By Breanna Ball, WGFD Public Information Officer
The official kick-off to summer in Wyoming is Memorial Day, and that means taking the boat out, maybe for the first time this year. Before hitting the road for the holiday weekend, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Wyoming State Parks remind all boaters — from motorized boaters to paddlers — to be prepared and be sure watercraft are outfitted with the required safety equipment.
“We want all boaters to safely enjoy Wyoming’s waters. We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have a life jacket for all of the passengers in your watercraft. It is the law and life jackets are proven to save lives,” said Aaron Kerr, Game and Fish law enforcement coordinator. “That means you need a life jacket aboard all watercraft including kayaks, canoes and even stand-up paddle boards.”
Boaters are required to have a life jacket available for each individual on board. Life jackets must be properly sized, U.S. Coast Guard-approved and in good condition. They cannot be waterlogged, torn or have straps broken or missing. Life jackets also need to be readily accessible to the passengers on board. Children 12 years old and under are required to wear a life jacket while the boat is underway unless they are inside an enclosed cabin. Anyone being towed by a boat, wake surfing or riding on a personal watercraft (jet ski) is required to wear a life jacket as well.
“We want everyone to enjoy the summer and boating season,” said Kyle Bernis, Wyoming State Parks district manager. “We encourage boaters and paddlers to share their passion for responsible boating by following the safety rules and ensuring everyone has fun on the water.”
U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that drowning was the reported cause of death in four out of every five recreational boating fatalities in 2021 and that 83 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.
Motorized watercraft required additional safety equipment:
- A minimum of one U.S. Coast Guard throwable flotation device, which includes ring buoys and float cushions, aboard boats 16 feet and longer.
- A proper fire extinguisher on any boat with an inboard engine, permanently installed fuel tank, closed living space, double bottoms that are not sealed to the hull or compartments that store fuel tanks or other combustible materials. Multiple extinguishers may be needed depending on the size of the boat.
- Navigation lights are required when boating from sunset to sunrise. All motorized boats are required to display a red and a green light to represent the port (left) and starboard (right) sides, as well as a white light that is visible 360 degrees when underway. Again, the types of lights required differ based on the size of the boat.
To safely operate a motorized watercraft, all operators must be at least 16 years old, obey any buoys or markers in the water, and avoid reckless or careless operation. Additionally, boating under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is illegal.
Boaters also are reminded they need to register their motorized watercraft to be legal when operating on Wyoming waters. This includes boats powered by electric trolling motors. All watercraft, with the exception of non-motorized inflatables under ten feet in length, also require an aquatic invasive species decal.
Watercraft registrations can be completed at any Game and Fish office. Registrations may also be renewed online via the Game and Fish website. The owner is the only person authorized to register a boat.
Watercraft owners may pick up a copy of the Wyoming Watercraft Regulations at any Game and Fish office or license vendor.