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Official Idaho boating course

The Idaho BOATsmart! Boating Safety Course is approved and accredited by the  Idaho State Parks and Recreation Boating Program. With more than 3,000 Five Star Reviews, we’re proud to be recognized as an official Idaho State Boating Course and the choice of boaters in Idaho.

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NASBLA & Coast Guard Approved

The BOATsmart!Idaho Boating Safety Course is officially recognized by the United States Coast Guard as meeting the standards of the National Recreational Boating Safety Program. BOATsmart!’s online Idaho Boating Safety Course is approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) as it meets and exceeds U.S. Boating Education Standards. NASBLA develops education standards for boating safety and represents boating law administrators in all 50 states and U.S. territories.

BOATsmart! courseware on a tablet.

Watch, Listen & Learn

From anywhere, on any device at any time.

Our animated and narrated Boating Safety Course is perfect for all ages. Study from your Smartphone, Tablet or Desktop and switch between devices at any time. BOATsmart! automatically tracks your progress so you can study at your own pace.

Idaho Boating License Requirements


An Idaho Boater Education Card proves that you’ve obtained the knowledge needed to safely operate a motorized boat on Idaho waterways. Although boater education is not mandatory in the state of Idaho, it is recommended.


There are no mandatory boater education requirements in the state of Idaho, however there are local age restrictions that may apply within various counties including Benewah, Bonner, and Kootenai Counties. Be sure to contact the counties and cities where you plan to boat about their local ordinances.


You can get your Idaho  Boater Education Card by completing the Official BOATsmart! Course online. Once you successfully complete the online study guide and final exam, you can print a temporary card immediately. BOATsmart! will mail your permanent card within 4 weeks.


There is no minimum age to complete the Idaho Boater Education Course and obtain your Boater Education Card.


It takes a minimum of 3 hours to get your Idaho Boater Education Card online. Once you’ve completed the online course and official test, you can print a temporary card and go boating right away. Your permanent card will be mailed to you by BOATsmart! within 4 weeks.


Yes. Boat operators in the state of Idaho can keep up-to-date on the latest boating regulations with the free BOATsmart! Knowledge Base. Learn about boating equipment requirements, navigation and right-of-way regulations and restrictions that may apply on Idaho waterways to be sure that you’re safe and confident on the water.


Boat operators in Idaho are not required to obtain a Boater Education Card to rent a boat within the state. All operators must be competent and are held responsible for knowing the navigation rules.

Boating and alcohol in Idaho

Idaho’s boating and alcohol laws

It is illegal in the state of Idaho for any person who is under the influence of alcohol, drugs or any other intoxicating substance to operate a vessel.

In Idaho, a person over 21 years of age is considered to be under the influence if:

  • They have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level of 0.08% or higher.
  • If a person is under 21 years of age, they are considered to be under the influence if they have a BAC level of at least 0.02% or higher.


In Idaho, a person convicted of operating a vessel while under the influence will be subject to the following penalties:

  • A fine of up to $1,000 and/or a sentence of 6 months in the county jail.
  • They may also be required to successfully complete a course on safe boating.
  • They may lose the privilege to operate a boat for up to 2 years.


More severe penalties exist for additional convictions. Additionally, a person boating while under the influence who causes the death or serious injury of another person will, upon conviction, be guilty of a felony.

Idaho Boating Age Requirements

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There are no mandatory boater education requirements in the state of Idaho, however there are local age restrictions that may apply within various counties including Benewah, Bonner, and Kootenai Counties. Be sure to contact the counties and cities where you plan to boat about their local ordinances.

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Idaho's Boating Fines

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Operating under the influence

Up to $1000

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Aggravated Boating Under the Influence

Up to $5000

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Operating While Privileges are Suspended

Up to $300

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Reckless or Negligent Operation

Up to $300

General Idaho boating FAQs

Who regulates boating laws in Idaho?

