Clean, Drain and Dry: Getting your boat water ready

If you own a boat and you live in or visit the Tahoe Basin regularly, then you’re probably no stranger to the Lake Tahoe Watercraft Inspection Program.

All watercraft entering Lake Tahoe waters, including motorized boats, canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, sailboats and sea planes, must be free of invasive species prior to launch. Inspections are performed at a number of locations around the Tahoe Basin, and an inspection seal and sticker are required when you launch a motorized boat at Lake Tahoe, Echo Lake or Fallen Leaf Lake.

Any watercraft suspected of being contaminated with invasive species must be decontaminated before it can be launched. Decontamination is an extra cost, but can be avoided by arriving at the inspection station clean, drained and dry, which also expedites the process.

The inspections are a vital step in keeping aquatic invasive species out of Lake Tahoe. Invaders can damage a lake’s ecosystem because they multiply and spread rapidly, leaving behind murky water and beaches fouled with sharp shells, weeds, and the odor of decay. Aquatic weeds can choke off marinas and coves, and exotic or nonnative fish can disrupt the food chain.

“It’s in everyone’s interest to arrive clean, drained, and dry,” said Dennis Zabaglo, TRPA’s aquatic resources program manager.

“One boat that may have been inadvertently contaminated during an excursion on another lake or waterway could carry tiny larvae or pieces of vegetation that quickly spread and have a devastating effect on Lake Tahoe.”

Before arriving at an inspection station, clean your vessel of all mud, dirt, oil or debris; drain live wells, engine and ballast tanks; and dry everything by opening hatches, lowering outdrive and removing bilge plug.

Annual fees for motorized watercraft, based on the length of the vessel, start at $35 for boats up to 17 feet and increase based on the length of the vessel, going up to $121 for boats over 39 feet long. There is also a $35 fee for decontamination, with an additional $10 charged for ballast systems, so boaters are encouraged to heed the “Clean, Drain and Dry” mantra.

After a visiting boater has paid the annual fee, obtained a sticker, and received an inspection at a roadside station, the inspector will then attach a wire “seal” between the boat and trailer. Boaters may then proceed to their favorite launch ramp or facility to have their seal checked and their boat cleared for launch.

For more information on how to “Clean, Drain and Dry” and for inspection station locations, visit



Chill out!

Lake Tahoe is beautiful but it can be dangerous to boating enthusiasts. The temperature of the lake water is surprisingly cold even during a hot summer day. Immersion in cold water is a hazard for anyone, especially those who fall overboard or even for individuals who decide to go for a swim from a boat in the middle of the lake. Research shows that a sudden immersion into cold water (65 degrees F or less) starts a series of incapacitating reflexes that increase the risk of drowning. Even if you are an expert swimmer, the shock can be debilitating, even deadly! So, while you’re enjoying the vast waterway, play it safe and wear a life jacket!


Courtesy of the Lake Tahoe Aquatic Invasive Species Program