Boating Access Hours

Every vessel entering Horsetooth Reservoir and Carter Lake must be inspected for ANS. That requires specific hours of operation for boating. No boat launching is permitted outside of these hours; however, boats already on the reservoirs may continue operation. Ramps may be closed for poor weather conditions, water level, or staffing constraints. (Contact the Horsetooth or Carter Lake offices for weather updates and decontamination schedule information.) 
Decontamination hours vary depending on staffing. See Decontamination  Tab for more info. 

Horsetooth Reservoir Boat Ramp Hours
View Horsetooth Reservoir South Bay Boat Ramp Webcam

HOURS (updated 03/21/2024) - Open Ice/Weather Permitting
South Bay ramp

7 a.m. - 7 p.m., every day (weather permitting) until May 12.
6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on May 13 - May 31.
Open for the season

Inlet Bay ramp 7 a.m. - 7 pm., every day
Open for the season
Satanka ramp

7 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday only
After May 24: 7am-7pm all days
Open for the season

Carter Lake Boat Ramp Hours
View Carter Lake Marina Webcam

HOURS (updated 11/21/2023) - Open Ice/Weather Permitting

North Pines ramp - map

7 a.m. - 7 p.m. every day until May 12
6 a.m. - 10 p.m. after May 13
Open for the season

North ramp (Marina)

Closed until May 24
May 24 - May 27: 7am - 7pm
May 28 - May 31: Closed: Possible hour changes in June.

South Shore ramp

7am - 7pm on May 1 - May 31:  Possibly hour changes in June.
Open for the season

Required Inspections

  1. Please put the vehicle in park, put the parking break on, and step out of your vehicle.
  2. Have your receipt from your last inspection ready to hand to the inspector. 
  3. If you do not have a receipt or a seal from a previous inspection, if you have a blue receipt, or if you are coming from out of state, be prepared for a Clean Drain Dry inspection and possible decontamination. 
  4. If you have any live aquatic bait, make sure you have a receipt from a verified Colorado Bait dealer from within seven days. Otherwise you may not be allowed to use that live aquatic bait. 
  5. Once the inspector is clear of your watercraft and done with their inspection, they will thank you and you are free to go. Don't forget to stop for an exit inspection on your way out!

To comply with regulations, Horsetooth Reservoir and Carter Lake require mandatory vessel inspections. Inspectors are on-site at Horsetooth Reservoir and Carter Lake to check boats for exotic invasive species. With no inspectors on-site at Pinewood Reservoir, the boat ramp for Pinewood Reservoir is closed and no trailered or motorized watercraft may be launched at Pinewood.

All watercraft including their motors, trailers, compartments and any other associated equipment or containers may be inspected for exotic invasive species (Aquatic Nuisance Species or ANS) before launch or departure from high risk waters. Exclusions include hand-launched and human-powered watercraft such as canoes, stand-up paddle boards, etc. Anything with a motor or a trailer that goes into the water loses its exemption and must be inspected.  

Recognizing the serious impact possible from ANS, and to prevent its spread by recreational boating or any other human means, Larimer County joins Colorado Parks and Wildlife and other waterway managers in a robust strategy designed to ensure sustainable recreational boating and other uses. The risk and cost are too high once ANS infestation has reached a critical level.

A boater may be denied access if not cooperating at an inspection point, or the boat may be placed under quarantine if inspectors think there is a serious risk of spreading ANS. Boaters circumventing the described procedures will be subject to fine.

Larimer County Department of Natural Resources' program complies with the Aquatic Nuisance Species Watercraft Inspection Handbook.

Colorado Boat Registration Information


The South Bay ramp at Horsetooth Reservoir and North Pines ramp at Carter Lake have gate systems that allow vehicles to exit those boat ramps after hours. These gates allow vehicles to exit the areas where the ramps are located but not enter. Trailers must be parked at these ramps before hours end for the day.

For more information on boating at night, please review the DNR regulations

The decontamination process is used to kill and remove known or suspected aquatic nuisance species from a watercraft using hot water 120F-140F. A decontamination may be required if:

  • The watercraft is not clean, drained, or dry
  • The watercraft has no seal or receipt and has unverifiable water (ballasts, inboard engine, I/O engine)
  •  The watercraft was last used out of state and has unverifiable water (ballasts, inboard engine, I/O engine)
  • The watercraft was last used in a body or water that has an aquatic nuisance species (these lakes give out BLUE receipts instead of WHITE receipts) and has unverifiable water (ballasts, inboard engine, I/O engine)
  • A jet engine that when revved has water come out, or a jet engine that meets any of the above criteria and can not be run outside of water even for less than 10 seconds to verify that the engine is dry.
  • If the Boat Inspector deems one necessary- more water than can be reasonably sponged out, visual or suspected ANS found on board, etc.

If you know you need a decontamination, please go to the inspection station first. There is usually not someone stationed at the decontamination location. At Horsetooth, go to South Bay or Inlet Bay Inspection Station. At Carter, Go to North Ramp or North Pines Inspection Station. It is not recommended to go to South Shore at Carter or Satanka (North end) at Horsetooth, they are the farthest from our decontamination stations.  

