Kayaking Safety Requirements in the State of Ohio

September 19, 2023

Ohio has numerous paddling opportunities, but there are a few Ohio DNR regulations every kayaker venturing out should be aware of. This article is meant for informational purposes only, and is not a direct interpretation of the laws in the state.


Kayaks and canoes require a registration in the State of Ohio before venturing out on the water. The “Alternative Registration” which does not require you to put the “OH” numbers on both sides of your kayak is available at Division of Watercraft offices, Licensing Bureaus, and some private businesses. The cost is $25 for 3 years.

PFD (Life Jacket)

You are required to have a PFD with you while on the water. It must be accessible, but is not required that it be worn. PFD’s must be a type I, II, III, or V wearable device for each person on board. As always, it is a good idea to wear your PFD at all times while on the water. Children under the age of 10 must wear a life jacket at all times.

Audio Distress Signal

Kayakers are required to be equipped with an audio distress signal at all times. This can include either a whistle or horn. Most kayakers prefer a whistle and this can be kept in the pocket of your life vest.

Visual Distress Signal

Kayakers must have a visual distress signal when out between sunset and sunrise. This device must be USCG approved. Most kayakers opt for the USCG approved strobe light that can be set to be water-activated. Flares will also work.

Running Lights

All kayaks must be equipped with running lights or an electric torch or lighted lantern. This can be anything from a headlamp to a torch light or flash light. The idea is to have something to be able to turn on to alert boats of your presence.

Anchor Light

This only applies if you are anchoring your kayak and must be displayed at anchor and must be visible in all directions.