Table of Contents

Registering Your Vessel

You must have an Iowa Registration Certificate and registration decals to operate a vessel on Iowa’s public waters legally. Exceptions to registration are:

  • Inflatable vessels that are 7 feet or less in length
  • Canoes and kayaks that are 13 feet or less in length and have no motor or sail
  • Vessels properly registered in another state and using Iowa waters for 60 or fewer days within one calendar year

The Registration Certificate (pocket-sized registration certificate) must be on board and available for inspection by an enforcement officer whenever the vessel is operated.

The Iowa Registration Card

Iowa Registration Certificate

The registration number and registration decals must be displayed as follows.

  • Number must be painted, applied as a decal, or otherwise affixed to the forward half of each side of the vessel, placed for maximum visibility.
  • No other numbers may be displayed on either side of the bow.
  • Number must read from left to right on both sides of the vessel.
  • Number must be in at least 3-inch-high, bold, BLOCK letters.
  • Number’s color must contrast with its background.
  • Letters must be separated from the numbers by a space or hyphen: IA 3717 ZW or IA-3717-ZW.
  • Decals must be affixed on each side of the vessel, toward the stern of the registration number, 4 inches from and in line with the number.
Iowa Validation Decal

Iowa vessel capacity and registration numbers

Iowa Validation Decal

Boaters will begin seeing a new decal when registering a boat with the County Recorder.

If a vessel is propelled by sail alone, the registration number may be placed in a position to provide maximum visibility, including placement on the mast.

A sailboard is not required to display the registration number, but the decal must be placed on the bottom surface of the bow of the sailboard.

If your vessel requires registration, it is illegal to operate it or allow others to operate your vessel unless it is registered and numbered as described above.

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