Do you need a license to Kayak?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Do You Need a License to Kayak? 

If you need a license to kayak, it is solely due to the local or state regulations where you live. Unfortunately, most places don’t just let you plop a kayak in the water and start paddling.

It depends on where you want to go. In the UK, a license is required if you want to paddle on waterways like Environment Agency and Canal & River Trust.

The authorities who maintain waterways need licenses. But, In Lake District, some lakes do not need a permit for paddling. 

The paddlers must ensure that they stick with the license requirements to use the water. Waterways license are like a legal requirement.


The navigation authorities help to improve facilities, maintain waterways, and save the environment of the water with the help of the funds raised. 

Being a member of British Canoeing has the privilege to paddle any waterways without paying for the toll. But for the non-members, it has to either pay an annual fee or short visit toll. 

In the US, you can check the website for details on each state separately. Also, be sure to know some basic kayaking rules and etiquette. 


Waters covered under British canoeing license 

Following are the waterways under British Canoeing licensing arrangements: 


All Canal & River Trust Waterways 

All Environment Agency controlling waterways 

  • River Ancholme 
  • Black Sluice Navigation 
  • River Great Ouse 
  • River Glen 

Broads Authority waterways 

  • River Bure 
  • Norfolk & Suffolk Broads 
  • River Chet 
  • Basingstoke Canal 
  • Bridgewater canal 

The waterways mentioned above, a British canoeing member has an advantage: 

  • To paddle any kayak or canoe in the waterways if licensed. 
  • To carry extra people in the other seat kayak or canoe if the members are the one paddling it. 
  • It has the advantage of third party insurance. But it will only cover the person holding the Licence and not other parties. 


Waterways that requires a license 

In England, most reservoirs or private lakes are either managed or owned privately. Most of it is asked to pay for launching, and some only permit the unpowered crafts. 

So to paddle on any lakes, it is vital to check the conditions, the charges, and the access. 


Waterways that do not require a license 

Few waterways have the right to access and do not require a waterways license. Following are the rivers: 

  • River Severn 
  • Exeter Ship Canal 
  • River Wye (moving from hay on Wye) 
  • River Cam (from Bishops Mill sluice) 
  • River Little Ouse (Brandon to Thetford) 
  • River Rother (moving from Robertsbridge) 
  • Royal Military canal 


Lake District 

Paddling in most rivers and lakes across lake District is possible, but for some, you’ll need to purchase a day pass to paddle.

Where there needs a permit, whether it is chargeable or free, the British canoe membership does not cover the licensing arrangement. 


Using License in other countries of the UK 

All canals and rivers of Scotland are requested to carry along with them a Right to Navigation and license is not required.

In Wales’s the British canoeing membership covers all River Trust Waterways and All Canals. The members can use the membership card as a license. 

The people maintaining the waterways whether be it the Environment Agency, All Canals and River Trust or any private water bodies require a license.

Money collected from the licensing allows them to improve and maintain the waterways for the future so that many can enjoy in the coming years. 


This article attempted to answer the question: Do I need a license to kayak? It really depends on where you live and the local laws but in general, yes. The license fees help to pay for local clean up and maintenance.


References Link:


Leave a Comment