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Arizona Boating Laws

arizona boating laws
A total of eight agencies may be patrolling Lake Havasu at any given time

Arizona law governing Lake Havasu

Boating safety is a team effort; boaters should be cognizant of the laws, rules, and regulations of the lake to ensure the safety of all who enjoy Lake Havasu. All Arizona waterways are governed by Title 5 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, the Arizona Game & Fish Commission Rules, and the U.S. Coast Guard Federal Regulations. Additionally, Lake Havasu is also governed by the Lake Havasu City, Arizona Code of Ordinances. Below is a synopsis of the most common laws boaters are cited for.

State law at a glance

  • No reckless, dangerous, or negligent operation of a watercraft.
  • No bow-riding while underway.
  • Driver's view may not be impeded at any time.
  • No one under the age of 12 may operate a motorized vessel.
  • Boating speeds must be controlled to avoid collision or damage to property, including causing a wake that may cause damage or collision.
  • No overloading of passengers in a boat.
  • Motorized watercraft must yield to non-motorized watercraft.
  • Boaters overtaking another boat are responsible for their wake which may cause damage to the overtaken vessel or danger to the occupants.
  • Boaters must stay to the right of the lake (counter-clockwise).
  • Boaters towing people/persons must have at least two occupants in the boat at all times.
  • No towing skiers/wakeboarders or other water sports between sunset and sunrise.
  • No interference with the free and proper use of waterways, launch ramps, or other watercraft.
  • No littering (including cigarette butts).
  • If you are involved in a boating accident, you must stop to render aid and provide contact information.
Law AZ Statute Corresponding
City Ordinance
Arizona State Law in General
1No person shall operate a watercraft in a careless, reckless, or negligent manner. A.R.S. §5-341 §8.16.180
1No passenger shall ride on the gunwales, transom, or deck over bow of a watercraft in motion and being propelled by machinery unless that portion of the watercraft was designated for the purpose of carrying passengers or the watercraft is being maneuvered for anchoring, mooring, or casting off moorings. In layman's terms, bow-riding, sitting at the front of the boat with your feet in the water, or sitting/standing on the swim step while the boat is underway, is illegal. A.R.S. §5-341 §8.16.230
1No person shall operate a watercraft with anyone or anything in or on the bow obstructing the view of the operator. A.R.S. §5-341 §8.16.120
1No one under the age of 12 may operate a watercraft except in the case of an emergency, in which case a parent or legal guardian or at least one person 18 years old or older must be present on the watercraft. A.R.S. §5-341 N/A
2No person may drive in excess of posted speed limits or faster than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions. Drivers must have regard to actual and potential hazards then existing. Speed must always be controlled as necessary to avoid a collision with another person or watercraft, or swamping another watercraft, or endangering the lives or property of other persons. In layman's terms, if you drive too fast and too close to another boat and your wake swamps the other boat, you are responsible for any damage you may cause. A.R.S. §5-343 N/A
2No watercraft shall be loaded and operated with passengers or cargo beyond its safe carrying capacity or the limitations on the manufacturer's load capacity plate. A.R.S. §5-344 §8.16.140
2The operator of a motorized watercraft shall yield right-of-way to any vessel not under power, unless such non-powered watercraft is overtaking a motorized vessel. A.R.S. §5-345 N/A
2Watercraft operators may pass on either side of any other vessel being overtaken, but the passing operator is responsible for their wake which might cause damage to the overtaken watercraft or danger to the occupants. The overtaken watercraft shall maintain course and speed until such time as the overtaking watercraft is clear. Watercraft approaching head-on shall pass port-side to port-side where practical to do so. In layman's terms, if you pass another boat and your wake swamps the other boat, you are responsible for any damage you may cause. Always pass port-side (left side) when approaching another boat head-on. A.R.S. §5-345 N/A
2Normal traffic on the waterways of this state shall be counterclockwise. Watercraft leaving the shoreline area shall yield right-of-way to watercraft approaching the shoreline area. In layman's terms, keep the shoreline on your right when driving on the lake. A.R.S. §5-345 §8.16.070
2If towing a person/persons on waterskis, wakeboard, intertube, or similar contrivance, the vessel must have at least two occupants in/on the vessel, an operator and an observer. In layman's terms, there must be at least two people in the boat/PWC when towing someone; the operator and an observer. A.R.S. §5-346 N/A
2Watercraft operators shall not tow a person/persons on waterskis, wakeboard, intertube, or similar contrivance from sunset to sunrise. In layman's terms, it's illegal to tow a skier/wakeboarder/tuber after sunset or before sunrise. A.R.S. §5-346 N/A
2No person shall unreasonably or unnecessarily interfere with other watercraft, with the free and proper use of the waterways of the state, or with areas used for launching. Anchoring or swimming in heavily-traveled channels or launching areas shall constitute such interference. A.R.S. §5-347 §8.16.090
2No person shall dump, deposit, place, throw or leave refuse, rubbish, debris, filthy or odoriferous objects, substances or other trash on any waterways or the shorelines. In layman's terms, it is illegal to litter the lake, including throwing cigarette butts in the water. A.R.S. §5-348 N/A
3If involved in a collision, accident, or other casualty, operators of vessels must immediately stop the vessel at the scene of the accident, or as close to the scene as possible (unless doing so will cause serious danger to the operator's own vessel or persons aboard), render assistance, and remain at the scene of the accident to provide their name, address, and identification of the vessel to any person injured and to the owners of any property damaged. If death or injury results from a watercraft collision or accident, a written report must be submitted within 48 hours. A.R.S. §5-349 N/A

