Frequently Asked Questions


Is there a fee for inspections & what is the difference between a Tahoe Only and a Tahoe In & Out sticker? Yes, there is an ANNUAL fee for motorized watercraft inspections. Click here for the fee structure. There is currently NO FEE for inspection and decontamination of non-motorized canoes, kayaks and paddleboards. Visit TahoeKeepers.org for information on non-motorized inspection requirements and to learn how to “self-inspect” paddle watercraft.

Tahoe In & Out stickers are eligible for unlimited inspections during the calendar year; decontamination fees may still apply. 7-day Inspection Launch passes are eligible for 1 inspection and 7 consecutive days of inspection seals at launch facilities; decontamination fees may apply. Tahoe Only stickers are reserved for Tahoe wire inspection sealed boats from previous seasons that plan to only launch in Lake Tahoe during the calendar. Boats with current Tahoe Only stickers that DO NOT have an intact Tahoe wire inspection seal will be required to visit one of the roadside inspection stations for an inspection prior to launching and will be required to upgrade their sticker to a Tahoe In & Out for the difference of the fee at that time; decontamination fees may apply.

How long does an inspection take & what should I expect when I arrive at the inspection station? Inspections are done on a first-come first-served basis and they only take a few minutes if you come prepared. Clean, Drain & Dry your boat after every use–including the engine outdrive, bilge, ballast tanks, live wells and storage compartments including their contents. Clean up any oil, dirt or debris inside bilges and storage compartments, and remove all items inside these compartments prior to arriving for your inspection. Make sure all systems are operational, including batteries, engine(s), pumps, etc.

At the inspection stations you will be greeted by a certified Watercraft Inspector. They will ask you a few questions about your boat and launching history. Then they will physically look and feel for evidence of aquatic invasive species (AIS) inside all compartments of your vessel, including but not limited to the anchor, all bilge & storage compartments, ballast tanks or bladders, ropes & fenders, live or bait wells, etc. They will also inspect the outside of your vessels hull, including the trailer, as well as the engine outdrive & intakes. Once the inspection process is complete, the inspector will inform you if they will need to perform a decontamination, which includes flushing all areas needing decontamination with 140 degree hot water to kill any remaining AIS. Before you leave the inspection station you will receive an inspection sticker and a Tahoe wire inspection seal. The seal is typically installed  through the bow ring of your boat through a secure location on your trailer.

At the launch ramps, a certified Seal Inspector will inspect your seal and “check” you in. They will remove your inspection seal prior to launching and install a new one when you haul your boat out of the water. The next time you go to launch, if the Tahoe wire inspection seal is still “intact” you will be able to launch without another inspection. However, if you launch somewhere other than Lake Tahoe or the seal is not “intact” you will be required to visit one of the roadside inspection stations for another inspection prior to launching and to get a new inspection seal installed.

What are the inspection station hours of operation? Hours are updated depending on the season and are available here.

Is my Lake Tahoe inspection sticker or seal valid at any other lakes in the basin, like Fallen Leaf Lake, Echo Lake or Spooner Lake?  No, because Lake Tahoe already contains aquatic invasive species (AIS) such as Eurasian watermilfoil, curly leaf pondweed and Asian clams that could be spread to these other lakes. Fallen Leaf Lake, Echo Lake, and Spooner Lake are considered pristine (no AIS), and isolating and controlling AIS populations already present within the Tahoe Basin is an important part of preventing the spread of invasive species.

Fallen Leaf Lake and Echo Lake do require all boats to have an inspection prior to launching, and these will be performed at one of the five Lake Tahoe Roadside Inspection Stations 7 days a week. Spooner Lake does not have inspectors on site and does not allow motorized boats to launch. Kayaks, canoes and inflatable watercraft without engines are allowed and should be inspected and Clean, Drained and Dry.

Paddlers should Click here to learn about AIS and how to self-inspect your non-motorized boat and gear. Tahoe Basin Paddlers: Please inspect watercraft and gear to ensure you are not inadvertently transporting clams, non-native weeds or standing water between lakes, even if you only stay within the Tahoe Basin.

