Lake Tahoe Boat Inspections: Keeping Invasive Species Out of Tahoe

Lake Tahoe boat inspections

keep tahoe blueWhy do you need a boat inspection for Lake Tahoe?

You’ve seen the bumper stickers: Keep Tahoe Blue!

Tahoe is fragile.  It’s known around the world for its deep emerald blue & turquoise waters, but maintaining those waters isn’t easy.  Silt runoff, trash, algae, and invasive species are all responsible for disrupting the fragile balance.

You can do your part to keep Tahoe blue by getting your boat inspected before launching on Lake Tahoe.  These boat inspections became mandatory starting in 2008.

Getting a boat inspection for Lake Tahoe will ensure that no invasive species are inadvertently brought into the lake.  Species that are non-native to the lake have the potential to disrupt the entire ecosystem, thus destroying the natural beauty and all the reasons it’s a top recreation spot.

Lake Tahoe invasive species


Eurasian watermilfoil and curlyleaf pondweed have made a home in some parts of Lake Tahoe.  These weeds destroy water clarity, can become entangled in props and rudders, and provide a habitat for other species, like goldfish, that don’t belong in Lake Tahoe.

water milfoil
There’s nothing to smile about with Eurasian watermilfoil. This is a worst-case scenario in Wisconsin. Flickr photo Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.


Asian clams have wreaked havoc in Lake Tahoe’s waters, especially around Emerald Bay.  These clams are partly to blame for recent algae blooms in South Lake Tahoe that have resulted in warnings to swimmers and fishermen.  They are a durable species that kill native species and quickly fill in the void.

Asian Clam - Corbicula fluminea (39911827695)

Quagga mussels haven’t yet found their way into Tahoe but are perhaps the biggest invasive threat.  These species can survive long interstate journeys on watercraft and redeploy in new waters.  They rapidly spread in cement-like clumps and attach themselves to docks, pipes, and other watercraft.  They must be kept out of Tahoe.

quagga mussel
How’s that for “bad”? Quagga mussels taking over a plastic pipe. Photo National Park Service.

What about Echo Lake and Fallen Leaf Lake?

There are some invasive species present in Lake Tahoe that are not yet present in Fallen Leaf Lake or Echo Lake.  In order to prevent this spread, you’ll need separate inspections prior to launching in different bodies of water.

How to get your boat inspected for Lake Tahoe

lake tahoe wave runners
Image by moonietunes from Pixabay

Motorized boats

Ski boats, wave runners, party pontoon boats…they’ll all need to be inspected before entering Lake Tahoe’s waters.

In order to decrease your costs and make the inspection go smoothly, be sure to do the following things before the inspection:

  • Clean your boat prior.  Remove all sand, vegetation, mud, and anything else that could harbor organisms.  Ensure that any parts of your boat that can hold water, like bilges and baitwells, are drained.
  • Dry everything.  This includes all lifejackets and tow ropes.  Any water or moisture found on the boat will be treated as a threat and subject to decontamination fees.

The boat inspection station will conduct a thorough inspection, decontaminate if necessary, and provide you with some education about invasive species.

When this is complete, the inspectors will attach a wire tie between your boat and trailer.  These ties are required to launch at Lake Tahoe’s boat ramps and will be removed by boat launch staff.

Lake Tahoe boat inspection fees

If you’re just visiting Tahoe once this year, you can purchase a weeklong pass.  The pass currently costs $50 for watercraft up to 17′; the fee is $75 for watercraft over 17′.  This pass grants one inspection and seven days worth of wire ties at boat launches.

Frequent visitors can purchase annual passes for between $55 and $95.

These fees do not include decontamination.  Additional fees can cost up to $200 if your vessel is contaminated.

Where to get boat inspections for Lake Tahoe

There are four boat inspection stations around Lake Tahoe.  Check the Tahoe Boat Inspections website for hours; some close during special events, and are also seasonal.

North Lake Tahoe boat inspection stations

  • Truckee: Near the Truckee airport.  Usually open daily from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM.  Open in map.
  • Alpine Meadows: Off of Alpine Meadows Way.  Usually open daily from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM.  Open in map.

East and South Lake Tahoe boat inspection stations

  • Spooner Summit: At the intersection of Highway 28 and Highway 50.  Usually open daily from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM.  Open in map.
  • Meyers: At the intersection of Highway 89 and Highway 50, next to the fire station.  Usually open daily from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM.  Open in map.

Smaller non-motorized craft

lake tahoe kayak
Flickr photo m01229.

If you’re visiting Lake Tahoe with your smaller paddle craft – kayaks, paddleboards, etc. – you can inspect them yourself.  You’re always welcome at the official inspection stations, but they’re much easier to inspect and something you can do on your own.  There is no fee at the inspection stations for non-motorized craft.

  • Ensure you clean your watercraft every time you take it out of the water
  • Inspect your watercraft both after taking out of the water and before putting in
  • If you find any invasive species, wash & scrub with hot water and bleach
  • Store your watercraft in a location out of and away from water

Quagga mussels can live out of the water for upwards of 30 days.

If you have any other questions about getting your boat inspected for Lake Tahoe, you can visit the official webpage here.

Thank you for helping us keep Tahoe blue!


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