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Nonmotorized Boating and Paddling

Waterway Access Permits are required for boats 10 feet and longer  

Permits can be purchased through ODFW's eLicensing system and one and two-year permits through the Marine Board's Boat Oregon Store

Purchasing options are: 

  • One week (valid for 7-consecutive days of your choice) for $7 (includes $2 transaction fee) available only through ODFW
  • One calendar year for $17 (plus $1.50 portal provider fee). Permit expires on December 31 of the year purchased) and;
  • Two calendar years for $30 (plus $1.50 portal provider fee). Permit expires on December 31 of the year after purchase). 
Failure to show the permit is a Class D violation with a $115 fine.

Boat measurement is based on the maximum length of the boat when measured along its longest axis.

Trip Planning and Preparation

Prepare for your paddling adventure by doing the following:
  1. Always wear a properly fitting life jacket and know how to swim in a river current. 
  2. Carry a sound-producing device, like a whistle and other communication devices.
  3. Print a Float Plan to leave with family or friends, so they know when you'll return and call for help if you don't return when expected.
  4. Never boat under the influence of alcohol, drugs, marijuana, or inhalants.
  5. Never paddle on an outgoing tide. 
  6. Never paddle alone. Bring along at least one other boater. When paddling, two boats with two operators each, are recommended. Three boats with two paddlers each are even better. If unfamiliar with the waterway, paddle with someone knowledgeable. Stay in groups and don't spread out. Think of rivers like a highway, and the main channel is where motorboats are confined to operate. 
  7. Never overload the boat.  Tie down the gear and distribute weight evenly.  
  8. Never overestimate your skill with the conditions. If you're new to paddling, start out on calm, flat water with minimal wind. Learn self-rescue and reboarding skills, and continually practice.  
  9. Maintain a low center of gravity and three points of contact. Keep your weight balanced over the center of the boat.
    • Standing up or moving around in a small boat can cause it to capsize –a leading cause of fatalities among paddlers.
    • Leaning a shoulder over the edge of the boat can also destabilize it enough to capsize.
  10. Stay alert at all times and be aware of your surroundings, including nearby powerboats.  Be prepared to react when dangerous situations arise. 
  11. Dress properly for the water temperature, not the air temperature and the type of boating. Remember, you're on the water, so expect to get wet and dress for immersion. 
  12. Check your boat or paddleboard for leaks. 
  13. Map a general route and timetable when embarking on a long trip.  Arrange for your vehicles to be shuttled to the takeout. 
  14. Know the weather conditions before you head out.  While paddling, watch the weather and stay close to shore.  Head for shore if the waves or wind increase.
  15. Check for reported obstructions or other navigation alerts.
  16. STAND UP PADDLEBOARDING: There are special considerations for paddleboarders. Paddleboards are defined as boats and therefore, have equipment requirements and safety considerations.Image of a quick release leash for a stand up paddleboard on moving waters
  • Have a properly-fitted life jacket, sound-producing device such as a whistle, and a Waterway Access Permit if the SUP is 10 feet or longer.
  • Use a leash to prevent the board from getting away from you. If paddleboarding in swift-moving water (rivers) wear a waist or life jacket attachable leash with a quick-release accessible by both hands. A coiled leash attaching to the ankle is appropriate for flatwater, and a straight leash for the ocean surf zone.

See and Be Seen

 Wear bright, noticeable clothing.

Online Paddling Courses

The Oregon State Marine Board offers a great introduction to the waterways with a free online paddling course that's approved by the state and recognized by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA). 
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The Paddle Sports Safety Course, offered through, covers state boating laws, rules of the road, how to read the waterway, what to do in case of an emergency, and other tips to enhance boaters’ knowledge base and operating skills. Please note that this program does not meet the requirements for mandatory motorized education and is geared toward non-motorized education. 

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Boat Ed's Official Paddlesports Safety Course covers everything a paddlesports enthusiast needs to know to stay safe while using canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards. Developed in partnership with the American Canoe Association (ACA), this course teaches you what to do before you go out paddling and how to have a safe and fun time while doing so. Please note that this course does not meet the requirements for mandatory motorized education and is geared toward non-motorized education. This course does not include any Oregon-specific paddling laws or rules, so check our Equipment and Regulations page to find what you're required to carry based on your boat length when operating on Oregon waters."

We’re so fortunate to have great public access to rivers, lakes, bays, and the Pacific ocean to play in! Learning how to paddle is a great way to get your feet wet in recreational boating, starting off with basic boating knowledge will make your experience more enjoyable and safer.

Learn more from the videos below about essential gear and boat ramp etiquette, so you can have a safe and enjoyable experience!



Share the Water

Listen for motorboats, and paddle closer together in groups when you hear a motorboat approaching. Motorboats need deeper water to safely operate and pass. If motorized boats pass nearby, you are far less likely to capsize if you turn your bow into the wave and not take the wake broadside.

Waterways have "lanes of travel" similar to a highway system. Know the area you plan to paddle.  If you are near commercial waterways, the navigation charts change often. NOAA has digital charts available as a handy resource.
The depth of the channel may limit deep-draft vessels. Paddlers, however, are mobile and agile! Make use of your ability to move out of the way. If you are not crossing the channel, stay close to the shore. Large stationary objects offer a margin of protection. 
At night, a white light must be shown toward oncoming traffic. Bright colors not only help keep track of fellow paddlers but make YOU easier to see if separated from your boat. 
Watch this video for more tips about navigation rules of the road and paddling on multi-use waterways.