Click here to learn more about invasive species within the Lake Tahoe Basin.

What is the Nevada AIS decal and does it allow me access to Lake Tahoe? The Nevada AIS decal is a statewide program and does not grant you access to Lake Tahoe. You still need to go through a Lake Tahoe Inspection. Nevada AIS decals are required on all Nevada registered boats boating in Nevada waters (including Lake Tahoe). California registered boats are exempt from purchasing a Nevada AIS decal when boating in shared waters (such as Topaz and Lake Tahoe). Non-motorized users are required to purchase a Nevada AIS decal if you plan to enter Nevada waters. For more information on the requirements and to purchase your Nevada AIS decal, visit Nevada Department of Wildlife.

What is the California Quagga Mussel Fee? How does it relate to Tahoe Inspections? We have been receiving quite a few questions about the Quagga Fee created by the State of California. In particular, we have local and visiting boaters that are inquiring about how it effects their Tahoe inspection fee. We hope that the information below will help clear things up!

The Quick and Easy: Click here

  • California registered boaters are required to purchase the Quagga sticker
  • Other state registered boaters do not need to purchase
  • Boats with a CA Quagga decal still have to go through a Tahoe inspection and pay for the service
  • Boats that only boat in marine waters are exempt (coastal and some bay waters)
  • The CA fee is being collected by DMV for the California Department of Boating and Waterways
  • In the future, the funds will be available for existing inspection programs to apply for program support money. Tahoe and Truckee inspection programs included.

The Nitty Gritty:

Is there a boat inspection program for the Truckee Regional Lakes and Reservoirs?  Yes. The Tahoe Resource Conservation District also coordinates efforts AIS prevention for Truckee area lakes. Please visit TruckeeBoatInspections.com for more info.

Why are inspections so important & what are inspectors looking for?  Boat inspections are an essential part of preventing the inadvertent transport of aquatic invasive species into the pristine waters of the Lake Tahoe Basin and surrounding regional waters.

 Invasive species have devastating environmental and economic impacts on industries, communities, and native species populations. Most invasive species do not have predators to keep their populations in balance and, once introduced, are difficult or impossible to eradicate. Aquatic pests, including both plants and animals, are easily carried by trailered boats so checking obvious places may not be enough.

Inspectors are looking for any plant or animal, dead or alive, that may pose a risk to Lake Tahoe and the surrounding waters. Primary species of concern include:

  • Zebra and Quagga mussels
  • New Zealand mudsnails
  • Spiny waterflea
  • Hydrilla and other highly invasive plants, some of which are already present  in California and/or Nevada waters

Invasive mussels are spreading rapidly throughout Nevada, California, and other western states. These mussels attach themselves to practically any hard surface, wreaking havoc on boats, marinas, and water delivery systems.

 For more information on aquatic invasive species visit www.100thmeridian.org or www.aquaticnuisance.org

Do brand new boats or engines still need an inspection?  Yes. Brand new boats and engines are water tested prior to leaving the factory and are still required to have an inspection prior to launching into Lake Tahoe, Fallen Leaf Lake or Echo Lake.

Are 2-stroke engines allowed to launch on Lake Tahoe or the surrounding lakes in the area?  The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) prohibits the launch and use of all carbureted 2-stroke engines. This generally applies to outboard motors and personal watercraft (jetskis). The TRPA does allow all 4-stroke engines and Direct Fuel Injected (DFI) 2-stroke engines. If your watercraft/engine has a California Air Resources Board (CARB) Star rating on it, it is allowed on the Lakes of the Tahoe Region. Some common outboard engines that are allowed:

  • Evinrude E-TEC (2-stroke DFI)
  • Mercury Optimax (2-stroke DFI)
  • Yamaha High Pressure Direct Injection (2-stroke DFI)
  • All Honda engines (4-stroke)

If you are unsure about whether or not your watercraft/engine is allowed on the Lakes of the Tahoe Region, please contact Dennis Zabaglo, Watercraft Program Manager at dzabaglo@trpa.org, or 775-589-5255.  Thank you.