The Idaho State Parks and Recreation Boating Program is responsible for regulating boating laws in the state of Idaho. 


Boating laws in Idaho are enforced by: 

  • The sheriffs and deputy sheriffs of the respective counties.
  • The Coast Guard (on federal waters).


Law enforcement officers and all Idaho peace officers have the authority to stop and board vessels to ensure they are complying with state and federal laws. Refusal to stop your vessel after being given a visual or audible signal to do so is illegal.


How to register a boat in Idaho


To operate a vessel in Idaho, you must obtain a Certificate of Number and validation stickers. The Certificate of Number must be on board during operation and must be available for inspection by a law enforcement officer.

Certificate of Number expires on December 31st of each year. Renewal notices will be mailed out to vessel owners. You may renew by mail, online, or at a retail vendor or County Motor Vehicle office. You can obtain a Certificate of Number by submitting an application and fee to the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation.

If the Certificate of Number or validation stickers are lost or destroyed you must submit a fee and application to the IDPR in order to obtain a replacement.



  • Human-powered craft (such as canoes and kayaks).
  • Non-motorized float tubes.
  • Sailboards.
  • Vessels registered in another state and using Idaho waters for 60 consecutive days or less.
  • Vessels federally documented by the Coast Guard.



In Idaho, the following vessels are required to be titled:

  • Any vessel with a model year of 2000 or newer and a permanently attached mode of propulsion (i.e. sterndrives, inboards, PWCs and sailboats).
  • Any vessel with an outboard motor that is over 12 feet in length.



Boats in Idaho are not required to be insured, however it is recommended. 

Boats in Idaho are required to correctly display their registration number and validation stickers.

Registration numbers and stickers must be displayed as follows:

  • Numbers must be applied as a decal, painted or permanently affixed to both sides of the bow, as high above the waterline as possible (no other numbers may be displayed on either side of the bow).
  • Numbers must be in at least three-inch high vertical block letters in a color that contrasts sharply with the vessel’s background.
  • Numbers must be separated from the letters by a space or hyphen equal to the letter width.
  • Validation stickers must be affixed on both sides of the vessel, placed within six inches, and in line with the vessel number.
  • Expired stickers must be removed or completely covered by the new sticker.


Idaho Life Jacket Laws

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Idaho’s life jacket laws

Idaho requires that each vessel or personal watercraft must have at least one U.S. Coast Guard approved wearable Type I, II, III or V life jacket of proper size, in serviceable condition, and readily accessible for each person aboard or being towed.

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Children 14 Years of Age & Younger

In Idaho, children 14 years of age or younger, on board vessels 19 feet or less, must wear an approved life jacket when the vessel is underway. This includes human-powered vessels (such as canoes and rafts).

Boating Restriction Regulations


Negligent Operation of a vessel is the failure to exercise the care necessary to protect the rights, safety, or property of others. Some examples of negligent operation are:

  • Boating in an area where buoys or other markers clearly mark a swimming area or some other restricted area.
  • Becoming airborne while crossing the wake of another vessel at an unsafe distance from the vessel creating the wake.
  • Weaving through congested waterway traffic.
  • Swerving at the last possible moment in order to avoid a collision.
  • Causing danger or damage from the wake of your vessel.


Some other examples of negligent operation are:

  • Chasing, harassing, or disturbing wildlife with your vessel.
  • Riding on a seat back, gunwale, transom, or bow.
  • Operating at speeds that are too fast for the operator to bring the vessel to a stop within an assured clear distance ahead.
  • Overloading – exceeding the maximum allowed number of persons, maximum allowed pounds of persons, or maximum allowed combined pounds of persons and equipment.
  • Overpowering – if your vessel is powered by an outboard motor, you must not exceed the allowed horsepower


Environmental Protection

Environmental Protection

The spread of Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) like Quagga Mussels, Zebra Mussels, Eurasion Watermilfoil and New Zealand Mud Snails, pose a risk to Idaho’s native aquatic wildlife, ecosystems and to all of Idaho’s water-based recreation. Idaho’s most common ANS include the zebra mussel (a small, striped, shell, or mollusk) and the Eurasion Watermilfoil (a long, thick floating weed that sometimes has a pink flower (between June-August). Both of these Aquatic Nuisance Species attach themselves to boat hulls and to boat motors.

