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Official New Mexico boating course

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

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NASBLA & Coast Guard Approved

The BOATsmart! New Mexico 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 New Mexico 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.

New Mexico Boater Education Card Requirements

WHAT IS A New Mexico BOATER CARD

A New Mexico Boater Education Card proves that you’ve obtained the knowledge needed to safely operate a motorized boat on New Mexico waterways. All boat operators born on or after January 1st, 1989 are required to complete a Boater Education Course to legally operate a motorized boat within the state. 

AGE AND HORSEPOWER RESTRICTIONS

It is illegal for any person under the age of 13 to operate a motorized boat, a sailboat, or a personal watercraft (PWC), unless they have obtained and are carrying their Boater Education Card on the boat and are being directly supervised by an adult who is accompanying them on the boat. 

WHERE CAN I GET MY New Mexico BOATING LICENSE?

You can get your New Mexico 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.

HOW OLD DO I HAVE TO BE TO GET A BOATER CARD IN NEW MEXICO?

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

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET MY BOATING LICENSE?

It takes a minimum of 3 hours to get your New Mexico 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.

CAN I GET REFRESHER LESSONS AFTER TAKING THE NEW MEXICO BOATING COURSE?

Yes. Boat operators in the state of New Mexico 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 New Mexico  waterways to be sure that you’re safe and confident on the water.

DO I NEED A LICENSE TO RENT A BOAT IN NEW MEXICO?

Boat operators in New Mexico are not required to obtain a Boater Education Card to rent a boat within the state, however the company renting the boat is required to provide instructions on safe boat operation and a summary of boating law.

Boating and alcohol in New Mexico

New Mexico boating and alcohol laws

It is illegal in the state of New Mexico to operate any boat, or to manipulate any waterskis, surfboard or similar device while under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances.

In New Mexico, a person is considered to be under the influence if:

  • They have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level of 0.08 or more.

 

Even operators with a lower BAC level can be considered under the influence and can be prosecuted if their actions provide evidence of intoxication.

Aggravated Boating While Under the Influence

A person who has a BAC level of 0.16 or higher, and causes bodily harm to a person as a result of unlawful operation of a motorized boat is evidence of aggravated boating while under the influence.

FINES AND PENALTIES

In New Mexico, a person convicted of operating a boat while under the influence will be subject to the following penalties:

On the first conviction:

  • A fine of up to $500 and/or imprisonment for up to 90 days.
  • Requirement to complete a boating safety course.

 

On a second or subsequent conviction:

  • A fine of up to $750 and/or imprisonment for up to 364 days.

 

Any person convicted of aggravated boating while under the influence will be subject to more severe/additional penalties.

New Mexico Boating Age Requirements

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Under 13 years of age

It is illegal for any person under the age of 13 to operate a motorized boat, a sailboat, or a personal watercraft (PWC), unless they have obtained and are carrying their Boater Education Card on the boat and are being directly supervised by an adult who is accompanying them on the boat.

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New Mexico's Boating Fines

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Operating under the influence

Up to $750

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Boater Education Violations

Up to $500

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Life Jacket Violations

Up to $500

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Misuse of Marine Sanitation Device

Up to $500

General New Mexico boating FAQs

WHO REGULATES BOATING LAWS IN NEW MEXICO?

New Mexico State Parks is responsible for regulating boating laws in the state of New Mexico.

WHO ENFORCES NEW MEXICO’S BOATING LAWS?

Boating laws in New Mexico are enforced by officials from the New Mexico State Parks Division, including:

  • The director, park custodians and other employees of the division.
  • Every sheriff in their respective county.
  • Every member of the State Police.
  • The Coast Guard (on federal waterways).

 

Enforcement officers have the authority to stop and board boats to ensure that operators are in compliance with state and federal laws.

It is illegal to attempt to elude law enforcement, or to fail to stop your boat when signaled to do so by law enforcement. Any person who fails to comply will be guilty of a misdemeanor.

