Boating Laws in Arizona

Posted On September 13, 2023 Arizona Laws Written by John Allen Phebus

For non-residents, dry winds, sandy deserts, and cacti may come to mind when they think about Arizona, but Arizona residents enjoy the state’s plentiful waterways, including 128 natural lakes and 5 major rivers. Boating on Arizona’s lush waterways and scenic lakes is an exhilarating recreational activity, but no one wants their day on the lake to end in disaster. Arizona’s boating laws are designed to improve safety by putting common-sense rules and regulations in place to govern activity on the water.

Before you and your friends and family head to your favorite lake for the weekend with your boat in tow, it’s important to familiarize yourself with Arizona’s boating laws to minimize the risk of a boat accident and improve boating safety.

Licensing and Registration Laws for Boating in Arizona

Arizona does not require a special license to operate a watercraft, however, all motorized watercraft must be registered in the state unless the craft is a lifeboat. In addition, some commercial boat operators may be required to carry boater education cards showing they’ve completed a safety course. Only those over age 12 are allowed to operate motorized watercraft in Arizona.

Boating Safety Laws in Arizona

Arizona has law enforcement officers patrolling major waterways to ensure that boaters follow the state’s important safety regulations such as the following:

  • It’s illegal to operate a boat under the influence of alcohol, just as it is in a motor vehicle on land. A blood alcohol level of .08% or greater is illegal and can result in a DUI.
  • Bow-riding is illegal while underway
  • Boaters under age 12 must wear personal flotation devices (life jackets) at all times while underway
  • Watercraft over 16 feet in length must contain a flotation device for every person onboard, plus a ring buoy
  • Anyone towed by a watercraft must wear a flotation device at all times
  • Watercraft of 26 feet or longer must have a fire extinguisher on board in they have fuel-powered engines or a cabin
  • Water-skiing requires two people on board as well as the skier so one can operate the boat while the other observes
  • Water-skiing, waterboarding, and other water activities are prohibited after dark
  • Any watercraft involved in an accident must render reasonable aid to others, provide contact information, and report the accident to the nearest law enforcement agency
  • A watercraft must not carry more people or cargo than its maximum allowed capacity
  • No boat operator may engage in negligent, reckless, or dangerous behavior while underway

General Boating Laws in Arizona

Besides rigorously following all of Arizona’s boating safety laws to minimize risks on the waterways, it’s important to know the state’s general boating regulations as well, including the following:

  • Littering the state’s waterways is strictly prohibited, including throwing out cigarette butts into the water
  • Boaters must honor speed limits and operate only at speeds appropriate to weather and water conditions
  • Operators of motorized watercraft must yield the right of way to unpowered vessels
  • Boat operators must control their speeds at all times to avoid colliding with or swamping another vessel
  • Boaters may be held liable if they capsize another boat due to their wake
  • When watercraft approach head-on they must pass port-side to port-side whenever possible

Learn more about boating regulations here.

By following Arizona’s rules and regulations for watercraft, boaters may enjoy fun days on the water with fewer safety risks, keeping passengers and other boaters safe and the state’s waterways a clean, beautiful recreational environment.