Unmotorized watercraft can still spread invasive species to Lake Tahoe | South of Lake Tahoe

LAKE TAHOE, Calif./Nev. – Everyone who cruises Lake Tahoe already goes through a process of “Clean, Drain, Dry” protocols before launch to keep invasive species out of the big, beautiful lake. But what about other boats in the lake like paddle boards, electric surfboards, kayaks and canoes?

Summer has finally arrived and nautical activities are beginning to multiply.

The Lake Tahoe Watercraft Inspection Program’s award-winning Clean, Drain, and Dry protocol is universally seen and understood throughout the region for boats and jet skis. The process ensures that no new aquatic invasive species are introduced to the lake – and none have been since inspections began in 2008.

In 2021, the Lake Tahoe Boat Inspection Program intercepted 28 boats with invasive Dreissenid mussels on board, marking a grim milestone — the most ever found in a single season.

But what about kayaks, paddleboards, sailboats, rafts or even electric foilboards (Efoils) – do they need an inspection? Well, here’s an easy guide to see if you need to drop by a boat inspection station for a free, non-motorized inspection.


Untowed and unpowered watercraft are not required to be inspected, but “may be inspected prior to entering Lake Tahoe area waters if deemed necessary” (TRPA Code 63.4.2) depending on the risk posed.

In order to assess the risks, be prepared to answer a few questions about your boating history at state parks, gazebos, boat launches, and public beaches. If you come from a body of water deemed to be at high risk for the spread of invasive species, you will be directed to an inspection station for a free inspection and possible decontamination.

For example, if you are from Lake Mead or Havasu, free inspection and decontamination would help mitigate the risk of introducing quagga or zebra mussels into regional waters.

For crystal-clear waters that don’t have invasive species, such as Echo, Angora, and Fallen Leaf lakes, even Lake Tahoe is considered a threat because of the Eurasian Watermilfoil, Curly Pondweed, and Asiatic Clams that l currently found at Big Blue. Decontaminations before using unpowered boats in crystal clear waters help keep them pristine and, as always, are priority and free at boat inspection stations.

If your non-motorized watercraft is covered in water or mud, or just plain dirty, recreation officials may ask you to go to an inspection station and be decontaminated. If the craft is not from a high-risk body of water and is completely “cleaned, drained, and dry,” you can launch anywhere in Lake Tahoe.


If your watercraft is large enough to be on a trailer, it will need to be inspected. This does not apply to basic utility trailers. After the inspection, the watercraft will receive a free non-powered Tahoe In & Out sticker.


The official code states that all motorized watercraft must be inspected. Does your Efoil or electric surfboard have an electric or gas motor? If so, he must go to an inspection station. Fortunately, inspections are free for most electric motors, so you won’t have to pay for the inspection.


Tahoe Guardians are individuals who actively use unpowered craft in the Tahoe Basin, pledge their stewardship of the Tahoe area, and demonstrate their knowledge of cleaning, emptying, and drying procedures. Tahoe Keepers are stewards who protect the waters of the region and lead by example. To become a Tahoe Keeper, visit tahoekeepers.org, take the quiz, and you’ll receive your decal and certificate in the mail.

Remember that the best way to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species is to clean, drain and dry all watercraft when they leave or enter another body of water. The regional waters of Lake Tahoe remain crystal clear for a reason – we all work diligently to preserve the beauty and ecology of the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Non-motorized boaters are encouraged to stop at inspection stations at any time for free inspections to ensure they are not delayed at boat launches. For a list of inspection stations or to schedule a mandatory motorized inspection, please visit tahoeboatinspections.com.

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