 

How to register a boat in New Mexico

NEW MEXICO BOAT REGISTRATION

To legally operate a motorized boat in the state of New Mexico, you must obtain and carry a Certificate of Number on the boat during operation. 

A Certificate of Number can be obtained through the Motor Vehicle Division by submitting the required documentation and fees. Upon application, boat owners will receive their Certificate of Number and decals.

Certificates of Number are valid for three years, and expire on December 31st of the third year. Additionally, the MVD must receive the renewal for a registration within 60 days of the old registration expiring. The registration number will stay assigned to that boat for its lifetime, unless the boat is destroyed, abandoned or is registered in another state.

THESE VESSELS DO NOT REQUIRE REGISTRATION IN NEW MEXICO

  • Boats that have been federally documented by the Coast Guard.
  • Motorized boats from another state or country that are temporarily using New Mexico waters, for a period of less than 90 consecutive days.
  • Motorized boats owned by the U.S. government, or by the state of New Mexico, or any subdivision of those governments.

 

BOAT TITLING REQUIREMENTS

All boats being operated in New Mexico must be titled at a fee of $10. Boat owners are required to apply for a title within 30 days of transferring a boat into their name or purchasing a boat.

For boats that must be registered, the Certificate of Number will not be issued until the boat is titled. This applies for registration renewals.

Titling fees also include excise tax.

 

DO I NEED BOAT INSURANCE IN NEW MEXICO?

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

Boats in New Mexico 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 the forward half of each side of the boat (boat owners are not permitted to display any other numbers in this area).
  • The registration number must be in bold block letters that are at least three inches high and in a color that contrasts with the color of the boat.
  • The numbers in the registration number must be separated from the letters by a hyphen or by an equivalent space.
  • The numbers must be read from left to right.
  • Validation decals must be affixed to the port (left) side of the boat and must be six inches to the right of the registration number.
  • These placement requirements also apply to personal watercraft (PWCs).

New Mexico’s life jacket laws

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New Mexico’s Life Jacket Laws

All boats must carry a Coast Guard-approved, wearable life jacket of proper size for each person on board or being pulled as a skier, plus one Coast Guard-approved throwable device, cushion or ring buoy.

A throwable flotation device is not required for personal watercraft, kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, or rubber rafts.

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Personal Watercraft and Towed Sports

Any person operating or riding on a PWC is required to wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.

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Children under 13 Years of age

In New Mexico, boat passengers 12 years of age and younger are required to wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket while on board any boat while the boat is underway, unless the child is in an enclosed cabin or below decks.

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Towed Sports

Any person being towed behind a boat is required to wear a Coast Guard-approved, Type I, II or III life jacket. Inflatable life jackets are not permitted for towing activities.

Boating Restrictions & Regultions

CARELESS, RECKLESS OR NEGLIGENT BOAT OPERATION

It is illegal in the state of  New Mexico to operate any type of boat or to manipulate any waterskis, surfboard or similar device in a careless, reckless or negligent manner so as to endanger the life, limb or property of any person.

Examples of careless, reckless and negligent boat operation include:

  • Maneuvering a passenger being towed so as to pass the towline over another boat or the towed passenger of another boat.
  • Creating a dangerous wake or jumping the wake of another boat in a way that is dangerous.
  • Anchoring your boat less than 150 feet from a courtesy dock, marina or boat launch.
  • Chasing or harassing wildlife with your boat.
  • Navigating toward another boat and swerving at the last possible moment.
  • Operating a motorized boat in a restricted area.
  • Fishing from a boat that is drifting or trolling within 150 feet of any marina, boat ramp, or courtesy dock.

SPEED LIMITS AND RESTRICTED AREAS

In New Mexico it is Unlawful to: 

  • Operate at any speed greater than is reasonable or proper according to conditions prevailing at the time.
  • Operate at a speed that would not allow you to avoid swamping or colliding with another watercraft or person.
  • Operate at greater than ‘No Wake Speed’ when within 150 feet of launch ramps, docks, mooring lines, beached or anchored boats that are within 150 feet of shore, swimmers, fishermen and areas designated for ‘No Wake’ boating.
    • Exception: Under adverse weather conditions, a boat may maintain the minimum speed necessary to maintain a safe course.
  • Operate a boat in any restricted or zoned area.
  • Waterski within 150 feet of a public dock (other than a ski dock), mooring line, launching ramp, boat, fisherman, swimmer or a person not also engaged in waterskiing.