What can I do to make my boat inspection a quick and simple process? Come prepared! Make sure your watercraft is Clean, Drained & Dry. Clean up any oil, dirt or debris inside bilges and storage compartments, and remove all items inside these compartments prior to arriving for your inspection. Drain & Dry the water from your engine outdrive, bilge, ballast tanks, live wells and any storage compartments.

Make sure all systems are operational, including batteries, engine(s), pumps, etc. If you have an outboard or sterndrive engine with an outdrive, lower the outdrive on the engine for 10-15 minutes to release any residual water. If you have any special adapters or a flush kit for your engine, please bring them with you to the inspection station. All ballast tanks will require decontamination (separate fee will apply).  To expedite this process, ensure the ballast tank pumps are functioning and drain tanks before arrival.

What is a boat decontamination & how long do they take? Decontamination is a process where the boat and its systems are flushed using 140 degree water to destroy any possible remaining invasive species that pose a risk to Lake Tahoe or surrounding area waters. If the boat requires a hot water decontamination, that will happen at one of our Roadside Inspection Stations on a first-come first-served basis and an extra fee may apply. Boats that arrive Clean, Drained & Dry may not be required to go through the decontamination process and the decontamination fees are typically waived on Clean, Drained & Dry boats without ballast tanks or bags.

Depending on the complexity of your vessel, decontaminations can last anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours. If you flush your boat’s engine at home, please bring your flush kit and any adapters with you to the inspection station, as we have only the most common adapters and tools for the decontamination process.  Non-motorized vessels, such as canoes, kayaks and paddleboards may be decontaminated (especially after visiting infested waters) for no charge at roadside inspection & decontamination stations located within the Tahoe Basin.

I already have my Tahoe Inspection seal attached to my boat from last year, can I go directly to the launch? Yes, you can go directly to the launch ramp of your choice where the marina staff can upgrade you to a current Tahoe Only sticker. If you would like to purchase a Tahoe In and Out, please visit one of our inspection stations.

What should I do if I use a commercial transport company to bring my large or oversized boat to Lake Tahoe? Large or oversized commercially transported boats will need an AIS inspection prior to arriving at any launching facility in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The boat operator will need to call the Hotline (888-824-6267) at least 72 hours in advance of arrival, Mon-Fri, to help coordinate the inspection at either the Alpine Meadows or Meyers inspection stations. If your boat will not be able to receive an inspection at one of these locations and we need to coordinate an “off-site” inspection/decontamination, a $200 fee will apply in addition to the annual inspection sticker fee.

Information the Hotline will need: boat registration information, boat make, boat length, engine type(s), types of systems present (A/C, generator, raw water head, etc.), launching history for the past 12 months, owner & hauler contact number and date of anticipated arrival.

How does winter weather affect boat inspections and inspection locations?Boat inspections are mandatory and available all year long in Lake Tahoe. Winter operations officially begin October 1st and typically end April 30th (this is subject to change depending on weather and permitting). During winter operations, boat inspections are performed at Cave Rock and Lake Forest boat ramps daily, weather permitting for those boats without an intact Lake Tahoe wire inspection seal. Private marinas, including Ski Beach, Sand Harbor, Obexer’s and the Tahoe Keys Marina are also open during the winter, and allow only boats with intact Lake Tahoe wire inspection seals to launch. Their hours of operation vary depending on the site. Please contact these private facilities directly for more information.

Closures and/or delays may occur at winter inspection locations based on forecasted and observed snow accumulations and lake conditions. Delayed openings will occur with predictions of 1-3 inches of snow, and closures will occur with more than 4 inches of snow or other weather advisories, such as a “Lake wind advisory.” All closures and delays will be posted on this website the day prior to a closure and/or delay, or as soon as possible.

