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.)

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

HOURS (updated 11/29/21) 
South Bay ramp


*Seasonal reopening scheduled for April 2022 (tentative)

Inlet Bay ramp


Satanka ramp


Carter Lake Boat Ramp Hours

HOURS (updated 11/29/21)

North Pines ramp



*Seasonal reopening scheduled for April 2022 (tentative)

North ramp (Marina)


South Shore ramp


Required Inspections

PLEASE NOTE: New safety processes are in place to protect our ANS personnel and the public during the COVID-19 outbreak. Please review these prior to your visit:

  1. All visitors must remain in their vehicle when pulling into the ANS inspection line unless they are asked to exit by an ANS inspector.
  2. If asked to exit their vehicle, visitors should remain 6 feet from ANS inspectors and other parks visitors.
  3. No more than one person should exit the vehicle at a time, until the inspection is complete, and the vehicle has exited the inspection line.
  4. Our inspectors may place brochures and other paper documents onto the windshields of vehicles, in order to reduce the amount of hand to hand paper transfers.
  5. Our inspectors may wear gloves and masks for the health and safety of themselves and the public.

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 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 rafts, kayaks, belly boats, float tubes, canoes, windsurfer boards, sail boards, stand-up paddleboards or inner tubes.

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


Night Boating and Fishing

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.

Pinewood Reservoir Boat Ramp Closed

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

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.

Paddle Craft Information

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 significant safety risks especially for non-motorized users (paddleboards, kayaks, wind surfers, etc.).  Last year, Larimer County Natural Resources responded to 207 water rescues at its reservoirs, with a total of 2,500 hours of boat patrol.

The recent decision to separate paddlecrafts from motorized boating in Satanka Bay at Horsetooth Reservoir is one way to ensure the safety of all recreators (anglers, boaters, and paddlers). Other ways we are increasing safety protocols is through additional staffing of boat rangers on the water along with the implementation of a targeted visitor educational and outreach effort to build increased awareness.

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. A wider crushed gravel trail to the water and larger clearing along the shoreline at Satanka will improve launch access for paddlecrafts. Any visitor will have access to the rest of the reservoir, including seven other coves.


  1. Yes, Satanka ramp opens on May 1. 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.