Phased approach to boating underway at Lake Tahoe

Justin Scacco / Sierra Sun
Boaters a couple of years ago lower their craft into Lake Tahoe from one of the area's boat ramps.
Provided / Tahoe RCD

Public Launch Ramps

Sand Harbor, Incline Village (NV State Parks) — Open May 22 / Cave Rock, Glenbrook (NV State Parks) — Open May 22 / Lake Forest, Tahoe City (TCPUD) — Open May 19 / El Dorado, South Lake Tahoe (CSLT) — To Be Announced / Coon Street, Kings Beach (North Tahoe Watersports) —Open June 1 / Tahoe Vista Recreation Area, Kings Beach (NTPUD) —Open May 22

A phased approach to opening boat launch sites around Lake Tahoe began this week with the opening of the Lake Forest public ramp to vessels with an intact Lake Tahoe inspection seal.

Most public, and some private, launch facilities at Tahoe announced they will open this week with COVID-19 precautionary plans in place to protect the health and safety of staff and boaters.

At this time, vessels with Tahoe Only stickers will be allowed to launch, as part of the phased opening of boat ramps. Plans to reopen to Tahoe Only vessels are aimed to discourage out-of-area visitation, according to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, as part of state and local coordination on recreation guidelines for Lake Tahoe this season.

“As some areas begin to see the COVID curve flatten, it is critical that boaters, government leaders, and marina managers follow a phased approach that addresses public health and environmental concerns,” said TRPA Executive Director Joanne S. Marchetta in a news release. “We appreciate everyone’s patience and cooperation and encourage boaters to stay up to date on when facilities will open by visiting”

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency has been working since April to gain support for a phased opening of the lake to boating. The agency paused its annual distribution of Lake Tahoe aquatic invasive species boat decals to give time for numerous private marinas, public boat ramp managers, and state and local agencies to agree on a plan to open the lake in phases.

“The association appreciates the opportunity to work with TRPA, the states and counties in the Lake Tahoe basin, and the League to Save Lake Tahoe on a plan to restart operations and begin preparations of a phased opening for boating activities,” said Marina Association Secretary Cathy Walsh in a news release. “Our top priority is the health and safety of our employees, customers and the entire Tahoe Community.”

In the initial phase, only boats that have a Lake Tahoe aquatic invasive species seal from their last haul out can launch. There are roughly 8,000 vessels with Tahoe Only stickers stored regionally, according to the TRPA, which added that the decision to begin opening was made with the assumption that many boats would be hitting the lake during a compact period of time.

Boaters with Tahoe In and Out stickers will be considered for launching in future phases, after health orders are further relaxed. Tahoe In and Out vessels visit other water bodies during the boating season. Approximately 85% of Tahoe In and Out boaters are from outside the Tahoe Basin, according to the TRPA. These vessels would only be considered to launch in future phases after health orders are further relaxed.


Near Tahoe City, the Lake Forest Boat Launch has opened to Tahoe Only vessels with intact aquatic invasive species inspection seals.

Commercial boats with a TRPA Memorandum of Understanding are also allowed to launch at Lake Forest, but will not be permitted to launch from this Friday through Monday, the Memorial Day weekend.

Those heading out from Lake Forest are being directed to stay in their vehicles at the attendant kiosk prior to launching as part of the facility’s protection plan. Employees are also being checked for symptoms before entering the workspace.

Further details on launching at Lake Forest can be found at

More public launch ramps are slated to open Friday, including at Sand Harbor, Cave Rock and the Tahoe Vista Recreation Area.

Private launch facilities will also begin opening this week, and include Tahoe Keys Marina on Thursday and the Tahoe City Marina on Friday. The Ski Beach Boat Ramp in Incline Village will be open to residents only tomorrow.

For a full list of ramp openings, visit


Truckee Town Council adopted an amendment to its municipal code regarding aquatic invasive species at its meeting on May 12, which will require mandatory self-inspections by boaters prior to launching into any Truckee water body, including Donner Lake.

Prior to vessels, without a current Lake Tahoe inspection sticker, being launched into Donner Lake for the first time in a season, a self-inspection form must be submitted to the town in order to obtain an inspection sticker. Current inspection forms shall also be kept in the watercraft.

“The health of local waters continues to be extremely important to the character, natural beauty, and economic vitality of the Town of Truckee”, said Deverie Acuff, police support services manager, in a news release. “We believe that boaters, anglers, and others who recreate on Donner Lake will continue to embrace the efforts to protect this precious natural resource.”

Watercraft self-inspections are mandatory for all motorized and/or trailered watercraft launching on Donner Lake. Inspections are to help prevent the introduction of aquatic invasive species into Donner Lake. Non-motorized watercraft may also be subject to an inspection prior to entering Donner Lake.

There is no fee for a Donner Lake 2020 sticker. Self-inspection forms can be found at or at the Donner Lake Public Boat Launch.


Boats that require inspections to launch on Lake Tahoe will have to wait for inspection stations around the lake to open.

Inspection stations will remain closed until further notice as directed by state health orders and travel restrictions.

Part of Truckee moving to self inspections involves the town no longer funding roughly half the cost to run the Truckee Inspection Station, which is located off Highway 267 and Truckee Airport Road. The Truckee site, according to TRPA Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Coordinator Tom Boos, will continue to conduct inspections for Lake Tahoe this season and will be among the first to open once restrictions are relaxed.

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at or 530-550-2643.

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