Waterways Licence

British Canoeing On the Water membership includes a waterways licence to paddle over 4,500km of river navigations and canals across England and Wales. Use our look up below to check if your waterway is covered.


Purchased individually, licences in British Canoeing membership would cost you £130!

If you want to canoe, kayak or stand up paddleboard on many of our rivers and canals you will need a licence to do so.

British Canoeing helps you save money on your licence, by working in partnership with all the major waterway authorities, including the Canal and Rivers Trust, Environmental Agency, Broads Authority and many more. Making our On the Water membership package the most comprehensive and best value licence available.

The good news is that a percentage of British Canoeing membership income is passed onto the waterway authorities and reinvested into vital maintenance and environmental work. This ensures our waterways are kept clean and safe for us and future generations to enjoy!


Our waterway licence and membership covers all types of paddling craft from inflatables to specialist boats including kayak, canoe, and stand up paddleboards.

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. You can download a card to your phone from your Member’s Hub Dashboard.

There may also be specific regulations on the stretch of water you are paddling, such as on the River Cam where it is a requirement for all paddlers to display their membership number clearly on both sides of their craft, so it is visible from the bankside.

Waterways Look Up

Search to see if your waterway is included in the British Canoeing licence. Start typing the name into the search box and it will filter all options for you. If you would like to see a full list of waters covered and not covered by the licence simply hit the Show All button.

Affiliated Clubs

Clubs using the waterways are required to have a waterways 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. Contact the British Canoeing clubs team through the Clubhouse for more details.

How licences help waterways

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

  • 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

Paddle responsibly and ensure you purchase your waterway licence!

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.

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