The Handbook of Wisconsin: Boating Laws and Responsibilities

The Handbook of Wisconsin: Boating Laws and Responsibilities


The Handbook of Wisconsin: Boating Laws and Responsibilities is the official boating handbook developed for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The handbook introduces you to Wisconsin laws governing boating and provides general information about safe vessel operation on Wisconsin waterways.

Wisconsin is home to two Great Lakes, but also more than 15,000 streams, rivers, other lakes, and many stunning waterfalls. Both relaxed and adventurous, Wisconsin’s abundant waterways provide boaters with an opportunity for canoeing, kayaking, sailing, and waterskiing.

Use this handbook to familiarize yourself with steps to make all your boating outings safe and enjoyable. Remember, safety on Wisconsin waterways is the responsibility of all boaters.

Topics include:

  • Vessel Basics
  • Navigation Rules
  • Nighttime Navigation
  • Emergencies
  • Personal Watercraft (PWCs)
  • Wisconsin Boating Laws and Regulations
  • Required Equipment
  • Skiing
  • And much more…

Boater Education

You may have heard that you need a boating license to operate your boat, but what you really need is a boaters safety course. Whether or not your state requires education, it can reduce boating accidents and injuries on the water. Boaters can keep themselves and their passengers safe by learning about responsible boat operation, etiquette, and the rules of the waterways.

All persons born on or after January 1, 1989, who are at least 16 years of age must pass a Wisconsin-approved boat education course to legally operate a motorboat. Persons at least 12 years old but less than 16 years old may also operate a motorboat unaccompanied if he or she has passed a Wisconsin-approved course.