River licensing is a somewhat complex subject. In England and Wales, there are differing opinions regarding Public Rights of Navigation (PRN) along non-tidal waters.

To simplify the answer, if you want to paddle on virtually all the inland waterways in England you will need a licence.

This includes narrowboats and unpowered craft such as canoes, kayaks, dinghies, rowing boats, paddleboards, and light inflatable craft. If you’re paddling on the sea, estuaries or tidal water, or on a river or canal which doesn’t require a licence, then that’s fine, you don’t need one. There are also options to purchase a day licence.

A Rivers licence is not a tax. The income is used for the benefit of paddlers. Maintaining things like water flow, easy access points, ramps, and slipways for example.

Our Advice

We recommend a British Canoeing membership which gives you access to 4,500km of waterways and the added benefit of insurance. As a British Canoeing member, you are sent a membership card which also serves as your waterways licence. Carry your British Canoeing membership card with you at all times, as you may be asked to show this to authorised navigation officials.

Be safe when on the water

The importance of using the waterways is being safe while having fun. Canoe Trail can offer the opportunity to learn canoeing, kayaking, and stand up paddleboarding here.

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