PICT Boat Inspection - CPW

Infested Out-of-State Boats May Threaten Colorado Waters

Lauren Truitt

The aggressive aquatic nuisance species inspection program operated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife has been successful in keeping quagga and zebra mussels out of the state. Waters in several surrounding states, however, are infested with mussels and that is a serious problem for Colorado.

So far this spring, boats brought into Colorado from Arizona, Kentucky, Kansas, Minnesota, Texas and Utah have been found to be infested with mussels. Boaters are warned that it is against the law to enter Colorado with a boat that holds any aquatic nuisance species. Boats must be cleaned, drained, dried and completely free of aquatic nuisance species before entering the state.

State law requires all boats coming in from out-of-state to be inspected prior to launching in a Colorado lake or reservoir, and prohibits the possession of aquatic nuisance species such as zebra or quagga mussels. Owners can be fined and their watercraft impounded if they bring an infested boat into the state.

Because of its proximity and its popularity, Lake Powell is a concern for Colorado. Many people keep their boats at Lake Powell for part of the year and then come to cool Colorado for the summer months. Some Colorado boaters also go to Lake Powell for long weekends and return home to boat in local reservoirs during the week.

Mussels can survive for months in wet environments in a boat, including in and on wells, bilges, equipment lockers, anchors, engines and any type of boating equipment.

Nearby states with severe mussel infestations include: Arizona, California, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Utah. In addition, waters in almost all states in the Midwest, on the east coast and in the south are infested with mussels.

“If your boat has been launched in any other state you must submit to a professional inspection and decontamination prior to returning to Colorado,” said Brian Sandy, manager at Navajo State Park in southwest Colorado. “And all boats, regardless of where they are coming from, must be cleaned, drained and dry in between each use.” 

If you have taken your boat out of the water from a mussel-positive state in the last year, remove all vegetation and mud from the boat, trailer, all equipment and lines, and remove the drain plug. Before taking your boat to any water in Colorado, be sure it has been cleaned, drained and dried – even if it’s never left the state.

Colorado boaters are also warned about buying boats, engines and equipment from out-of-state. A Colorado man recently bought an engine he saw advertised on an Internet site that had been used at Lake Powell. Fortunately, he was concerned and informed Colorado inspectors at McPhee Reservoir who subsequently found mussels in the engine.

“We very much appreciate the public’s help in battling the mussel problem. This is an issue that is not going away and we need the public’s full cooperation to keep mussels out of Colorado. Anyone who has concerns about their boat or someone else’s should alert Colorado Parks and Wildlife,” Sandy said.

For more information and for a list of all inspection stations in Colorado, visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website,

Photo: Professional inspection and decontamination of a boat. Courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.