Hours: 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. Plan ahead! The best times to get a decontamination are during weekdays, and best times are between 9am-3pm, especially early and late in the season when there is limited staff. Please be aware for safety reasons we do not do decontamination after dark. 

With no inspectors on-site at Pinewood Reservoir, the boat ramp for Pinewood Reservoir is closed and no trailered or motorized watercraft may be launched at Pinewood.

Satanka Bay cove remains open as a mixed recreation-use zone (both motorized boats and non-motorized vessels) during the low recreation season, April 1-Thursday, May 25, 2023.

Satanka Bay cove converts to a non-motorized use zone (paddlecraft only) from Friday, May 26-Monday, September 4, 2023.

The availability of accessible public water for motorized and non-motorized recreation in Larimer County is very limited, and visitations continue to increase.  This increase in activities pose safety risks especially for non-motorized users (paddleboards, kayaks, wind surfers, etc.).  Separation of paddlecrafts from motorized boating in Satanka Bay at Horsetooth Reservoir is one way to ensure the safety of all recreators (anglers, boaters, and paddlers). 

Over the last five years, Larimer County has seen an increase in recreational activities at its parks and open spaces, presenting significant challenges with visitor parking, access, and safety concerns. In 2020 alone, both motorized boat inspections and paddlecrafts at Horsetooth Reservoir increased 40 percent. Day-use permits were 30% higher than 2019.  Simply, more people were on the water than ever before.  As our area’s population continues to grow and the popularity of outdoor recreation continues, we do not expect visitation numbers to decrease.

Satanka Bay has easy, safe access for non-motorized users and represents less than 1% of the total water surface area at the reservoir.  All other coves (excluding Satanka Bay) at Horsetooth Reservoir remain open to mixed motorized boat and paddlecraft use during the high recreation season.


satanka bay map
Paddle Safely this Summer

Whether you are a kayaker, canoer, or stand-up paddleboarder, it is important to understand the rules and regulations paddlecraft must abide by at Larimer County reservoirs.

For more info, visit this web page:


Boat owners hoping to rent a slip at Larimer County reservoirs can now enter a lottery system that ensures an open process for rental selection.

The Larimer County Department of Natural Resources (LCDNR) launched its first randomized lottery in March 2024 and will do so yearly every January through February.

For more information visit the marina lottery page here

Boating Safety Information

Be safe out on the water! The safety of boaters and other visitors is paramount.

General Regulations

  • Life jackets of the appropriate size are required for each person on a boat and must be worn by children under the age of 13 at all times. In addition, a Type IV throwable PFD (personal flotation device) is required on boats longer than 16 feet.
  • Boats must travel in a counter-clockwise direction on Carter Lake and Horsetooth Reservoir. This means the nearest shore is always on the right.
  • An observer (in addition to the driver), with an orange or red flag, must be on the boat when towing a person on water skis or any other device.
  • Vessels shall keep a distance of one hundred feet from the diver's flag.

Additional Tips

  • Always boat responsibly, including boating sober and following navigational rules.
  • Dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature. Wear layers in cooler weather, and bring an extra set of clothes in case you get wet.
  • All operators and passengers of personal watercraft and those being towed on any device need to be wearing a life jacket at all times.
  • File a float plan with someone you trust that includes details about the trip.
  • Don't exceed your boat’s capacity or the boat may become unstable and capsize.
  • Know the latest marine weather forecast prior to going out and keep a regular check for changing conditions.
  • Boats running on carbon-based fuels, such as gasoline, produce carbon monoxide fumes. Beware of poisoning by carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas that can poison or kill. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting and chest pain.
  • Keep in touch with more than a cell phone. Satellite phones, emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs), VHF radios and personal locator beacons can all contribute in an emergency situation.
  • Don't panic if you fall into the water. Stay afloat with the help of your life jacket, regain control of your breathing and keep your head above water in vision of rescuers. Stay with the boat if possible.
  • Carry a life jacket with you on your float tube. While you are not required to wear a life jacket in a float tube, it's always best to be as safe as possible.


  1. Yes, Satanka ramp opens on May 13. Boats must stay to the east of the buoys marking the wakeless zone.

  2. Not at this time. Boats are under motion via a motor and inherently by their size and speed can be a dangerous interplay with others in the small cove. The increased congestion of paddlecrafts in combination with increased boating activity at Horsetooth compelled us to separate use for greater public safety outcomes.

  3. No. Fishing is allowed off the shoreline or in a non-motorized craft.


  4. No. You have access to launch along any of the shorelines at Horsetooth.

  5. DNR staff is working to improve a wider crushed gravel trail entrance to the water and a larger clearing along the shoreline for paddlers to launch. We will not be adding an additional beach area.

  6. Every user on the water must pay a day-use permit fee to park. Many recreators choose to purchase an annual vehicle permit in lieu of paying for a day-use pass every visit. Motorized boaters incur a higher annual permit cost due to the increased infrastructure and staffing associated with boat patrol, ANS inspections, docks, and supporting facility needs.