Getting on the Water in Tahoe

Panoramic view of Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is an incredible place to spend time on the water. Whether you are interested in fishing, water sports, or recreation you will need to get your boat on the water. If you own a boat the idea of dragging it up the mountain and putting it in the water will cross your mind. Actually getting a boat into town is one thing, but getting your boat in the water is another. It is often easier said than done in some cases. If you bring your boat without knowing what to expect you will experience the headache that comes with not being prepared for it.

Being that Lake Tahoe is a pristine alpine lake many agencies in the area go the extra mile to make sure it stays that way. Boat inspections have become a rigorous ritual for anyone that wants to put their boat in the water. This article will discuss the nuances and help you in your effort. Boat inspections are offered in three places. The first is located at the north end of the lake near Tahoe City at Alpine Meadow’s watercraft inspection station. If you’re traveling I-80 and spending your time in the north end of the lake this is a good option. The next inspection site is located on Spooner Summit on the East side of the lake. This is a good option if you’re coming from I-80 to South Lake Tahoe or from the Reno or Carson areas. The third inspection station is located in Meyers, which is about ten minutes south of South Lake Tahoe. This inspection station is best for those traveling Highway 50.

The inspections stations can be a complete nightmare if you are trying to get your boat inspection on the wrong day. If you’re looking to get you’re boat inspected on July 3rd you should be ready to get there early. The 4th of July brings many out of town boats to the area. The day before any major holiday at the inspection stations is often very crowded and busy. If you show up later in the day the line of boats is long and looks miserable. Although I have seen some people make a day of it with an ice chest of adult beverages and a small grill on the tailgate, I personally prefer arriving early and getting inspected as quickly as possible. Avoiding busy weekends and Fridays will help too. The worst thing to happen is you waste your time in line and you don’t pass inspection or you need to have them decontaminate your boat.

Getting your boat to pass inspection is simple, but it can present some issues if you’re not prepared. The biggest issue comes with standing water or areas that have been contaminated with an invasive species of mussel or something similar. The biggest concern for inspectors is often the anchor locker. If your anchor locker has moisture or anything that looks questionable you will need to clean it before you pass inspection. Fishing live wells are also a problem area. If you read anything on the conservancy website about boat inspections you will see clean and dry repeatedly. Clean the live well. It’s important to have a clean live well anyhow so this gives you one more reason to do so. Make sure all your storage lockers are clean and dry as well. Anything that could potentially have standing water will need to be emptied, such as the bilge, any ballast tank etc. The last two major inspection points will be the motor and the hull. Outboards seem to make it through inspections the quickest. Inboard/Outboards tend to take a little more time. The key is having your motor drained all the way with the lower unit trimmed all the way down. If it drips water when you put it down they will charge you a decontamination fee and flush the system. When it comes to pontoons make sure they are drained all the way with no seeping water. If you account for all those variables you will not have too many issues and it shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes.

Once your boat is inspected it is time to find a ramp and get the boat in the water. The Tahoe Keys Marina is a great place to launch and they offer daily slips for people that are looking to keep their boat on the water for more than a day. Yes you will have to pay launch fees and if you’re trying to launch on a busy weekend it will take some extra time. During the height of the summer most weekends are going to be busy. The lake has a few places to launch. The Tahoe Keys Marina is one, but you also have the City of South Lake Tahoe ramp, Cave Rock launch, and few on the north end of the lake. Prices do vary and depending on what you are planning it might be a good idea to call around for the best rates and specific ramps hours of operation.

Ideally once you have put the money into getting your boat inspected and on the water you will want to keep it on the water for more than one day. The best advice I can offer is to rent a house that has water access and a dock. It does sound expensive, but at the end of the day it is reasonable and affordable. Renting a house in the Tahoe Keys is reasonable if you have a group of 4-6 people and need access to a boat slip/dock located behind the house. The fees will add up if you’re launching and pulling your boat daily. The nightly rates for vacation rentals are often comparable to many of the hotels in the area if you have a decent group of people. I have had customers and friends use this approach and they enjoyed the freedom of not needing to be back at the ramp at a specific time. The full kitchen and amenities of a vacation home also made their trip more enjoyable.

Bringing your boat to Lake Tahoe is an enjoyable experience once you’re on the water. If you’re simply up for a short weekend it often turns into something that is very rushed and sometimes frustrating with long waits for inspections and launches. Make a week of it you’re going to do it. If it’s a short weekend boat rentals are offered at many different locations and many different services are offered around the lake that make your vacation a lot less stressful. Fishing with us at Mile High is one of those services. You get on the water and it’s less of a headache when it comes to the boat and all the logistics that comes with bringing your own boat. This is true for sightseeing, booze cruises , bird watching, and whatever other boating services you are after.

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