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Waterways Licence

British Canoeing membership includes a licence to paddle over 4,500km of river navigations and canals.

British Canoeing work in partnership with all the major waterway authorities to allow paddlers to have one licence as part of their 'On the Water' membership, covering over 4,500kms of waterways in England. Making it the most comprehensive and best value licence available.

Before you head out onto the water it’s important to check if a waterway licence is required, as for a number of waterways it is a legal requirement. 

The good news - a percentage of British Canoeing membership income is passed onto the waterway authorities to cover the costs of waterway licences included in our membership package. As part of their work, waterway authorities carry out vital maintenance and environmental work on managed waterways. Ensuring they are kept clean and safe for us and future generations to enjoy!

To see all the places your membership will open up for you read our licensing page here.

Costs and Cover Explained

An annual British Canoeing ‘On the Water’ membership costs just £45 and includes a waterway licence for over 4,500km, civil liability insurance and a range of other great paddler benefits. 

If licences were purchased directly across the different authorities, to cover the same number of waterways included within a British Canoeing membership it would cost over £130. 

What types of paddling are covered?

Our waterway licence and membership covers all types of paddling disciplines and boats (kayak, canoe and stand up paddleboard). 

A licence will cover any passengers you have within your boat (as long as you, the member is in the boat with them) but if there are two of you both going for a paddle independently in separate craft then you will both need a licence. 

Just make sure you have your membership card with you when out paddling as you may be required to show it to Navigation Officials.

Affiliated Clubs

Clubs using the waterways are required to have a licence for each club boat. Your club can purchase waterways licences covering the Canal & River Trust and Environment Agency waterways, at a reduced rate, from British Canoeing as part of your club affiliation, rather than buying from the Navigation authorities. 

Please click here for more information about club affiliation. 

Why do you need a licence?

By having a waterway licence you’re paddling responsibly and contributing to the sustainability and maintenance of waterways, protecting the wildlife and heritage of these beautiful navigation's that built Britain!

The money generated from licences enables the waterway authorities to carry out a wide range of work that often goes unseen. 

  • Removal of debris from the river such as logs post-flooding
  • Flood damage repairs
  • Removal of invasive non-native species, including floating pennywort, which can be carried on boats or kit from waterway to waterway and can clog up entire rivers and canals in a matter of days
  • Installing ‘check, clean, dry’ stations to try and prevent the spread of these invasive non-native species
  • Maintaining put ins, take outs and towpaths
  • Managing water quality and levels
  • Stocking of rivers with fish and aquatic species
  • Protecting against and repairing bank erosion

Our blue corridors simply wouldn’t be the same without the dazzling array of wildlife we see while out paddling. From the birds, to fish, amphibians to insects. The waterways authorities and many of their dedicated volunteers carry out vital ecological work helping keep rivers healthy and improving those that are struggling.

The work carried out by the likes of the Environment Agency, Canal and River Trust and Broads Authority goes well beyond those waters that require a licence. 

Paddle responsibly and ensure you purchase your waterway licence!