Unfortunately, Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) spread easily from one body of water to the next, which is why the Idaho legislature has passed The Idaho Invasive Species Act of 2008 and enacted the following state laws regarding ANS:

  • It is illegal to introduce aquatic invasive species into Idaho waters.
  • It is illegal to buy, distribute, sell or possess ANS, unless you have a permit from the Idaho Department of Agriculture, or, you meet other unique requirements specified in the Idaho Invasive Species Act.

If you violate these laws, you’ll be guilty of a misdemeanor and will be punished with a fine up to $3,000 and/or up to 12 months imprisonment.

Keep in mind, Idaho authorities, such as the Director of the Idaho Department of Agriculture, are permitted to inspect both public and private land and waters if there is suspicion of invasive species, in order to detect and destroy them.

Help prevent the spread of non-native species

In the state of Idaho, boaters must actively prevent the spread of ANS. Your boat could be infected without you even knowing it! As a preventative measure, perform the following actions every time your boat leaves a waterway:

  • Look closely for ANS and remove anything you find!
  • Drain all of the boat’s components on land before you trailer the boat away, this includes the bilge, motor, live well and any bait buckets (live boat is illegal in most of Idaho’s waterways!)
  • Wash, rinse and air-dry your boat before you leave the area!


Idaho requires boaters (both motorized and human-powered) to purchase an Idaho Invasive Species Fund (IISF) decal from the Idaho Department of Agriculture, prior to boat operation on Idaho waterways. These decals generate funds that go directly into Idaho’s ANS prevention programs.

This includes all motorized boats (both registered and from out of state) and all human-powered craft (i.e. canoes, kayaks and rowboats). Inflatable, human-powered craft that are less than 10 feet in length are exempted from this decal requirement.

Infestations of non-native species

Report new infestations of non-native aquatic species to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at (209) 946-6400.


For more information on Aquatic Invasive Species in the state of Idaho, visit http://invasivespecies.idaho.gov/

Gem State, Blue Waters, Good Times

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Idaho Boating Destinations


Get outside and enjoy everything that Idaho‘s great outdoors has to offer!

If you love hitting the water, Idaho’s many lakes, rivers and reservoirs are great for boaters! There are docks and launch ramps located in Idaho’s State Parks, public lakes and in most of Idaho’s popular camping areas! It couldn’t be easier to launch a boat and enjoy a day on the water in Idaho!

So whether your plans include rafting through Hells Canyon, visiting the 300 lakes in Sawtooth National Recreation Area, checking out a big city like ‘blue’ Boise, or maybe a popular tourist destinations like Idaho Falls, there’s a place and a water venue for everybody feeling adventurous in Idaho!

Boaters and paddlers in Idaho will have no trouble finding a great place to spend the day on the water. Not when there are so many great waterways to choose from. A few of the most popular lakes in Idaho for boaters include: Lake Coeur d’Alene, Bear Lake and Priest Lake.

To help you decide where to launch your boat, we’ve created our ‘favorite list’ of what we believe are Idaho’s best boating, paddling and rafting destinations! Check out the map below



Idaho’s State Parks offer outdoor enthusiasts alpine lakes, steep canyons, breathtaking cliffs, towering pines and spectacular views. This is one of few states that can offer it’s tourists a landscape that is comprised of 70% public space. So get out there and enjoy it!

When visiting one of Idaho’s 30 State Parks, you can go boating, hiking, paddling, ATVing … whatever floats your boat (pun intended)! The activity options are limitless. So, check out what each park has to offer, choose the one that suits your activities best and have fun exploring.

Helpful resources for boating in Idaho