1 Violation constitutes a class 2 misdemeanor under State law.
2 Violation constitutes a petty offense under State law.
3 Violation with only property damage constitutes a class 3 felony under State law. Violation with minor injuries constitutes a class 6 felony under State law. Violation with serious injuries or death constitutes a class 5 felony under State law.

For a list of required boating equipment, click here.

*Note: Possession of, or being under the influence of, marijuana is a felony in Arizona unless you carry a medical marijuana card issued by the state of Arizona. Medical marijuana cards issued by any other states are not valid.

Specifically for personal watercraft (PWCs)

PWC jumping a wakeMost accidents involving PWCs are a direct result of the PWC getting too close to another boat. Arizona law specifically states the distance PWC operators must stay away from another boat or vessel. Laws governing PWC operation are in place for the protection of everyone enjoying the lake. While it may be fun to jump a boat's wake or spray your friends on their boat, the act in itself is not only illegal, but is very dangerous and can cause serious injury, and many times death, if the operator loses control or a motor stalls. Arizona state law defines a personal watercraft as a "Watercraft less than sixteen feet long, propelled by machinery powering a water jet pump and designed to be operated by a person who sits, stands, or kneels on, rather than sitting or standing inside, the watercraft."

Law AZ Statute
Arizona Law Specific to PWCs
1Every person riding or aboard a PWC must wear a Coast Guard-approved life vest (personal floatation device or PFD) at all times. A.R.S. §5-350
1If the PWC is equipped with a lanyard (an engine cut-off cord), it must be attached to the operator of the PWC. A.R.S. §5-350
2PWC operators (drivers) shall not operate or knowingly allow another person to operate a PWC under their ownership or control in a reckless or negligent manner, endangering life or property of another. Reckless operation exists if the person commits two or more of the following acts simultaneously:

  1. Operates a PWC closer than 60 feet to another vessel unless both are leaving a flat wake or traveling at 5 nautical miles per hour or less.
  2. Operates a PWC in a manner that blocks or obstructs the visibility of themselves or another operator of a vessel.
  3. Heads into the wake of another vessel that is closer than 60 feet and causes ½ the length of the PWC to leave the water.In layman's terms, it is illegal to jump another boat's wake if the PWC is closer than 60 feet from that boat.
  4. Within 60 feet of another vessel, the PWC maneuvers quickly, turns sharply, or swerves, unless the maneuver is necessary to avoid a collision. In layman's terms, approaching another boat for the purpose of "spraying" them with the jet is illegal.
A.R.S. §5-350
1A PWC shall not be overloaded beyond the manufacturer's recommended limits. A.R.S. §5-350

1Violation constitutes a petty offense under State law.
2Violation constitutes a class 2 misdemeanor under State law.

For specific information about operating a boat or PWC while under the influence of alcohol, please go to our OUI page.

Common sense is the best way to keep yourself and your party safe from harm or citation. For a list of required boating equipment, click here. Please note that the laws stated above are only a partial listing of the laws governing the Lake Havasu and Colorado River waterways.

Our boating safety section is a four-part series. Please browse through the additional sections for more information:

Part 1: Boating Safety
Part 2: Arizona Boating Laws
Part 3: Bridgewater Channel Laws
Part 4: OUI Laws

Rev. 3/17