New Mexico Boating - Get Refreshed!


Take the Boating Adventure of Your Choice

With over 1200 lakes and 200 miles of rivers, New Mexico is the place to find your adventure whether it be motorboating, sailing, kayaking, rafting or canoeing.

Launching your watercraft into our waters and enjoying a relaxing day of fishing from a canoe or kayak to the rush of speed from a personal watercraft isn't all you'll find here.

Many state park lakes offer primitive boat camping along their sandy shorelines with your tent. Some with sheltered coves offer the ability to houseboat in with friends and family out on the water. Either style of overnight stay is available for about the price of a movie ticket. If you don't have a boat there are a number of marinas who will rent you a boat.  Some offer boat owners the marina life with hundreds of slips or sheltered moorings where friends and families get together and share the latest fish story or barbecue.

What safety equipment am I required to have on my boat?

List of New Mexico Boating Waters

The NM State Boating Program Welcomes you and asks you to Boat Safe and Smart

The boating program for the State of New Mexico began in 1973. The legislation that created the program made New Mexico State Parks responsible for administering and enforcing the state boating laws and regulations on all waters in the state and providing and maintaining many of the boat facilities in the State.

Mandatory New Mexico Boating Safety Education went into effect January 1, 2007. New Mexico is one of 48 states currently that has some form of mandatory boater education. Most are also unaware that the New Mexico course unlike Motor Vehicle Drivers Education courses can be taken for free or on line for a minimal cost. The alternative usually  is not pretty.

"I would highly recommend the class to anyone involved in boating,

whether an old hand or someone new to the sport. It was time well spent."                            Best Regards, James Tightmeyer

Need the card?  Select your approved course option here.

New Mexico specific approved courses are reasonably priced for those selecting home study internet options. We also have formal courses available for a small materials fee from the local United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotillas in Las Cruces/TorC/El Paso, Albuquerque and Rio Rancho Flotilla 02-05.

Our State Park Ranger taught courses are still instructed for free and upon certification do provide boaters some additional insurance discount benefits with their provider.  The State also provides some special course incentives including Free Instructional Materials, a Free Skier Down Flag, free Signal Whistle, Free Key Float and Vessel Registration Keeper, Free Can Cozy, Free Durable Plastic Proof of Boater Education Card, and a Free Extra Night Camping for the price of one certificate for use at a New Mexico State Park.

When do I Need A Boater Education Card? All operators of vessels (includes any motorized including trolling motors, sailing, or personal watercraft) even when supervised by an adult (operation by those under 13 years of age) must carry their proof of boater education when:

  • Your Age in 2014 is 25 or under
  • Your Age in 2015 is 26 or under
  • Your Age in 2016 is 27 or under
  • Your Age in 2017 is 28 or under
  • Your Age in 2018 is 29 or under
  • Your Age in 2019 is 30 or under

        If you don't really know: how to equip your vessel, what to do in emergencies, or even know the navigation rules for being out on the water, maybe now is also the time to take a course.

Register on-line for a formal course here.

All New Mexico Paddlecraft operators (kayaks, canoes, rafts, stand up paddleboards) are highly encouraged to take the Free NASBLA-Approved online paddlesports safety course. Like in most states, paddlecraft are less than 5% of the vessels involved in boat accidents but lack of knowledge by the operator and also not wearing a life jacket have them contribute to a much larger percent of the total fatalities.

The course can be found at:

Personal Watercraft Operators can have a lot of fun but also can avoid tragedy and unnecessary injuries by taking the New Mexico boating safety course and knowing what it means to be taking care out on the water.

A good example is operating contrary to the “Rules of the Road” or following too close to another vessel, including another personal watercraft with the intent to just "Splash" your boating buddy or beat them to the shore. It is a major cause of PWC casualties.

"Following too close" can be thought of as proceeding in the same direction and operating at a speed in excess of [10 MPH] when approaching within [150 feet] to the rear of a vessel or [50 feet] to it's side.

Operators should at a minimum offset themselves and their PWC by at least 50 feet to one side and 150 feet to the rear of another vessel or PWC.  That allows the operator in front to" head check" the location of the vessel operator to the rear and allows the same operator in front room to maneuver in case of an obstacle immediately forward is seen in the water.   It allows the PWC operator in the rear, in most cases, sufficient reaction time to slow down in case the operator in front decides to make an abrupt turn and blocking the forward direction of travel.

The boating program also promotes youth water safety through free school programs. Bring a Ranger to your school.

Other boating program functions include waterways management planning, maintaining boating facilities including Aids to Navigation for New Mexico State Parks, administering the state boating accident database (All accidents by law, require a boating accident report to be submitted by each operator involved), and cooperating with the United States Coast Guard and its Volunteer Auxiliary. New Mexico has operating Flotillas Statewide (that any interested boater may join and take advantage of greater knowledge and being a supported volunteer on the water by both the federal and state government), and also helps other local, state and national agencies with water recreation management responsibilities.

  Flotilla 21    2nd Wed. each month at the Rancher's Club, El Paso, TX

  Flotilla 23    1st Thur. each month at Aztec Resturant, Aztec, NM  1830 hrs

  Flotilla 24    1st Monday each month China King resturant, Albuquerque, NM  1830 hrs

  Flotilla 25    2nd Thur. 1728 Abrazo, Rio Rancho, NM 1900 hrs.

