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Lake Tahoe Boat Inspections: How To Prepare

Updated: Apr 7, 2023

Lake Tahoe Boat Inspections: How To Prepare

If you’re planning on taking your boat to Lake Tahoe this season, you’ll have to pass a boating inspection.

If you’ve never been to Lake Tahoe, this article will help familiarize you with why boating inspections are necessary, what the process is, and what you can do before arriving to prepare your boat for going out on the lake.

Why Are Boat Inspections Necessary?

The primary reason for Lake Tahoe’s boat inspections is to prevent the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) into the lake. Invasive species include:

  • Zebra and Quagga mussels

  • New Zealand mud snails

  • Hydrilla plants

These types of invasive species can have devastating environmental and economic impacts on lakes and waterways, as well as their associated industries and communities.

In addition to preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species, Lake Tahoe’s boat inspections help ensure that each vessel is safe to operate and is not in danger of polluting the lake with contaminants or waste.

What Happens During Inspection?

When you arrive at the lake, you’ll need to go through one of the available watercraft inspection stations. There are six primary inspection stations at Lake Tahoe, four of which are only open during the summer boating season:

Summer Only

  • Alpine Meadows

  • Meyers

  • Spooner

  • Truckee

Winter Only

  • Cave Rock

  • Lake Forest

There are four parts to every boat inspection:

  1. An inspector will provide AIS education info to boaters

  2. The inspector will visually inspect all vessels for aquatic invasive species and briefly interview the owner of the vessels

  3. If necessary, vessels and watercraft will be decontaminated

  4. Once the inspection is complete, the inspector will provide the required stickers and seals needed to launch in the lake

NOTE: After receiving your sticker and seal, do not remove either item before launching your boat. The wire seal that is attached to your boat and trailer will be removed by another inspector at the launch ramp before you put in. Think of your sticker and seal the same way you would use a boarding pass to get on a flight. If you lose or damage it, you’re not going anywhere.

Tahoe Boat Inspector

How To Prepare For Your Boat Inspection

In addition to performing any general maintenance on your vessel, you should take the time to do the following before going through a Lake Tahoe inspection station:

Thoroughly Clean Your Boat & Watercraft

You need to clean any and all surfaces that touch the water. Make sure you remove any vegetation, mud, and sand that may be caked onto the hull or caught in the props. You’ll also need to clean up any potential contaminants, like oil and lubricants, beforehand.

Drain Everything

You’ll need to drain any bilgewater that’s left in your boat. Empty your ballast tanks, live wells, and sea strainers as well. Finally, lower your outdrive and drain all the water from the intakes.

Dry It Off

Any water present on your boat during the inspection will force the inspector to decontaminate your boat and you’ll be forced to pay a decontamination fee. Dry all compartments, life jackets, ropes, and water toys ahead of time.

If you follow a regular boat maintenance routine already, then chances are you won’t have to do nearly as much preparation as others before getting out on the lake. If your boat has been sitting in storage for an extended period of time, consider having it professionally serviced and cleaned before taking it to the lake.

Contaminated Boats

If your boat is not clean and well-maintained, you will likely have to have it decontaminated before you’ll be allowed to launch in Lake Tahoe.

The decontamination process is a 140-degree hot water flush of your boat and all systems to destroy any possible invasive species and remove contaminants. Decontamination happens at one of the roadside inspection stations and is first come first served.

Decontamination can take anywhere from 15 or 20 minutes up to several hours depending on the size, complexity, and state of cleanliness of your vessel. Fees for the decontamination process range from $15 up to $200 depending on the severity of your vessel’s contamination.

Off Season Tahoe Boat Storage


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