What are Quagga and Zebra mussels & how many waterbodies are known to be infested with them? Dreissena bugensis (Quagga) and Dreissena polymorpha (Zebra) mussels are destructive aquatic invasive species that grow to about 1 inch in diameter. They can be larger than 1 inch or they can even be microscopic. They reproduce quickly and in large numbers. Once established, eradication is often difficult or impossible.  The small, freshwater bivalve mollusks are triangular with a ridge between the side and bottom. It has black, cream or white bands, and often features dark rings on its shell almost like stripes. Quagga and Zebra mussels are native to the Ukraine and Russia. Zebra mussels were first discovered in the Great Lakes in 1988, and a year later, Quagga mussels were discovered in the same area. It is believed they arrived in America via ballast water discharge that contained their free swimming larva called veligers.

For the most up-to-date listing of confirmed mussel finds in the Western United States, click here. Nation wide, click here.

Why should we be concerned about aquatic invasive species (AIS) in California and/or Lake Tahoe? In general, aquatic invasive species reproduce very quickly and in large numbers. They out-compete native aquatic species for habitat and food sources. Once established, eradication is often difficult or impossible. Their establishment in California waters or Lake Tahoe could result in an environmental and economic disaster.

What is the environmental impact of the Quagga and Zebra mussel? Quagga and Zebra mussels will upset the food chain by consuming phytoplankton that other species need to survive. They are filter feeders  that consume large portions of the microscopic plants and animals that form the base of the food web. One adult mussel can filter up to 1 liter of water per day. Their consumption of significant amounts of phytoplankton from the water decreases zooplankton and can cause a shift in native species and a disruption of the ecological balance of entire bodies of water. In addition, they can displace native species, further upsetting the natural food web. Quagga and Zebra mussels have few natural predators in North America. It has been documented that several species of fish and diving ducks have been known to eat them, but these species are not an effective control. In some cases, the mussels concentrate botulism toxin causing bird die offs.

What is the economic impact of the Quagga and Zebra mussel? Quagga and Zebra mussels can colonize on hulls, engines and steering components of boats, other recreational equipment and if left unchecked, can damage boat motors and restrict cooling. They also attach to aquatic plants and submerged sediment and surfaces such as piers, pilings, water intakes and fish screens. In doing this they can clog water intake structures hampering the flow of water. They frequently settle in massive colonies that can block water intake and threaten municipal water supply, agricultural irrigation and power plant operations. U.S. Congressional researchers estimated that an infestation of the Zebra mussel in the Great Lakes area cost the power industry $3.1 billion in the 1993-1999 period, with an economic impact to industries, businesses and communities of more than $5 billion. California could spend hundreds of millions of dollars protecting the state’s water system from a Quagga/Zebra infestation.

How did the Quagga and Zebra mussels get to the Western US? Quagga and Zebra mussels primarily move from one place to another through human-related activities. They attach to hard surfaces and can survive out of water for up to 30 days in the appropriate conditions. The microscopic larvae also can be transported in bilges, ballast water, live wells or other equipment that holds water. Authorities discovered Quagga mussels living in the Colorado River at Lake Mead, Lake Mohave, and Lake Havasu in January 2007. It is likely they were originally brought to Lake Mead on the hull of a recreational boat from the Eastern US. Since then, additional bodies of water have been infected in California as the veligers drifted downriver from Lake Mead.

What other lakes in the Western US have boat inspection programs? There are a number of boat inspection programs in the Western US, all working really hard to prevent the spread of Aquatic Invasive Species. The most important thing to remember as a boater is to be Clean, Drained & Dry each time you change bodies of water. For a list of programs and their contact information click here.

Can we get rid of mussels if Lake Tahoe becomes infested? Since Quagga and Zebra larvae (called veligers) are free drifting, preventing their spread downstream from known infestations may not be possible. However, controlling populations may be possible in some locations. Prevention is the best solution!

What does the law say about aquatic invasive species or aquatic nuisance species? Spreading invasive species violates local, state, and federal laws. Providing inaccurate or false information to boat inspectors or other authorized personnel is prohibited. Violators are subject to a minimum monetary penalty of $5,000 for each offense.For more detail on the local TRPA Code of Ordinances Section 63.4, click here.