Arkansas Waterway Laws

Arkansas Waterway Laws for Canoes, Kayaks and Inner Tubes

Arkansas Waterway Laws are an important part of keeping our national river safe and you as well. While planning your Buffalo River trip, we want to enforce your safety as well as the wildlife. We have gathered information from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to help guide you on correct and safe ways to float down the river.

Life Jackets


Every boat must have one type of personal flotation device for each person on board. All life vests must be:

  • United States Coast Guard-approved
  • in good and serviceable condition
  • of proper size

Arkansas Waterway Laws REQUIRE that children 12 years old and younger must wear a USCG–approved personal flotation device. This flotation device must be securely fastened to them at all times. Those over the age of 12 are not required to wear a life vest but are required to carry one aboard any vessel.

It is our recommendation for everyone to wear a USCG–approved life jacket, securely fastened, at all times.

Glass Containers Prohibited

No glass containers are allowed in any floating device. They are harmful to the environment are not allowed in vessels easily susceptible to swamping, tipping, or rolling within the banks of Arkansas navigable waterways. Only containers for substances prescribed by a licensed physician are allowed. However, people engaged in removing glass previously discarded by others and found within the banks of an Arkansas navigable waterway may not be charged with a violation for possessing that glass if it is being transported in a secure trash container.

Fasten Cooler Lids


All food and beverages in canoes, kayaks, inner tubes must be contained. They must be in a sealable or lockable cooler/ container that  prevents the contents from spilling in the water. This is applied to vessels easily susceptible to swamping, tipping, or rolling. This is to protect our wildlife.

Trash Container


All canoes, kayaks, inner tubes and other vessels carrying food or beverages must have an attached closeable trash container. The container must be of sturdy construction, or it may be a bag of mesh construction. All trash must be safely and lawfully disposed of. A container is not required for people traveling without foodstuffs or beverages. We do, however, recommend taking a container in order to help protect our wildlife from harmful items others leave behind.

Use a Floating Holder for Beverages


All beverages not securely contained in a cooler or litter bag must be held in a floating holder or other device designed to prevent it from sinking beneath the water’s surface. This is to protect our wildlife and others who float down the river after you.

NO STYROFOAM COOLERS ON THE RIVER OR RIVERBANKS

Paddling Ethics and Safety


Our number one goal is to make sure you stay safe while having fun. Therefore, when approaching other paddlers, make sure give give them enough space and respect. We want everyone to have fun and be respectful of others recreations. This is for everyone’s safety.

Rivers are ever-changing systems with dangers. While the Buffalo National River may be calm, we must treat every waterway with respect and be prepared for any instance that may occur. Here are some tips to help you safely enjoy your time on the water!

  • Never paddle alone.
  • Always file a float plan – tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return.
  • Check weather forecasts and be prepared.
  • Carry a map of the stream so you can find your location at any time.
  • Carry a hand-held Global Positioning System unit; it will help you pinpoint your position and how to get back to a launch site.
  • Wear protective footgear and carry drinking water, sunscreen, and insect repellent.
  • Plan your trip so that your paddling skills are equal to the water conditions and know your limits.

It is our duty to preserve and protect the Buffalo National River. Violators of the Arkansas Waterway Laws may be prosecuted. Most of all, have fun and stay safe!