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Waterway Trail Marker

Paddling Trail Sign Information

Are you interested in installing signs for a paddling trail?  Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQ’s) that will help guide you through the process of permitting and installing signs for a paddling trail:

Can I make up my own trail marker design for my paddling trail? No. Paddling trail signs are a part of the ‘uniform waterway marker’ system and it is a legal requirement to use a standardized sign format.  Signs need to be designed to be highly visible and decrease hazards for other boaters and be in conformance with the federal aids to navigation system adopted by the state. The FWC's Division of Law Enforcement has the statutory responsibility for ensuring that the placement of markers (signs) within state waters adheres to all state and federal requirements. Waterway marker permits and guidance is obtained through the FWC's Boating and Waterways Section.

 How do I learn about the standardized signs?  Before you install canoe/kayak paddling trail signs, also known as Uniform Waterway Markers (UWM), you must obtain a permit from the FWC's Division of Law Enforcement, Boating and Waterways Section. FWC has the statutory responsibility for ensuring that the placement of markers within state waters adheres to all state and federal requirements. Waterway marker permits and guidance is obtained through the Boating and Waterways Section. Permits are provided at no cost. 

The waterway marker application form is very easy to fill out and FWC staff will be happy to assist. You can obtain a sign template, installation information, state rules, and permit application from the Boating and Waterways Section by calling (850) 488-5600, visiting their website at or sending an email to

 Why do I have to have a permit to install and who do I contact?  To ensure the signs are in compliance with the federal uniform waterway marker system adopted that has been adopted by the state.  State law requires a permit from FWC. The permit is free and an application can be obtained by contacting the Boating and Waterways Section.

 Are there any permit exemptions? Information markers placed by counties, municipalities, or other governmental entities on inland lakes and their associated canals are exempt from permitting by FWC. Such markers, if not permitted, must display in lieu of a permit number, the name of the county, municipality, or other governmental entity that placed the marker.  However, nothing prevents counties, municipalities or other governmental entities from choosing to voluntarily apply for waterway marker permits.

 Will I need different signs if the paddling trail crosses the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) or a busy channel? No. However, authorization from the United States Coast Guard and the United States Army Corps of Engineers may be needed.

 How long will it take to get a permit? As provided by state law, the Boating and Waterways Section is required to process your permit request within 90 days of receipt of a complete application.  You will be advised within 30 days of receipt of the permit application if any information is needed to complete the application.  Staff will make every effort to process your request as soon as possible.  

 Can I submit my permit application for signs on-line? FWC is working to finalize the on-line permitting system.  You can find out of the status of the on-line permitting option by calling (850) 488-5600, visiting their website at or sending an email to  FWC will always process paper applications.  

Alligator Creek Sign

What will the signs look like? Markers used on paddling trails are required to be rectangular and can be no smaller than minimum of 3’ on one side.  It is possible to receive a variance from this size requirement if you contact FWC at (850)-488-5600.  Markers must be installed not less than 36 inches above the surface of the water. Signs must have a white reflective white background and 2” wide international orange line used to draw the borders.  Lettering must be black block characters and can have  brown crossed paddles. Two 6” bands of reflective white tape are required to be placed 8” apart on the post 6” below the sign.  Mount the signs with a spacer or extra washers between the sign and post on the uppermost hardware.  The angle of the sign, though not required, is recommended to increase longevity and visibility by reducing the impacts resulting from birds that perch on the signs.   It is recommended but not required that two signs be placed at each location to insure visibility of the marker from both sides.  If one sign is used, placement should be as close as possible to the shoreline as feasible to avoid becoming a hazard to navigation and hit by boats.

The FWC permit number issued to the applicant must be posted in the lower left hand corner on all markers.  This number is our only way of identifying ownership in the event a report is received on the need for maintenance or the marker has been damaged.

 How do I install the signs? Place signs on shore or as close to the shore as possible to decrease possible hazards to other boats. In a narrow trail through a forested area, place the signs between trees off the waterway to avoid posing a hazard to boats.   It is recommended that signs not be attached to trees.

 Who is responsible for maintaining the signs? After obtaining the permit, the permit holder must install, inspect, maintain, and remove the permitted marker at its own expense and as directed by the FWC.  Each permit also requires that markers be inspected triennially (every three years) and that records of such inspection be kept by the permit holder.

 How many signs are needed to post a paddling trail? Minimize trail markers as much as possible to preserve the wilderness experience and to reduce installation and maintenance costs.  Avoid providing markers at each one-mile mark; instead use signs to clarify a route at a ‘decision point’ or where navigation is complicated or a campsite identified.  For safety reasons, signs should always clearly mark take-out points (launches, ramps) along a paddling trail. Provide clear navigation in supporting maps and guides so that users will not rely on signs as the primary tool for navigation as signs can disappear from vandalism or storm activity.   When placing an initial sign order, obtain duplicate copies of waterway signs to reduce time in replacing missing ones.  The decision on the number of markers needed to mark a particular paddling trail is up to the applicant.


For assistance with planning and design of paddling trails please contact the FWC's Office of Public Access & Wildlife Viewing Services (850) 922-6160.