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Paddling refers to the group of water sports that require a paddle to propel or steer through the water. Canoeing, kayaking, rafting and stand-up paddle boarding are sports that fall under the paddlesports category. These activities require specific on-the-water skills and knowledge of legal requirements, regulations, boat operations and water safety.

Practicing and maintaining good paddling skills and knowledge of legal requirement, operations and water safety will lead to a better experience on the water.

Taking a classroom or online Boating Safety Education Course or the online Paddling Sports Safety Course will help make you a safer and better paddler.

YouTube iconPFBC Water Safety Tips- Kayaking

Unpowered Boat Registration or Launch Permits

YouTube iconVideo - How To Obtain PFBC Unpowered Launch Permits

Owners of unpowered boats canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddle-boards (SUPs) and rowboats can launch their boats at PFBC lakes and access areas or Pennsylvania state parks if their boats display a PFBC Launch Use Permit, Boat Registration, or Pennsylvania State Parks Launch Permit or mooring permit. Un-powered Use Launch Permits are available from Issuing Agents and online at

The purchase of launch permits and boat registrations supports the PFBC’s effort to build and maintain access points, provide law enforcement, provide boating safety education, and to produce information resources on paddling opportunities. Purchasing a permit or registering your boat benefits all boaters, including paddlers.

Registering your canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard provides additional benefits. Registering results in a permanent record of you boat, making it easier to recover should it be lost or stolen.

There are two ways to register a new boat. One is to complete an Application for PA Boat Registration/Title (REV-336). Send the completed application and necessary supporting documents, with payment, to the Commission. Once processed the Commission will send a registration and/or title, along with validation decals.

The other way is to obtain a temporary registration. Temporary registrations are issued at Commission region offices and by authorized issuing agents. This allows the boat to be used while the permanent registration is being processed. The application form becomes the temporary registration.

Life Jackets
Each person in a canoe, kayak, rowboat or SUP must have a wearable, USCG-approved Life Jacket (PFD - Personal Floatation Device). Life jackets must be the appropriate type, size and fit for the person intended. Children 12 years of age and younger must wear a life jacket when underway.

Mandatory Cold Weather Life Jacket Wear
Boaters must wear a life jacket on boats less than 16 feet in length or any canoe or kayak from November 1 through April 30.

Wear It

Water Trails
Water trails are boat routes suitable for canoes, kayaks and small motorized watercraft. Like conventional trails, water trails are recreational corridors between specific locations. Water trails are comprised of access points, boat launches, day use sites, and -- in some cases -- overnight camping areas.

Other Access Points
The County Guide is your source for information on boating access throughout the state. Here you will find detailed maps and can get directions to each access point. The County Guide also includes information on fishing opportunities.

Sound Producing Device and Light for Night Operation
Pay AttentionAn athletic coach’s whistle makes an acceptable sound-producing device. Be sure to have a hand-held light if you operate from sunset to sunrise.


Dress for Safety & Know before You Go
Dress for SafetyPaddlers should dress appropriately and consider taking additional safety equipment.

Know Before You GoFile a float plan with a friend or family member before your trip.



Boarding and Re-entry
BoardingStay low, move slow and maintain three points of contact when boarding. Gear should be evenly distributed and secured. 


Hazards and Paddling Safety

Keep it StableUnderstand and prepare for weather and water hazards before you head out.





Cold Water Survival

Cold WaterPaddlers should be prepared for mishaps on the water.

Don't count on being rescued.

Make sure you know basic rescue techniques including the Rescue Sequence.


Alcohol and Paddlesports
Nevr BUIOperating watercraft under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal. The law is strongly enforced for user safety.

Visual Distress Signals
Paddlers should be aware of Visual Distress Signals requirements and their use if they operate on a federally controlled water like Lake Erie.

Paddlesport Resources

Visit PA Kayak and Boating
PA DCNR Explore Pennsylvania Trails
American Canoe Association 
American Kayak Association
Boating Sidekicks
PA Organization for Watershed and Rivers (POWR)
Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF)