Chapter 12.65


12.65.010    Title.

12.65.020    Purpose and applicability.

12.65.030    Definitions.

12.65.035    Operation on county roads.

12.65.045    Operations by persons not possessing a valid license.

12.65.050    Roads designated for WATV use.

12.65.055    Prohibited activities.

12.65.060    Exemptions.

12.65.070    Violation and penalties.

12.65.075    Severability.

12.65.010 Title.

This chapter shall be known and may be cited as the “wheeled all-terrain vehicle ordinance.” [Ord. 19-046 § 1, 5-21-19.]

12.65.020 Purpose and applicability.

The purpose of this chapter is to enact provisions in accordance with Chapter 46.09 RCW regarding the use of wheeled all-terrain vehicles (WATVs). This chapter shall apply to operation of all WATVs on those county roads in unincorporated areas of Cowlitz County, Washington, as designated in CCC 12.65.050. [Ord. 19-046 § 1, 5-21-19.]

12.65.030 Definitions.

A. The definitions in Chapters 46.04 and 46.09 RCW are adopted and incorporated by reference, with the following exceptions:

1. “Wheeled all-terrain vehicle” or “WATV” includes ATV, UTV and ORV as defined below.

2. “All-terrain vehicle” or “ATV” means any motorized nonhighway vehicle with handlebars that is 51 inches or less in width, has a seat height of at least 20 inches, weighs less than 1,500 pounds, and has four tires having a diameter of 30 inches or less.

3. “Utility all-terrain vehicle” or “UTV” means a utility-type vehicle designed for and capable of travel over designated roads that travels on four or more low-pressure tires of 20 psi or less, has a maximum width less than 74 inches, has a maximum weight less than 2,000 pounds, has a wheelbase of 110 inches or less, and satisfies at least one of the following: (a) has a minimum width of 50 inches; (b) has a minimum weight of at least 900 pounds; or (c) has a wheelbase of over 61 inches. Unless specifically cited, for the purpose of this chapter the term “wheeled all-terrain vehicle” includes those vehicles meeting the definition of “utility all-terrain vehicle.”

4. “Off-road vehicle” or “ORV” means a non-street-registered vehicle when used for recreational purposes on nonhighway roads, trails, or a variety of other natural terrain. “Off-road vehicle” or “ORV” includes, but is not limited to, all-terrain vehicles, motorcycles, four-wheel drive vehicles, and dune buggies. [Ord. 19-046 § 1, 5-21-19.]

12.65.035 Operation on county roads.

A. All WATVs operating on county roads must:

1. Comply with all Washington State registration requirements in accordance with RCW 46.09.410 and 46.09.420 and WATV use permits in accordance with RCW 46.09.430; with the following additions:

a. Decals required by RCW 46.09.410(7) shall be affixed to the ORV where it is clearly visible.

2. Meet all equipment requirements, be certified by a Washington State licensed wheeled all-terrain vehicle dealer or motor vehicle repair shop, and declaration requirements in accordance with RCW 46.09.457.

B. All persons operating WATVs on county roads must meet all registration and licensing requirements as set forth in Chapter 46.09 RCW, with the following addition:

1. Registration must be provided to a duly licensed law enforcement officer upon request.

C. All persons operating WATVs on county roads must obey all traffic laws including but not limited to rules of the road, traffic law or code, parking regulations, and road closures or restrictions, unless otherwise expressly exempted by Chapter 46.09 RCW. WATV operators must obey posted speed limits while traveling on county roads outlined in CCC 12.65.050.

D. Headlights meeting the requirements of RCW 46.37.030 and 46.37.040 and tail lamp meeting the requirements of RCW 46.37.525 must be used at all times the vehicle is in motion.

E. Documentation of safety inspection required by RCW 46.09.457(1)(b)(i) must be carried in the vehicle and provided to a duly licensed law enforcement officer upon request.

F. All occupants of a WATV shall wear a DOT approved helmet unless it has an Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM) Roll Over Protection System (ROPS).

G. The operator and all passengers in a utility all-terrain vehicle shall wear safety belts. Safety belts are required even if not provided by the manufacturer. [Ord. 19-046 § 1, 5-21-19.]

12.65.045 Operations by persons not possessing a valid license.

Any person not possessing a valid license to operate a motor vehicle under Chapter 46.20 RCW may not operate any WATV on county roads. [Ord. 19-046 § 1, 5-21-19.]

12.65.050 Roads designated for WATV use.

A. County roads with a posted speed limit of 35 miles per hour (mph) or less are designated for WATV use. Roads designated for WATV use shall be on file with the County Engineer, and posted on the county website.

B. Segments of state highway listed in Chapter 47.17 RCW with a posted speed limit of 35 miles per hour or less may be designated for WATV use, following consultation with the Washington State Department of Transportation, by the Board of County Commissioners. State highways authorized or designated to be suitable for WATV use are set forth below, and shall be on file with the County Engineer and available on the county website.

1. The segments of state highway approved for operation of wheeled all-terrain vehicles are set forth in Table 1:

Table 1 – State Highways 

State Highway

Hwy No

BMP From



Lewis River Highway

SR 503


36.61 Old Lake Merrill Rd


Spirit Lake Highway

SR 504




Morse Street

SR 506

0.00 Second St.



[Ord. 22-024 § 1, 3-29-22; Ord. 19-046 § 1, 5-21-19.]

12.65.055 Prohibited activities.

A. No operator may use any WATV to pull a sled, toboggan, inner tube, wagon, trailer, or any other similar device.

B. No person shall operate or park any WATV on any sidewalk, walkway, pedestrian trail or bridge where the operation of motorized vehicles is prohibited. [Ord. 19-046 § 1, 5-21-19.]

12.65.060 Exemptions.

This chapter shall not apply to an appropriate local, state, and/or federal agency that engages in emergency management, as defined by state law, or to those individuals associated with such agencies and engaged in search and rescue operations, as defined by state law, or law enforcement agencies when operation of any such vehicle is in accordance with the scope of the official duties of the agency. [Ord. 19-046 § 1, 5-21-19.]

12.65.070 Violation and penalties.

A. It is a violation of this chapter for any person or WATV to operate on county roads inconsistent with this chapter. Any person violating this chapter shall be guilty of a traffic infraction punishable in accordance with Chapter 46.63 RCW; provided, conduct that constitutes a criminal traffic offense may be charged as such and subject to the maximum penalties allowed for such offenses.

B. In addition to the penalties provided in this chapter the owner and/or operator of any nonhighway vehicle shall be liable for any damage to property including, but not limited to, damage to trees, shrubs, or growing crops as the result of operating a WATV. The owner of such property may recover from the person responsible three times the amount of the damage per RCW 46.09.490(2). [Ord. 19-046 § 1, 5-21-19.]

12.65.075 Severability.

If any section, subsection, clause, phrase or word in this chapter is for any reason held invalid or unconstitutional by any court of competent jurisdiction, such section shall be deemed a separate provision and such holding shall not affect the validity of the remaining portion of this chapter. [Ord. 19-046 § 1, 5-21-19.]