laws pertaining to boating). State law allows for exemptions when pulling a water skier. Unless otherwise marked, it is ok to travel over a no-wake zone within 100 feet from the dock or person in the water when safely pulling a water skier straight out from a dock, or when safely dropping off a water skier back to a dock, or when the “other person in the water” is the vessel’s skier.
County-Specific Boating Laws and Ordinances I
If you would like to read the entire ordinance for the counties, just click on the county’s name.
Adams: 35 m.p.h. during the day, 20 m.p.h. at night. This includes the Snake River from Hells Canyon Park south to Oxbow Dam, and on Oxbow Reservoir from Eagle Island to Brownlee Dam.
Benewah: 50 m.p.h. during the day and 35 m.p.h. at night, county wide. 25 m.p.h. at all times from Cherry Bend Park to St. Maries Plywood Mill.
Bonner: 50 m.p.h. during the day and 25 m.p.h. at night, county wide.
Custer: Special regulations for Stanley Lake.
Kootenai: 50 m.p.h. during the day, 20 m.p.h. at night, county wide. On the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene Rivers, and Lower Twin Lakes the speed limits are 35 m.p.h. during the day and 20 m.p.h. at night.
Valley: Valley County has established a 300-feet no wake zone for all lakes in Valley County (Payette Lake, Little Payette Lake, Lake Cascade, Deadwood Reservoir, Horsethief Reservoir and Warm Lake.
Most county sheriff departments have deemed wake surfing to be legal when done in a safe manner. Citations could be issued for not having the wake surfer wear a life jacket or for allowing passengers to hang off the side of the boat or sit in areas of the boat not meant for seating (i.e. on the back of the boat or on the gunwale). Citations could also be issued for wake surfing behind an inboard/outboard or outboard boat which exposes the surfer to the propeller. County sheriff departments will likely issue a negligent operation citation for teak surfing due to the potential exposure to propellers or poisoning from carbon monoxide. For more information, contact your local county marine deputy. Click here to find your county sheriff’s phone number.
Wake surfing is a water sport in which a surfer trails behind a wakeboard boat, surfing the boat’s wake on a small surf board without being directly attached to the boat. The wake from the boat mimics the look and feel of an actual ocean wave. Teak surfing or platform dragging is when a person holds on to the swim platform of a boat as it drives forward and then the person is dragged through the water.
County sheriff departments will likely issue a negligent operation citation to operators that allow passengers to ride on the bow of a boat. Any time that a boat is in motion passengers should only be seated in those areas/locations specifically designed by the manufacturer for seating. Riding on the bow, gunwale/side, transom, engine cover, or any other part of the boat, not specifically designed for seating, greatly increases the risk of passenger injury or death. Bow riding, in particular, places passengers at high risk for falling overboard and being struck by the boat and propeller. Additionally, passengers seated on the bow greatly restrict the operator’s visibility and ability to react to potential hazards. For more information contact your local County Marine Deputy. Click here to find your county sheriff’s phone number.
There is no state law that requires boat operators to be of a minimum age or requires boat operators to take a safety class or proficiency exam. However, some counties have enacted local ordinances that require operators to be a certain age to operate power boats.
Here is a brief run down of county-specific ordinances involving age. (Keep in mind that there could be other county ordinances that are stricter than state law.) Make sure you check with your local marine deputies before heading out!
- Children under the age of ten cannot operate a motor driven watercraft except when they are under direct adult supervision; Anyone under the age of 14 cannot operate or allow to be operated without adult supervision if the vessel is powered by a motor rated higher than 15 horsepower.
- Children between the ages of 10-14 cannot operate a motorboat with a motor rating of 15 horsepower or higher unless they are under direct supervision of an adult operator; Children under the age of 10 may not operate any motorboat except under the direct supervision of an adult.
- Children under the age of 10 cannot operate a motor-driven watercraft (including Personal Watercraft) unless under direct adult supervision; Children between the ages of 10-14 cannot operate a motorboat with a motor rating higher than 10 horsepower.
- Adult supervision is required when an operator of a boat or other vessel is between the ages of 10-14, unless the motor is 15 horsepower or less.
Kids 14 years old and under must wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket when they are aboard a boat 19 feet in length or less, whenever the boat is underway or under power. This applies to paddle craft such as canoes, kayaks, paddleboards and rafts in addition to powerboats, sailboats, personal watercraft (jet skis) and fishing float tubes.
