While floating along the Buffalo National River recently I was telling my friends the rules for kayaking on waterways in Arkansas. The river was packed with paddlers, and a couple overheard me talking about Arkansas kayak laws. They were surprised to learn that they were breaking some of the rules.
“Don’t tell anyone! We’re newbies,” she said. And I totally understood. I broke a few of the Arkansas kayak laws when I was new to the sport.
Arkansas kayak, canoe, and paddleboard laws are different from other boating regulations as they obviously do not have a motor but can also be easily swamped or tipped. It’s kind of like the difference between driving a car and riding a bike. The bike still has rules and regulations, like you can’t ride it on the sidewalks and you still have to obey traffic patterns. But you don’t need a license and registration. Arkansas kayak laws are designed to protect you, the environment, and others using the waterway.
These kayak, canoe, and paddleboard rules and regulations can be found on the Buffalo National River’s website and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s website. The Buffalo River has a few more kayak rules and regulations because they are within the National Park Service.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission paddling laws, rules, and regulations include kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, or “other vessels easily susceptible to swamping, tipping or rolling.”
One lifejacket per person
A U.S. Coastguard-approved and wearable lifejacket must be in the vessel for each person. Children 12 years of age and under must wear a lifejacket at all times while in the vessel. And the life jacket must be securely fastened.
Research Arkansas kayak laws for your planned area
Remember to Leave No Trace Principle 1 – Plan Ahead and Prepare, and research the public land you are planning to visit before you go. Like I stated above, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has a general overview, but some places, like the Buffalo National River, may have stricter or added rules.
For example, the Arkansas Game and Fish says no glass container within a vessel easily susceptible to swamping, tipping, or rolling. But the Buffalo National River says no glass container within 100 feet of any river or stream.
So it’s best to research the public lands’ website before you go out on your adventure. This is technically not an Arkansas kayak law, but it will keep you from getting a citation.
No glass containers
As stated above, both the Arkansas Game and Fish and Buffalo National River prohibit glass containers. Glass is easily broken and broken glass is not something you want under your feet when you take a swim break from paddling.
The exception to this law is if you find discarded glass from others and store it in a secure trash container to remove the litter.
Coolers must be fastened closed
There is a reason for all Arkansas kayak laws, and this one is a bummer for all when broken. How many times have we heard about someone having to “save the beer” after flipping on the river? A cooler that simply closes but doesn’t fasten can bust open if your kayak or canoe flips in the water.
Keep cans in koozies or floating container
Beverages that are not sealed in your cooler which is fastened closed or stored properly in your mesh litter bag (see next rule), must be kept in a floating holder. Keeping your can in a koozie will keep it from sinking to the bottom of the river or lake. This will make it easier to gather up and properly dispose of in the event you drop it or tip. Also, be sure your koozie is the fat kind so it can properly float your beverage can.
Mesh litter bags
The Buffalo National River specifies trash bags as mesh litter bags if you are traveling with food and beverages. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission simply says littler containers. However, they both say you must have one and it must be attached to your vessel and securely closed.
The Buffalo National River states that the mesh litter containers are provided with all rented kayaks and canoes. But can also be purchased from concessionaires.
Arkansas kayak laws
This blog post discusses kayak laws, rules, and regulations set for the State of Arkansas and the Buffalo National River. However many of these rules and regulations are universal to many areas. When kayaking or canoeing in other states, remember to practice Leave No Trace Principle 1 – Plan Ahead and Prepare and research these rules before going on the water.