Crossing state lines in these days of AIS: what are your real-life experiences?

I’m getting ready to spread my wings and take my boat to bodies of water in neighboring states. Largely because it’s broiling here!

I’ve done some reading about AIS requirements in other states. But most of the official sites and brochures slant toward power boats, so sometimes I’m not sure if what I’m reading actually applies to my a kayak + gear.

Given that my usual paddling spot is quagga mussel-infested Lake Mead, I worry that my boat/gear will be treated as a leper!

For starters, I’m thinking of heading up to Navajo Lake, UT next week. I know anyone transporting a water craft is required to stop at the inspection station along I-15 just over the state line. I also found this “Self-certification” form online (says 2020, hopefully still up-to-date):

It tells me I must either let everything dry for a full seven days, or have the boat “professionally decontaminated.”

What will inspectors really want to see? If the boat and gear look clean and are fully dry, will that be good enough and I can just self-certify and go on my way? Or would it be safer to take the boat out to the Lake Mead AIS inspection station before the trip, have it decon’d, and get some documentation from them? It’s not possible to put a seal on a kayak like they would on a power boat/trailer.

What has been your experience dealing with all this? In particular, with inspections?

We had to go through an inspection before we were able to put in at Big Bear lake. They checked both hatches and the cockpit to make sure they were totally dry. And they may have asked how long ago we had them in water.
This is from a lake that’s pretty concerned about keeping mussels out.


I drive from San Diego to our farm on the Utah/Idaho Border. You must stop at the Inspection Station at the Utah / Arizona border. I have watched a patrol car stop cars with kayaks late at night who blew past the station. I don’t have any issues with freshwater mussel inspection because my boats only see seawater and I am sure they are 100% dry when I go through. The inspectors are sort of a random crap shoot. If they are bored you may get quite a bit of inspection.

The bigger issues is road construction at the bridge on the Virgin river, traffic often backs up for several miles and in the summer it can be 100 to 119 degrees. If you take the old route highway 91 you can sometimes go through Mesquite and avoid the traffic, also you avoid the I-15 inspection station. BUT you will get questioned about not having the forms stamped by the I-15 station if you get stopped at a lake by a ranger in Utah. I have not been stopped for several years, but I know in mussel free lakes like Bear Lake they are very aggressive, if in the right mood. So keep the inside of your boat clean and dry .

Michigan has rules for a lot more than quagga and zebra, looking for milfoil and some types of bait. I’ve never heard boo crossing back and forth to Ontario. I suspect a clean dry rooftopped boat with no possibly damp crannies looks pretty safe to the inspectors.

So, I recently took a trip to Navajo Lake, Utah from my home in Las Vegas, NV. Beforehand, I found this online:

From that, I learned that all I needed to do was clean everything well and let it all dry for at least seven days (drying time is longer at other times of the year, as shown on the forms). Which I did.

While driving up on I-15, I dutifully stopped at the watercraft inspection station which is co-located with the truck inspection station just over Utah’s southern state line. The fellow there asked me a few questions and filled out the self-certification form for me. The only thing he looked at on the boat was the hull number, which went on the form. Then I went on my way.

Thanks for the tips, but I’m painfully aware of the construction (which seems to have been going on forever) and the high summer temps (given I live in Las Vegas).

The back up was no problem this trip, as I drove up on a Tuesday morning (8th), and came back in the late morning on a Thursday (17th).

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We’ve taken kayaks from Arizona to Washington a couple of times since these inspection stations started, and they have never been a big inconvenience. There was never a line when we went through, often they just eyed the outside of the kayaks from the ground and asked us enough questions to find out that we understood what to do and were assuring them we’d done the right thing. Even when they actually set up a ladder and looked inside the kayaks it didn’t take terribly long. I recommend just doing it. I don’t think they are all open 24-7 so you might have to be inspected waterside if the border inspection station isn’t open when you go through.

I like to think of myself as someone who follows the rules, so I wouldn’t be trying to dodge inspections. I’d simply prefer to avoid a lengthy delay or having to put my boat (and possibly other gear) through a decontamination process.

