What is a California Boater Card and do you need one?

A law being rolled out over the next few years requires California residents to have a boater card, starting now for younger boaters, and increasing in age until 2025 when everybody will need one.

The card

The law went into effect on January 1st, 2018, requiring boaters under the age of 20 to pass an approved boating safety examination, get the card – which does not expire – and carry it. Next January the age will increase to 25, then 35 by 2020, 40 by 2021, 45 by 2022, 50 by 2023, 60 by 2024 and including all people by 2025.

The card will be required by California residents only, regardless of where their watercraft is registered, meaning that the key requirement is based on residency.

According to the state of California, in 2016 more than 800 California recreational vessels were involved in reported accidents, resulting in 50 deaths. More than 266 were injured in severity beyond first aid treatment. Former Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. signed the mandatory education course into law in 2014.

The California Boater Card

DISCUSSION: California's new 'boater card' law and who needs one

Posted by Parker Live Updates on Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Sound begins at 8:20


The Parker Strip

The western half of the Colorado River is in California and the eastern half is in Arizona, which means that boaters are regularly entering and exiting each state as they travel along the Parker Strip. Law enforcement officers from either state have the authority to enforce mutual laws all the way across the river, but generally, only California law enforcement officers can be expected to enforce the boater card law, and only on the western side of the river.

A provision of the new law says that residents of another state, like Arizona, may operate their vessel on California waterways for “less than 60 days”, which would allow Arizona residents to launch their boats on the Parker Strip and travel in and out of the California side of the river as long as their boat was not on that side of the river for longer than 60 days.

Conversely, California residents will be able to use their boat on the Arizona side of the river without a boater card only if they stay on the eastern portion of the river. Practically, this means a boater card will be required, as normal use of the Parker Strip requires being in both states.

For more information on the new law, go to CaliforniaBoaterCard.com. A lifetime card will cost $10.


  1. Rosemarie Kautsky Reynolds

    This is just another tax and a way California residents are getting screwed! AGAIN! Disgusted with this state!

  2. Jesus Salazar

    What. Good thing I won’t need one for a while

  3. I have an Oregon Boaters card. Does that suffice?

  4. Art Hemphill

    I remember when you never had to pay the state for what you did -they have taken away our privileges and now you have to pay to do anything

  5. No, there’s no reciprocity. But, if you’re not a California resident, it doesn’t matter (as long as your boating on California waters lasts less than 60 days).

  6. Sounds like a lot of upcoming traffic on the east side of the river…

  7. Chris Wagner

    Keep voting the same folks into office people…

  8. John Wright

    If it’s a tax, it isn’t a difficult one: it’s $10.

  9. Roger Hefner

    Hey California next they will start licensing surf boards ..Haha POS state.

  10. Larry Hansohn

    I have been surprised, over the past 20 years, that this hasn’t been implemented…strictly for the cash revenue! ????????

  11. Justin Keep

    Rosemarie ???? lol, if they could collect a “stupid tax” they be the richest state in the union. The road tax, the gas tax, the bullet train tax, the bridge/dam tax, the fire tax, the “Boater Card” the “Stupids” will keep allowing them (GOV) to squalor their funds and keep adding these taxes and referendums, cuz $10 not so bad x5 million people where’s that money going?? Their MF pockets, well they don’t get my $$ no more. 9 years in AZ and lovin it, couldn’t keep me stupid.

  12. Rosemarie Kautsky Reynolds

    On our way out too! Not going to be many working folks left in this state..

  13. There is a designated traffic flow pattern for the Colorado River (and all Arizona Waterways). Boating traffic must travel in a Counter-Clockwise rotation. That means going up-river (northbound) closer to the Arizona shore and down-river (southbound) closer to the California shore. Arizona’s traffic pattern law ensures that boaters are in compliance with Federal Navigation Rules, which dictate that vessels transiting a narrow river or channel, must stay as close as is practical to the shoreline* located off their starboard (right) side.

    Boaters who try to stay completely on one side of the river (as was suggested above) would be in violation of Arizona law and Federal Navigation Rules half of the time they are on the River. (California Law is similar to Arizona’s and also incorporates Federal Rules)

    *When hazards are present, such as Rock Island or the shallow area north of Marina Village, traffic can venture toward the opposite side, but still must stay as far to the right as water depth allows.

  14. Arizona is now the only state that doesn’t require some form of Boater Education to operate a boat or personal watercraft. In every other state, the accident, injury and fatality rate has been drastically lowered for the demographic subject to education requirements (some states only require it for Youths, Personal Watercraft, or other specific groups). Boating Education works in reducing boating casualties every where it is implemented.