Idaho law requires that one properly fitting and Coast Guard approved life jacket must be on board for each person on a boat, and life jackets must be readily accessible. Stored under the seat or in a dry bag is not considered readily accessible. Of course, just like a seat belt during an auto accident, a life jacket won’t do you much good if you don’t have it on BEFORE you fall overboard. If you have a boat 16 feet or longer you also need a Type IV floatation aid which is designed to be thrown, not worn (i.e. ring buoy or cushion).
Paddle craft such as canoes, kayaks, paddleboards and rafts do not have to carry the Type IV floatation aid.
To locate information on fishing use the Idaho Fish and Game Fishing Planner. Boating access facility information and maps can be found at Bureau of Land Management’s Boater Guide, Idaho Power boating facilities and Take Me Fishing.
Idaho has a county-based boating program. To obtain information about a specific location, contact the county parks and recreation manager, or the county waterways chairperson. Most county commissioners appoint a waterways committee to advise on matters relating to waterways docks, construction, maintenance, local laws and user fees. In some cases the site may be managed by a federal agency, a private marina, a power company or a city.
For information and permits to place or maintain docks, buoys, or anything else on the public waterway contact the Idaho Department of Lands, Navigable Waters Section.
Fly fishing float tubes are considered a vessel in Idaho and do need to have a Coast Guard approved life jacket and a sound producing device on board. They are exempt from registration. You need not carry a life jacket when on lakes smaller than 200 surface acres at natural high water.
Non-commercial permits are required to run four rivers in Idaho: the Main Salmon, Middle Fork of the Salmon, Selway, and Snake River – Hells Canyon. This permitting system is run by the U.S. Forest Service and you can find information on this permitting program here:
To obtain more information about floating the Boise River, visit https://adacounty.id.gov/parksandwaterway/float-the-boise-river/.
Boating Safety Links:
- Idaho Power Recreational Facilities
- National Association of State Boating Law Administrators
- National Safe Boating Council
- National Safe Boating Week
- National Water Safety Congress
- Personal Watercraft Industry Association (PWIA)
- River Flows
- U. S. Coast Guard 13th District
- U.S. Coast Guard Office of Boating Safety
- U.S. Power Squadrons
- Water levels at Boise Area Reservoirs
- Life-Saving Tips for Kids
Yes. Idaho law requires the person in charge of marine events to apply for a marine event permit 30 days prior to the event. You can download an electronic copy of the application or request a hard copy of the form from your local county sheriff’s office. If you download the electronic form, please save it, print it, then submit it directly to your local county sheriff’s office.
Please note that events on Federally controlled waters may be subject to additional permitting by the United States Coast Guard. Coast Guard permit applications must be submitted 135 days in advance of the event. Some popular Federal waters in Idaho include Lake Coeur d’Alene, Priest Lake, Lake Pend Oreille, Dworshak Reservoir, Bear Lake, Snake River, Clearwater River, St. Joe River, Salmon River, Priest River and Brownlee Reservoir. Associated tributaries for these bodies of waters may also be Federally controlled. See the complete list of Federally controlled waters. Apply for a Coast Guard Permit.
Non-motorized boats (that do not have a motor) are not required to be registered and therefore are not counted or included in this chart.
Currently there are no federal, state or local laws that prohibit the use of two-stroke motors anywhere in Idaho.
Open containers are allowed on a boat, but the same rules that apply to drinking and driving also apply to drinking and boating as far as impairment. Boat operators can be arrested for Operating Under the Influence (OUI) if their blood alcohol level is 0.08% or greater. Those convicted of operating a boat under the influence can receive a maximum fine of $1,000 and a sentence of up to six months in the county jail.
Approximately 40 boat operators are arrested each year in Idaho for OUI. It is strongly recommend to have a designated driver. Alcohol is even more hazardous on the water than on land. The marine environment – motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray – accelerates a drinker’s impairment. These stressors cause fatigue that makes a boat operator’s coordination, judgment and reaction time decline even faster when using alcohol. Alcohol is also a contributing factor to many boat accidents (including fatal accidents). Don’t drink and boat!
If you are selling your boat to someone else, there are a few things you need to do.
- Fill out a bill of sale and give to the buyer.
- If applicable, give the title to the buyer.
If you have recently purchased a boat, you will need to take the Bill of Sale, Title (if applicable)*, and the Transfer Form (shown above) to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
*Boat titles are not required on boats before the year 2000.