Water pollution is an issue across the country and particularly here at Lake Tahoe. Because carbureted, two-stroke engines powering boats and personal watercraft are highly polluting, TRPA set standards that went into effect on June 1, 1999 to allow only the cleaner, direct fuel-injected two-stroke engines to operate on the lakes in the Tahoe Region. Including Lake Tahoe and Emerald Bay, these lakes include Fallen Leaf Lake, Upper and Lower Echo Lakes, and Cascade Lake–which is private. Also within the Region are Spooner and Marlette lakes on the eastern rim, but they do not allow watercraft.

Legal Watercraft

Engines that meet EPA 2006 Standards or California Air Resources Board (CARB) 2001 Standards.

Personal Watercraft

  • ALL Four-Stroke Makes and Models.
  • ALL Two-Stroke Direct Fuel Injection makes and models.

Outboard Engines

  • ALL Four-Stroke Makes and Models such as:
    •  Honda
    • Mercury
    • Yamaha
    • Johnson
    • Suzuki
    • Nissan
  • Direct Fuel-Injected (DFI) Two-Stroke Makes and Models such as:
    • Evinrude E-TEC Direct Injection Engines
    • Mercury Opti Max Direct Injection
    • Yamaha High Pressure Direct Injection

Inboard Engines

  • All Four-Stroke gasoline engines
  • All Four-Stroke diesel engines

For further questions regarding legal engines, call Steve Sweet at 775-589-5250.

600-Foot No-Wake Zone

TRPA also set a 600-foot no-wake zone around the shoreline of Lake Tahoe to minimize the noise impacts of motorized watercraft on residents, visitors and wildlife. Within 600 feet of the shoreline the speed limit is 5 miles per hour. The TRPA Watercraft Team enforces these standards. 

How far is 600 Feet? Almost the length of two football fields. To measure, cruise at idle speed from the shore for about 90 seconds.

Watercraft Inspection Program & Aquatic Invasive Species

For more information on Aquatic Invasive Species and the Watercraft Inspection Program, visit tahoeboatinspections.com

Watercraft FAQs

Which boat engines are still allowed on Tahoe Region Lakes?

Direct Fuel Injected (DFI) two–stroke engines, diesel engines, any two ­ stroke engine that meets or exceeds the 2006 EPA emissions standard, and four−stroke engines.

Why were these restrictions put into effect?

Studies have shown that carbureted two−stroke engines may discharge up to 20 − 30% of their fuel, unburned, into the air and water. In order to reduce the impact of motorized vessels on water quality, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency has adopted new regulations, effective June 1, 1999, restricting the use of certain marine engines on lakes in the Tahoe region.

Are small (ten horsepower or less) two−stroke engines allowable on sailboats or small vessels?

No. These types of engines were given an exemption that expired on October 1, 2001. All two–stroke engines must be direct fuel injected in order to comply with the regulations.

Are there other lakes in the Tahoe Basin that have boat engine regulations?

Yes − the same regulations pertain to Cascade Lake, Echo Lake, and Fallen Leaf Lake.

How can I determine if my two-stroke outboard engine is compliant?

At this time, all Direct Fuel Injected two stroke outboard engines are labeled with a FichtTM (Evinrude), OptimaxTM (Mercury), or HPDITM (Yamaha) logo. Only these engines are compliant.

How can I determine if my personal watercraft (PWC) is Tahoe legal?

Any PWC is Tahoe legal if it is Direct Fuel Injected (DFI) or four stroke. A list of Tahoe-approved Personal Watercraft is above.

Why is there a no wake zone?

The purpose of this is to minimize the noise impacts of motorized watercraft on residents, visitors, and wildlife. Additionally, wakes created within this no wake zone can cause shoreline erosion and can seriously impair gamefish spawning areas and reduce light essential to submerged vegetation. By simply slowing down to less than 5 mph within 600 feet of the shoreline you can help the Lake Tahoe environment.

What else can I do to limit the environmental impacts of boating?

  • Never attempt to alter or adjust new technology outboard or PWC engines
  • Check, clean, and flush your engine well away from the water
  • Refuel away from the water and use fuel spill prevention devices
  • Have gas and oil leaks repaired immediately
  • Use bilge pillows and engine pads to absorb oil and fuel
  • Keep your engine professionally tuned to ensure clean performance

Can I drain my gray or black water holding tanks into Lake Tahoe?

NO, Lake Tahoe is an “Outstanding Natural Resource Water” as designated by the Environmental Protection Agency and is a drinking water source. Federal, State, and the TRPA have laws prohibiting the discharge of any material, liquid or solid. Please utilize the pumpouts available at marinas located around the lake and keep your trash safely secured while on underway.