Regardless if you are a new or experienced boat owner, you have to learn some of the most important things to look out for when selecting a boat ramp. Believe it or not, selecting a proper boat ramp may make a major difference in your lake experience. Making the wrong choice can give you some trouble you didn’t bargain for.
The top things to look for when selecting a boat ramp are: parking lot features, the boat ramp size and construction, courtesy docks and the cost.
Parking Lot Features
The first thing to consider is the parking lot and how well it is optimized for automobiles towing a boat. The most basic thing to check for is the size and number of parking spots, as well as if they are marked properly. If you are visiting a very busy boat ramp but the parking spots are limited, then you may have trouble finding a spot, and you may end up waiting hours to park and land your boat.
However, parking spots are not the primary thing you need to care about – what matters in terms of convenience is whether the parking lot has a turnaround area at the end or at least a drive-through. This is important because it can make a world of difference when it comes to leaving:
- If neither of these options is available, you will need to back through a tight space while towing a boat and navigating through all sorts of obstacles. Even experienced drivers are likely to be very challenged by this.
- If the parking lot has a drive-through exit, you will still need to do some maneuvering, but you should be able to exit rather quickly.
- The best option is a wide and empty turnaround area at the end since it allows you to easily turn around and leave from the same place you came in.
A badly designed parking lot is by no means a deal-breaker. However, you will certainly have a more enjoyable experience if you do not need to be on pins and needles because of the complex maneuvers you will need to make.
Boat Ramp Features
Now that you are out of the parking lot, it is time to take a look at the primary feature – the boat ramp. The first thing to pay attention to is the number of lanes it has – single-lane boat ramps are not a deal-breaker, but they can slow down traffic significantly. Ideally, you would want at least a dual-lane ramp since this makes it easy for people to simultaneously load and launch their boats. If you are at a popular location, then looking for an even wider ramp may be a good idea – there are no downsides to using a wider ramp.
The next thing to consider is the angle of the boat ramp. Many people think that a shallow ramp is a better choice since it would help for a smoother launch – however, if the ramp is too shallow, you may have a difficult time getting your boat to float. Often, a shallow ramp may force you to get some of your car’s back into the water to complete the launch.
A steeper ramp makes for an easier launch, but make sure to be careful when maneuvering, especially if it seems too steep. Ideally, the owners of the ramp have used textured concrete to ensure good tire traction.
The courtesy dock is another useful feature whose properties you should check out. Some boat ramp owners neglect the importance of a well-built courtesy dock. Ideally, it should be longer and be able to accommodate at least 3-4 boats at ones. In addition to this, you want to look for a floating courtesy dock and not a fixed one – this way, you will be able to rely on it at all times, regardless if the water level is too low or too high. A fixed courtesy dock may be a major nuisance if the water level is abnormal – it may even be impossible to use in some cases.
A smaller courtesy dock is not necessarily an issue, but it might be an inconvenience if you are visiting a busy location. If your location seems perfect but the courtesy dock is on the smaller side, then you may want to consider being one of the first people for the day. Arriving an hour or two earlier is usually more than enough to beat the traffic.
New boat owners may be tempted by the opportunity to use free boat ramps, but this is unlikely to be a good idea. First of all, free boat ramps are not that common, and it might be difficult to find one in your preferred location. In case one is available, it is very likely that it will be overcrowded by others who were attracted by the lack of fees. Last but not least, the combination of many visitors and lack of fees usually results in poor maintenance and dire conditions.
If you insist on visiting a free boat ramp, then the best advice we have for you is to get there early. These places always get very crowded, so being the first one there is the best way to avoid this inconvenience.
Boat ramp fees are not that expensive, and you should certainly go for a reasonably priced one instead of a free one. Make sure to check if they are accepting credit cards and what payment options are available – some locations will have an attendant that is responsible for processing fees, but in other places, you will simply need to fill out a form and leave cash or a check. If you plan to be a regular visitor, then you should certainly look into monthly or annual passes. They are often the more affordable choice if you plan to visit regularly, and they are also much less of a hassle – you need to pay just once, and you are free to visit the boat ramp as many times as you want.