Invasive mussel infestations a big concern for Colorado

Colorado Parks and Wildlife Aquatic Nuisance Species Inspector Randy Fairbanks checks a boat at Highline State Park for quagga and zebra mussels.

The aggressive aquatic nuisance species inspection program operated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife has been successful in keeping quagga and zebra mussels out of the state. Waters in several surrounding states, however, are infested with mussels and that is a serious problem for Colorado.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife continues to be successful in keeping quagga and zebra mussels out of the state.

Boats entering the state from Arizona, Kentucky, Kansas, Minnesota, Texas and Utah have been found to be infested with mussels.

State law requires all boats coming in from out-of-state to be inspected prior to launching in a Colorado lake or reservoir, and prohibits the possession of aquatic nuisance species such as zebra or quagga mussels. Owners can be fined and their watercraft impounded if they bring an infested boat into the state.

 Because of its proximity and popularity, Lake Powell is always concern for Colorado since many people keep their boats at Lake Powell for part of the year and then come to Colorado for the summer months. Some boaters also go to Lake Powell for long weekends and return to Colorado to boat in local reservoirs.

Mussels can survive for months in wet environments of a boat, including in and on wells, bilges, equipment lockers, anchors, engines and any type of boating equipment.

Nearby states with severe mussel infestations include Arizona, California, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Utah. In addition, waters in almost all states in the Midwest, on the east coast and in the south are infested with mussels.

“If your boat has been launched in any other state you must submit to a professional inspection and decontamination prior to returning to Colorado,” said Brian Sandy, manager at Navajo State Park in southwest Colorado. “And all boats, regardless of where they are coming from, must be cleaned, drained and dried in between each use.” 

If you have taken your boat out of the water from a mussel-positive state in the last year, remove all vegetation and mud from the boat, trailer, all equipment and lines, and remove the drain plug. Before taking your boat to any water in Colorado, be sure it has been cleaned, drained and dried — even if it’s never left the state.

Colorado boaters are also warned about buying boats, engines and equipment from out-of-state.

For more information, and for a list of all inspection stations in Colorado, visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website,


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