To have “done the right thing” ahead of time requires a bit of research to understand 1) the requirements to merely cross the state line with a kayak, and 2) the particular requirements of the body or bodies of water you’re hoping to visit. For example, Lake Tahoe is one place I want to paddle, and they are definitely on red alert up there.

Remember, my local water hole (Lake Mead) is already infested with quagga mussels, so that automatically dictates that special care be taken.

Navajo Lake, UT definitely doesn’t have an inspection station. I’d imagine most lakes don’t. Especially if they’re not a common destination for people with power boats, which of course are most at risk for spreading things around (ballast, etc.).

(P.S. Welcome to everyone who’s here thanks to this thread being featured in the email newsletter! :grin: )

OMG, I didn’t mean to imply I thought you might dodge the inspection stations!
I only meant that it wouldn’t be worth making a special trip to a local inspection station ahead of time, as you were originally considering doing.

After posting my reply I noticed your other post about your trip! Glad the inspection went well.

Idaho is the nasty state for AIS inspections. Beware.

They require all vehicles with boats stop at the entry point on Interstate highways. Unfortunately, when we passed through last year, the sign for the inspection exit point was a temporary, crude one propped on the ground. My husband didn’t see that sign and passed by. Within moments, a state trooper pulled us over and told us to use the next exit to return. Next exit was many miles away. That detour cost us an extra hour. The trooper actually smirked as he told us, “If you just keep going, you WILL be ticketed.” As if he assumed we intended to skip the detour and was hoping to write tickets.

It didn’t matter that we weren’t paddling in Idaho at all, just passing through. My boat had never been in questionable waters anywhere, either. It looked like the state had set up temporary signs to harass paddlers going to and from a big paddling event in WA.

The contrast with the neutral-attitude professionalism in OR was a stark contrast. ID was VERY unfriendly to us, or maybe that trooper had a hair across his azz regarding CO and WA.

This is not about dodging inspections. CO was an early adopter of such procedures. This is about not making it difficult to comply wi them. A last-minute small temporary sign on the Interstate can easily be missed, and the next exit was so far away that it felt like a trap.

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I actually like Idaho a lot and I have many friends from there. My wife’s closest friend is from Idaho, and my wife taught high school there for a year. My first college girl friend was a cowgirl from very rural ID. I’ve spent many hours fishing and back country skiing there, and my Grandmother’s family were some of the first pioneer families in the Malad Valley area. it seems a shame that a minority of people are giving the whole state such a bad reputation.

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I live in the Northeast and all laws for non motorized vehicles (paddling, bicycles too) are basically not enforced. It doesn’t matter what the laws are I break them all the time in front of cops at this point because everyone does and that’s the convenience of not having an engine and they are never enforced. Unless you are causing a problem around here like doing a paddle-by or bike-by shooting, causing accidents or something stupid like that at least in New England you should be fine.

Yup. I can certainly attest to the harassment of California plates.

Currently on a trip crossing from California thru Oregon, Washington, Montana, North Dakota, Idaho, Utah and Nevada. (Haven’t hit Utah or Nevada- couple weeks out).

We’ve had a couple stations where they weren’t open late with signs saying to clean and dry your boat after use. The sites manned haven’t taken long. I’ve never had to take my kayaks down off of my jeep. They used a step ladder when they wanted to look in hatches etc. They were all very respectful and polite.

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I’m glad we don’t have to deal with that in the Southeast. It’s good that some states are concerned about biological pollution.
Down heah I read at least once a week about a new non-native varmint finding their way to our corner of the world.
Spiders, snakes, armadillos, fish , oh my!
At least we don’t have pythons.

You forgot the feral hogs… or do you not have them?

They aren’t the issue they are in some states, but yes we do. There is a nature preserve on the coast that hired a caretaker for a variety of reasons but the primary one is keeping the hogs in check. A friend paddled a creek last week and a hog was standing in chest deep water chomping something.
I also forgot coyotes.
And I just saw a be on the lookout for the Asian Longhorned beetle on our coast.

Coyotes are native.

Not to SC. They were imported.

Entering Montana from Idaho (moving to War College in Newport) they had a sign for all boats to exit and be checked. We had the two Solstices and Fish and Game guys asked us how long ago they had been in the water (>30 days)
Since we were just moving they were bone dry.

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