Environmental Protection

NON-NATIVE AQUATIC SPECIES

The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, along with state, federal and private partners, are working diligently to stop the spread of Aquatic Invasive Species in the state.

Zebra and Quagga Mussels in New Mexico 

The spread of zebra and quagga mussels in New Mexico not only pose a risk to New Mexico’s native aquatic wildlife, but also to all water-based recreation including boating and fishing, as well as to all surface water delivery systems including municipal water supplies, hydroelectric power generation and irrigation for farming and agriculture.

New Mexico is a water-dry state and there is currently no known method for the successful irradiation of these mussels. This is why infestations by zebra or quagga mussels will have such a negative affect on New Mexicans. Understand that it is illegal to knowingly transport AIS into and within New Mexico’s borders.

New Mexico is asking boaters to CLEAN, DRAIN and DRY their boats to stop the spread of harmful invasive mussels. Properly cleaning and drying your boat will also help keep it in good condition and allow all of us to continue to enjoy our favorite lakes for years to come. Be prepared for inspections designed to help ensure that New Mexico’s waters remain free of these harmful mussels.

Help prevent the spread of non-native species

  • Inspect all surfaces of your boat and remove aquatic plants or animals before leaving any body of water.
  • Ensure you flush raw-water cooling systems and clean sea-strainers before moving your boat from one body of water to another.
  • Empty and dry any buckets before leaving a body of water.
  • Remove any plant fragments from bait wells, fishing gear, trailers, dive gear or props.
  • Dispose of plant fragments and bait into a garbage receptacle on land. 
  • Avoid chopping vegetation with your boat’s propeller.
  • Clean and dry all live-wells prior to transporting your boat.
  • Drain all water from your motor and bilge and dry all areas.
  • Thoroughly wash your boat, including the hull, before putting it into a new body of water.
  • Refer to specific drying times.

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.

Quagga & Zebra Mussels

For more information on Aquatic Invasive Species in the state of New Mexico, visit http://www.wildlife.state.nm.us/fishing/fishing-regulations/aquatic-invasive-species/

New Mexico, Blue Waters, Good Times

New Mexico state flag.

New Mexico Boating Destinations

BOATING IN NEW MEXICO

Get outside and enjoy everything that New Mexico‘s great outdoors has to offer.

If you love hitting the water, New Mexico’s lakes, rivers and reservoirs are great for boaters. There are docks and launch ramps located in New Mexico’s State Parks, public lakes and in most of New Mexico’s popular camping areas! So even though this state may be best known by tourists for it’s beautiful deserts, you can also hit the gorgeous waters of New Mexico for a day of boating. 

So whether your travel plans include checking out a big city like Santa Fe, boating on Elephant Butte Lake or maybe visiting a popular National Park destination like the Carlsbad Caverns, there’s a place and a water venue for everybody feeling adventurous in New Mexico.

Boaters and paddlers in New Mexico will have no trouble finding a great place to spend the day on the water. There are many waterways to choose from! A few of the most popular boating lakes in New Mexico include: Elephant Butte Lake, Navajo Lake and Heron Lake.  To help you decide where to launch your boat, we’ve created a list of popular boating, paddling and rafting destinations in New Mexico. Check out the map below. 

 

STATE PARKS

New Mexico’s State Parks offer outdoor enthusiasts sparkling lakes, white sand beaches, amazing caves, expansive deserts and mountain ranges that stretch on and on! Some of the most popular activities include boating, fishing, camping and RVing – so what are you waiting for? Get out there and enjoy it.

Visit the New Mexico State Parks website to explore the state park locations and the variety of activities that each park has to offer its visitors. Have fun exploring!

Helpful resources for boating in New Mexico