Boat Registration in Illinois: What’s Whitewater Got to do With It?

MfairladyCWA(Chicago Whitewater Association “Intro to Whitewater” at Harper College, February 2011 with Bob Menard; picture by Heidi Haas.)

When it comes to non-motorized boats, only Illinois, Ohio, Oklahoma, Iowa (boats over 15′), Minnesota (boats over 9′), and Pennsylvania require registration fees.   

After non-motorized boat users complained in droves, the registration fees in Alaska  were eventually dropped from the law.  In 2000, in Arizona the annual registration fee was also dropped due in part to high administration costs that were exceeding the revenues that were being collected and an ineffective ability to return services to the public.

Not only is there a higher rate of turnover with whitewater boats which makes for more paperwork, but many paddlers tend to own more than a single canoe or kayak and when it comes to registration, this makes what their share of what they pay in boating fees disproportionate compared to the owners of single, more expensive powerboats.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars go into creating bike trails without requiring bicycles to be registered like cars and in the same way it makes sense that paddle boats ought to be separated from motor boats.  All power-boats are registered just like cars for a good reason. The money is used to support investments in channel marking and provides for law enforcement in heavily used oceans and lakes.

Since Illinois requires all boats to be registered in the state, if you are coming from another state that does not require kayaks to be registered, as most do not, you will have to purchase a license in your state or from Illinois. The initial fee for registration in Illinois currently is $13.00 for 3 years (for each boat). Renewal is then $6 (for 3 years).  Once you have applied, a copy of the application gives you a 120 day “grace” period without a sticker.

Out-of-state boaters can stay up to 60 days in Illinois if they are registered in their state but since only a few states currently require canoe and kayak owners to register or pay special taxes on their boats, this creates an inconvenience to out-of-state paddlers visiting that have not been required to register their boats.

American Whitewater is the primary advocate for the preservation and protection of whitewater resources throughout the United States.  AW reports that registration fees have rarely been used to benefit paddlesports, but tend to be diverted for motor-boat launch sites and programs that benefit fishermen, but unlike hunters or fishermen, paddlers take nothing from the environment.

Registration laws also increase the opperating costs for church organizations, university programs, and comercial angling outfitters and whitewater outfitters.

Idaho: …From what I can figure out, part of your reasoning for wanting kayakers and canoeists to cough up $20 per year is because they use the same facilities as owners of motorized boats, and you want to keep the playing field fair for anyone who drops an inflatable tube in Idaho’s rivers.

At $20 a pop for a required registration fee, you’re looking at $2 million big ones for a state…. any way you slice it, paying an annual registration on canoes and kayaks – although it might sound gentler termed as a “use fee” – is still a heavy-handed tax that simply seems wrong.

What’s insulting about this plan – which would also make Idaho the first western state to require registration fees for non-motorized boat owners in four years – is that 99 percent of Idaho’s whitewater that canoeists and kayakers like to tackle flows through federal lands. The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management already charge use fees,….

….these non-motorized registration fees you think are a fair shake won’t help fund or improve any facility or anything else for that matter on federal lands shouldering rivers that canoeists and kayakers paddle through.


 …Currently, motorized boat registration already brings in an annual $1.6 million, while another $851,000 from boating programs dribbles in from state and federal grants. While they can only speculate, officials estimate that there are at least 100,000 kayaks and canoes in Idaho.(7)

Ohio:  You can always tell a canoeist or kayaker from Ohio, that’s because they have been required to register their craft, pay a fee, and place big numbers on the side of their boats ever since the Ohio legislature figured out a way to “cheat” on their federal taxes and get more money from the federal government. The Ohio legislature figured that if they required all canoes, kayaks, and rafts to be registered along with motorboats as recreational watercraft, then they would be eligible for more Wallop-Breaux and other federal transportation funding. (2)

Oct 28, 2010 “Illinois Sportsman to DNR–Where’s Our Money?” The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is misappropriating millions of dollars that should have been earmarked for the state’s sportsmen. The gasoline taxes are so high our roads should be the best in the midwest…

IL Outdoors, “The problem in Illinois has always been that no commission or committee has been able to control the political footballs in this state,”….Jerry Martogilo (Pres. of Il Bass Federation)

October 2010–IDNR Needs More Transparency: Solutions: IDNR should place every contract funded by the Act on their Web site, for the public to scrutinize. In addition, legislation is needed to create a commission that could oversee and direct how the money is spent.

October 2010: Legislator proposes entrance fees for our parks  No we dont need additional monies to support our state parks, they need to live with the tax money they receive now or even possible cuts in the future. Bankruptcy, companies leaving, folks losing jobs, foreclosures, education, pensions, infrastructure collapsing and the list goes on and on–our public servants to introduce a bill like this less than two weeks after a 66% tax increase was passed in the middle of the night and agreed to after closed door meetings by Quinn who two months ago pledge half of this increase would be all he would support…

Crooked Politcians Costing Illinois $300M in ‘Corruption Tax’: Professor— We pay when public employees take bribes to overlook violations, when law enforcement spends millions prosecuting crooked politicians and when people are injured because of government misconduct. 

Works Cited
1) American Whitewater Jason D. Robertson — “Maine Seeks to Require Boat Registrations,” 3/18/03, by Jason Robertson, American Whitewater.
2) American Whitewater, “Boater Registration.”
3) Workin’ On the River, by Mary Pieper, 11/1/10.
4) “Dam Drop, Doc’s Drop, Exit Exam all part of Charles City’s new white-water course,” by Jeff Reinitz , 3/14/11.
5) Eastern Iowa’s Outdoors, “State’s First Whitewater Park Moving Forward,” 3/9/11.
6) Charles City Whitewater Park, American Whitewater.
7) Otter’s Canoe and Kayak Program is All Wet, by R J Cohn, 7/14/08.
8)  American Whitewater

9) Illinois state tax on watercraft specifically exempts class I watercraft or canoes and kayaks. Pdf
10) Bardstown Boaters Whitewater Park Data Base

11)  How to fight a bill that proposes the registration of paddlecraft.

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