Once you have a boat, jet ski, kayak or the many other water vehicles, you’ll be looking for a place to launch them.
The good news is that there are many tools and tips for finding free or paid boat launches. There are also a few things you need to keep in mind when launching your boat that we’ll cover here.
Boat Launch Locator – TakeMeFishing.org
The people at TakeMeFishing.org have created the perfect tool for finding local boat launches! (And fishing spots!)
Google Maps – Boat Launches
The tool from TakeMeFishing.org will be the easiest way to find a boat launch near you, but another way is to use Google Maps.
I bet many of you reading this post already have Google Maps installed and didn’t know you could use it to locate boat launches. Google Maps was my go-to for finding new boat ramps to launch my jet ski until better options came along. It’s still great, especially if you’re in a pinch!
How To Use Google Maps To Find Boat Launches
To find boat launches in Google Maps is simple:
- Go to https://www.google.com/maps/ or Open the Google Maps app on your phone.
- Then enter in “boat ramps near me” in to the search box.
- If you want FREE boat launches, then search for “public access boat launch near me”.
The great thing about using Google Maps is that they’ll give you directions by car on how to get there from your current location. You can also see from the Google Earth view where to park your truck and trailer and how to navigate around the ramps!
You can even use Google Maps to help you navigate the water, it’s not turn-by-turn, but it’s better than nothing.
Your State’s Wildlife Resources
Every state has a wildlife department and will list off all boat launches near you. There are also a few websites in those states that give you even better information.
I’ve listed all 50 States in order and linked to their wildlife resources or websites that give you the best boat launches.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Paid Vs. Free
Not every boat launch is free, some will require $5 to $20+ to use for the day.
The free boat launches tend to be the state or county run, so it’s paid for by local taxes.
There are also hidden boat launches, some tend to be private for a community or business, but sometimes you can pay a fee to use them. You won’t always find these boat ramps online, you will need to ask around the boat dealerships.
Either way, all boat ramps are paid, it just some are paid with your local taxes, which makes them appear “free”.
Boat Launches Are Not All The Same
Every boat launch is not the same, and some even have different size ramps for different size boats.
If you have a large boat, you need to use the proper boat launch as not every ramp is long enough, with many of them having a sharp drop-off, so watch out with large boats. This becomes even more of a problem when the water level goes down, many parks will close off the shorter ramps if the water level gets too low.
You need to make sure you understand the launches you go to. Don’t confuse kayak boat launches with regular boat launches. Jet skis cannot use kayak launches, it’s such a big problem that many kayak launches have special ramps that a trailer can’t go on.
Can Jet Skis Use Regular Boat Ramps?
Jet skis are not that big and can use any boat launch made for larger boats, but it’s important to be respectful.
Not all boat ramps at the launch are the same, some are longer than others, and jet skis don’t need the long ramps. Stick to the shorter ramps when launching your jet ski. If there are no signs, then use the ramp closest to the dock or the ramp furthest way from the deepest part of the water.
Check out my guide here on how to launch a jet ski from a trailer to learn more about the whole process.
Proper Boat Launch Etiquette
There is proper boat launch etiquette that should be followed before putting the boat trailer on the ramps.
The biggest thing you need to do is get your boat and trailer ready to launch before you ever touch the ramps. Every boat launch will have a place to park (staging area) on the side or a parking space for you to get your boat ready for the water. These parking spaces are where you put the cooler in, get the towels, boat gear + accessories and set up the boat for the water.
Do not launch your boat and leave your trailer, even if it’s a quick ride, or it’s a small jet ski trailer. Always park your boat at the dock, then put your truck and trailer up. Do not park in the staging area, even if it’s a quick trip, go to the actual boat trailer parking lot.
Boat ramps can be slippery, especially ones that are not used a lot.
Slime builds up (algae) on the concrete and turns the ramp into a slippery surface that is easy to get hurt on (just ask me how I know).
Tip: Avoid getting the back tires of your truck wet. It can be hard on some ramps, but wet tires don’t have as much traction as dry tires. Keep a deck brush in the back of your truck if you launch on a slippery ramp, and clean where your tires will reach with the deck brush. The algae needs to be broken up, and the deck brush will help. I carry an extending deck brush like this one (Amazon Link Ad) for this exact reason.
For many boat ramps, you don’t need a 4-wheel drive truck or car.
But every boat ramp is different, so if you have a 4×4 truck, then engage 4-wheel drive before backing down the ramp.
Also, when pulling out of the ramp, keep the truck in low gear, don’t put in it normal “drive” as you could cause the tires to slip. Slow and steady is ideal when pulling the boat trailer out of the water.
It’s not always a huge deal not having 4-wheel drive, I’ve dropped in 1,000’s of boats and jet skis using a rear-wheel drive F150 with no issue. But I do understand the limitations of that truck and don’t push it beyond those limits.
The Best Boat Ramps To Use
There are a lot of boat ramps, but there are a few things I look for when using one that I’ll list below.
I like staying away from ramps that don’t have docks or separators that I can tie my boat up, so I can park my truck and trailer. You have many people who don’t know what they’re doing with powerful boats, and having the separation or place to put your boat out of the way is just a nice thing.
I also like to avoid steep ramps. The steeper the ramp, the harder to launch and board a boat trailer. Then getting out of the ramp can be tricky when the ramp is too wet.
After Ride Care
For any boat or jet ski, there are a few things you should do before putting the boat up.
This is especially important if you ride in saltwater or murky water.
For jet skis that ride in saltwater, you need to flush it after the ride and rinse it down. The same holds true for any boat! Lake and river water is more forgiving, but it doesn’t hurt to flush them with fresh water from the garden hose.
Don’t Forget Your Drain Plugs!
Don’t forget to put in your drain plugs, as your boat or jet ski will sink without them in!