    Look for a Boating Education requirement for Arizona in the next few years. Currently the Arizona Game and Fish Department offers Boating Safety Courses for no cost or low, nominal fee for supplies and refreshments. The current course is only 8 hours and meets the requirements for all state(s) boating education requirements. Take the course NOW, as open seats will be hard to find when and if Arizona Legislators pass a Boating Education Law.


  15. Tom Carroll

    I personally don’t think it goes far enough. I’m still a firm believer that people need to pass a driving test in order to be able to drive a boat. Too many idiots on the water.

  16. Shawn Maddox

    Never forget……

    In 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum-security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem… if no one else can help… and if you can find them… maybe you can hire… The A-Team.

  17. Cindy Helm Wiersema

    Every tax and fee know to man is first created in the Golden State!……That’s why we moved to Idaho and never looked back!

  18. Annie Duncan Popp

    It’s a smart thing to do. It will also help to offset the new Medicaid recipients.

  19. John Wright

    On the contrary, California cities are still at the top of the list of cities people are moving TO.

  20. Eric Larson

    Justin Keep You’re absolutely right the AZ freedom feels great!

  21. Rosemarie Kautsky Reynolds

    John Wright good, have fun, my house is for sale… hopefully they have a really good job! Good luck@

  22. Randy Merritt

    Got to pay for their illegal aliens some how.

  23. Renee Oswald Gabbard

    We had these in the state of WA years ago. No cost, free classes. Smart boating is no accident

  24. Eddie Rowland

    Do you need a C B C to boat in Az ??

  25. Mick Newton

    I hope the require a boat launch and retieval and water skills test.

  26. Sandra Orwig

    Tim Dowling read this link

  27. John Wright – This would dispute what you said….
    “Outbound migration –
    He said the latest Census Bureau data, from July 2016 to July 2017, show “more people moved out of California to other states than moved in from other states. In other words, California lost people due to domestic migration.”

    During that 12-month period, California saw a net loss of just over 138,000 people, while Texas had a net increase of more than 79,000 people. Arizona gained more than 63,000 residents, and Nevada gained more than 38,000.”

  28. Ambrose Buford

    “One thing is clear: The Founding Fathers never intended a nation where citizens would pay nearly half of everything they earn to the government.” – Ron Paul

  29. California resident, 20 and under, gotta have a Boater Card…got it.

    NOW for the real safety question:

    Is the section of the river in front of Bluewater Casino still 5 mph wakeless speed or did that rule go away with the elimination of the wakeless speed buoy?

    A lot of speeding boats and watercraft down there mixing with slow moving or drifting boats and swimmers…very dangerous.

  30. In answer to Dennis, the area is still a No Wake Zone. I was down there this week, and the buoys were there. Inconsiderate idiots cut the buoys loose, run into them, or otherwise damage them. It’s up to CRIT to replace them when that happens. The No Wake area is to protect the marshland on the California side. The area is a nesting location for the Yuma Clapper Rail, an endangered bird. They build their nests in the marsh on the top of the water. If the nest is overly disturbed, the birds will abandon it, regardless of the status/age of their young. Eggs, hatch-lings, juvenile birds would be abandoned and die. While occasional wakes and disturbances can be tolerated, constant disturbance cannot. That’s why occasional races and other events are allowed, through permits by the Coast Guard, with the OK from US Fish and Wildlife, CRIT Fish and Game, AZ Game and Fish, and other entities.

  31. Thank you Alan, the entire situation makes more sense now.

    I haven’t been out on the water for a few weeks. Good to hear the No Wake buoys are back, it was getting pretty dangerous down there.

  32. Don’t kid yourselves…. This is/was a FEDERAL idea/requirement dictated to all states. The Feds HATE loosing revenue (tax payers)…. I’ve been driving power boats (50 hp or more) since I was 12 years old (1965) and I’ve NEVER run into or over anyone, or anything…. Too many Stupid or Intoxicated people out there on the water…

  33. More taxes from the state of california, some of the safety added with this bill I am in agreement with, you may also check out: https://aceboater.com/usa/california

  34. For all the anti-tax people: Wake up – it’s $10.00 for life. That’s it, you pay $10.00 once FOR LIFE. Wow, those taxes! Second, the class offered from BoatUS is FREE!! Third, to Cindy Wiersema above – She moved to Idaho to avoid things like this in California. Well, Idaho requires a boating card also. Now where are you going to move to Cindy?? Fourth, if you don’t like California, please leave. We will all be better off. Thank you.
    P.S. California has the largest economy in the United States, and the 5th largest economy on earth. I guess we’re doing something right.

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