Boaters can help reduce the need for unnecessary search and rescues by maintaining their vessels starting with using a checklist of maintenance and getting a Free Vessel Safety Check covering the items at the bottom of this page.

Wearing a PFD/Life Jacket is Mandatory for Kids Under 12

All Children 12 years and under, on all paddlecraft, on all personal watercraft on all towed activities.

For more information check out this video for hints.

child in PFD

New Mexico law mandates the wearing of a PFD/Life Jacket by all children 12 years of age and under beginning January 1, 2007. 


The operator of a vessel being used for recreational purposes shall require a child age twelve or under who is aboard the vessel to wear a personal flotation device approved by the United States Coast Guard while the vessel is underway, unless the child is
below deck or in an enclosed cabin."

A childhood tragedy in Australia should remind everyone why our mandatory wear is enforced.

Lista de Orientacion Para un Barco en Estado de Nuevo Mexico

Zona de chaleco salvavidas!

Para El Arrendatario de Un Motor Acuatico en Nuevo Mexico Aqui

Navegando en el Estado de Nuevo Mexico, Un curso sobre navegación responsable.

Para obtener informacion sobre de navegacion Aqui Para obtener informacion sobre dias y locacion y para obtener examen Aqui.

Get a Free Vessel Safety Check!

These are the folks that help you and your fellow boaters.

We also encourage boaters who have that interest to join up with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary!

They are a civilian group with some former military that dedicate volunteer time to the public.

Vessel Safety check logos

There are two vessel safety checks available annually for free in New Mexico.

One vessel check is available trom the US Coast Guard Auxiliary and another from the New Mexico State Parks Boating Program. 

Make a copy of your US Coast Guard Auxiliary safety check form and bring it to your boat insurance agent. It may qualify you for a discount on your Marine insurance.

For the New Mexico State Parks requirements those are listed in the NM Handbook of Boating Laws and State Park Regulations. Call Boating Bureau for a current list of required equipment at 1-888-667-2757. A New Mexico State Parks safety check and sticker is available from Marine Enforcement Officers at most of the lake State Parks or from the Santa Fe Office. A separate checklist is available for PWC's.

Other than not having your required equipment on board, the main reason for problems out on the water is not maintaining your vessel. You may also want to check your vessel for recalls that you can find at

State Registration Numbers on both sides of the boat with proper one character spacing or hyphen between the "NM" in the front and the two letters at the end, full contrasting color to the hull, use of minimum 3" block letters and numbers, and a current validation decal on port side and located 6" behind the state registration number.

  1. REGISTRATION (Certificate of Number - the "registration card" on board) or /DOCUMENTATION - valid papers on board (very large vessels numbered by the U.S. Coast Guard)
  2. NAVIGATION LIGHTS - must operate and be in proper configuration
  3. SOUND PRODUCING DEVICE - horn, whistle or other device
  4. BELL - boats 26 feet or longer (this is 39.5' elsewhere)
  5. LIFE JACKETS - one wearable for each passenger, also one Type IV throwable device. All must be in good condition and readily accessible.
  6. FIRE EXTINGUISHER - if required, mounted, minimum number and size for length of boat and type of boat,  in good condition
  7. VISUAL DISTRESS SIGNALS - inland, a flag, visual distress signal, light etc.
  8. VENTILATION - for closed compartments with potential for explosive vapors and ingnition source. Installed blower must work. Warning is posted.
  9. BACKFIRE FLAME ARRESTER- approved type, tight installation and clean.
  10. FUEL SYSTEM - tanks secured.  Tanks over 7 gallons are considered permanent and must be grounded and vented. Hoses in good condition, no leaks.
  11. ANCHOR, ANCHOR CHAIN AND ANCHOR LINE - suitable for the boat and the boating area.
  12. ALTERNATIVE PROPULSION - paddle or oar.
  13. SECURING SYSTEMS - minimum of a length of line the length of the boat, stout, and in good condition.
  14. DEWATERING DEVICE - bilge pump(s) works, extra manual one gallon bailer or manual hand pump.
  15. OVERALL VESSEL CONDITION - bilge and equipment area clean, well maintained. Not overloaded, overpowered, or any automotive parts.
  16. ELECTRICAL SYSTEM - batteries secured, terminals covered, well organized wiring, proper fuses/circuit breakers.
  17. GALLEY/HEATING SYSTEM - secure system, proper tank installation, no flammable material nearby.
  18. STATE REQUIREMENTS - operator education card if born on or after January 1, 1989.
  19. MARINE SANITATION DEVICE - approved device, overboard discharge sealed.
  20. MARINE POLLUTION TRASH PLACARD - only boats 26 feet and over, written plan for boats 40 feet and over.
  21. POLLUTION PLACARD - only for boats 26 feet and over, with machinery compartment.
  22. NAVIGATION RULES - copy of rules for boats 39.4 feet or over.
  23. FCC MARINE RADIO LICENSE - not a legal requirement for pleasure boats unless traveling outside of U.S. waters.

They will also do a visual exam of your trailering system.

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