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Clean, Drain and Dry
Clean, Drain and Dry
Boat with plants & possible invasive species needing clean, drained and dry

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Watercraft Cleaning to Prevent the Spread of Invasive Species

Preventing the spread of aquatic nuisance species starts with you – the vessel owner. A cooperative effort is necessary by all persons and agencies involved with recreational watercraft use to achieve the best results and protect our aquatic resources and recreational opportunities. 

Boats and boat trailers can easily transport aquatic hitchhikers in many different ways. If you don’t clean your vessel, you may introduce aquatic nuisance species to other waters. Also, species such as zebra or quagga mussels can ruin boat engines and jam steering equipment.

Remember: CLEAN, DRAIN and DRY.

Follow these guidelines: While on land, but before leaving a body of water:


  • Remove any visible plant or plant fragments as well as mud or other debris. Plant material, mud and other debris routinely contain other organisms that may be an aquatic nuisance species, and plant fragments and animals can survive in mud many days out of water. Some plant species are aquatic nuisance species. 

  • Check trailer, including axel and wheel areas - in and around the boat itself: anchor, props and jet engines, ropes, boat bumpers, paddles.

  • Clean, ​​​check and dry off all parts and equipment that c​ame in contact with water.

  • Empty bait buckets into trash. Do not empty any bait fish into the lake or reservoir.


  • Drain every conceivable space or item that can hold water.

  • Follow factory guidelines for eliminating water from engines. All engines hold water, but jet drives on personal watercraft and other boats can hold extra water.

  • Remove the drain plug from boats and put boat on an incline so that the water drains out.

  • Drain live-wells, bilge, ballast tanks and transom wells.

  • Empty water out of kayaks, canoes, rafts, etc.


  • Allow everything to completely dry before launching into another body of water.

Vessel Inspection to Prevent the Spread of Aquatic Invasive Species

CPW employee inspecting boat. Photo by Elizabeth Brown.In order to help protect Colorado’s water resources, personal watercraft and recreational opportunities, your vessel may be inspected by authorized personnel at certain waters or check stations for Aquatic Nuisance Species. 

Inspectors are there to provide you with additional information about aquatic nuisance species and further educate you about your role in maintaining recreational watercraft opportunities across the state. They may ask you for additional information about your boating habits, where you’ve been, where you are going, etc. This information will enable us to further refine our management strategy for preventing the spread of aquatic nuisance species.

If authorized inspection personnel determine that your vessel needs to be decontaminated, they will ask your permission to use a high-pressure, hot water power sprayer to clean it and the trailer. If a decontamination hot water unit is not available at the site of the inspection, you will receive directions to the nearest vessel washing station and your vessel will not be allowed to launch on any waters of the state until it is decontaminated.

Please be patient and cooperative; the authorized inspection personnel are there to help. If you follow the Drain, Clean and Dry strategy each time you use your vessel you will greatly reduce the time necessary for any inspection. Thank You.


boat diagramZebra and Quagga mussels are a particularly hardy variety of aquatic nuisance species. The adults, range in size from a grain of sand to 2 inches in length, can attach to anything in the water including vessels, outboard engines, anchors, etc. Zebra and Quagga mussel larvae (veligers) are microscopic and inhabit the water along with other forms of plankton. They are easily transported in ballast tanks, bilge water, live wells, and anything else that has been in and retains water. It is unlawful to import, possess or release zebra mussels or other aquatic invasive species.

More information about aquatic nuisance species can be found on the following internet web sites: 100th Meridian Initiative and Protect Your Waters.