Need a convenient boat ramp near you? Don’t worry we’ve got you covered. Find the perfect boat ramp for your next trip on the water with our guide.
Are you constantly on a mission to find the answer to the perennial question: is there a public boat ramp near me?
If the answer is yes, there’s good news because there’s a simple way to check.
But before you set off to have fun at your newly discovered boat ramp, there’s some other information that you’ll need to know.
Keep reading for a full guide to finding a local free boat ramp plus a whole host of other useful facts.
The Top Boat Ramp Locator
Forget about asking all your friends, “do you know if there are any free boat ramps near me?” because there’s a much easier way.
A handy locator tool provides you with the precise details of public boat ramps in your area (it’s located just a little bit further down the page).
This means you don’t need to take pot luck and drive around near water, just hoping that you’ll be fortunate.
Now, you can head out with complete confidence as you’ll know the exact location of local boat ramps that are available for use.
To track down a public boat ramp, the only tool you need is the online boat ramp locator which can be found here.
This interactive map provides comprehensive for the whole of the US so whether you’re looking for some boat ramps close to home or while you’re away on vacation, this tool has it covered.
While the locator tool may sound like it’s only geared up for fishing, it’s actually an essential tool for anyone who enjoys being on the water.
With carefully indexed information relating to every body of water in the US, it’s a never-ending source of information for every state.
As you get started, you’ll see that there’s a giant map of the US on the website so you can choose to search in the way that’s the most comfortable.
A search box allows you to enter the precise location where you’re looking for boat ramps. This could be either a state, town or even a zip code so it’s possible to really narrow down the search if you know the exact spot.
You don’t need to use the smart search tool, however, as you can simply zoom in on the map. There’s an almost limitless number of times you can zoom in, so you can view incredible detail.
Whichever way you choose to search, you’ll have the option to toggle between a simple map and a detailed satellite view.
The latter provides a very in-depth look at the location; zooming in allows you to see the exact set-up for the boat ramp and the surrounding environment, such as paths and undergrowth.
This is an efficient and easy way to find boat ramps in any location around the US, but the tool offers far more than just finding a boat ramp.
A legend on the map shows where you can find all of the following:
- Boat ramp
- Bait shop
- License vendor.
- Equipment and gear
- Fish hatchery or refuge.
- Multiple sites of interest.
- Expanse of water.
- Best places to boat and fish.
- Marine Protected Area.
You can click on any of these icons to get even more details about what’s on the site. This may be as simple as providing directions, an address and contact details but there may be more in-depth information about the site.
For example, clicking on the icon for an expanse of water will typically give you more information about what there is at the location.
This includes a description of the water and what it’s used for, as well as photos of some of the latest catches. You will normally also be able to also find a list of all the species of fish that can be found there.
Here’s the boat ramp locator tool:
Search Boat Ramps Near Me on Google
The above locator tool is one of the best ways to find public boat ramps in your area but you can always just use Google instead.
Enter a search phrase such as “public docks near me” or even “boat ramps near my location” and Google should provide you with a handy list.
However, to see these you may need to click on “Maps” as the boat ramp locations may not be visible on a general search.
If you’re in an area with lots of bodies of water you may see some results listed but it won’t be a full set until you click onto Maps.
Google Maps will provide a very comprehensive guide to all the available boat ramps. Similar to the boat locator tool, you can toggle between a simple map or satellite for your preferred view.
However, there’s also a 3D tool and the ability to drag the map around so you can see the location from different angles.
Google will provide you with directions and basic contact details, as well as an excellent view of the location.
However, you won’t get the fishing or water information that the boat ramp tool provides as Google is geared towards the general public and not a niche market.
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Problems with Using a Public Boat Ramp
Once you’ve found a public boat ramp, you can head off for a day of fun but before you do, you should be aware that using a public facility isn’t always free of problems.
A free boat ramp attracts all kinds of water users, including complete beginners who are just starting out. With everyone wanting to use the ramp, the area can very quickly become crowded and busy, with long queues until you get your turn.
This is exacerbated by an abundance of inexperienced boat and jet ski owners, who may have trouble backing up their trailer properly and launching.
Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with their technique but they have no appreciation for protocol and cause problems that could be completely avoided!
If you’re heading for a spot where there are more jet skis than boats, you may not encounter the same degree of difficulty.
This is because jet skis are a lot easier to maneuver and even total newbies can usually get them onto the water without a huge amount of trouble.
However, this doesn’t mean it’s completely hassle-free and to save embarrassment at the boat ramp, it’s highly recommended for both boat and jet ski owners to research in advance so they know what to do on arrival.
When you’re using a public boat ramp, you’re at the mercy of others and there’s no way of knowing in advance whether you’re going to have a good or bad experience on the day.
You might be lucky enough to turn up and get straight onto the water but if it’s busy, or there are a lot of people taking their time, you’ll need to be prepared for a wait!
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Benefits of Using a Private Boat Ramp
There is an alternative to using a public boat ramp and that’s opting for a private boat ramp instead.
While this may take an investment, in the long run, it will allow you to get far more use and enjoyment out of your boat or jet ski.
With a private dock, you won’t need to wait for others or have your plans for a short jaunt ruined by a long wait.
You can hit the water whenever you want, avoiding queues and inexperienced boat-owners who spend too long chatting with their friends rather than focussing on the job in hand!
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Transporting your watercraft to the boat ramp can be time-consuming and it can be crowded and busy.
Having a private boat ramp means you won’t lose time queuing and won’t have the same hassle of hooking your trailer up and launching the watercraft. A private boat ramp allows you to simply set off!
Aside from the benefits of accessing the water without delay, a private boat dock can also save you money.
You won’t need to pay for storage in a marina or other location, such as a dry storage yard as your boat can be simply waiting in your own private dock instead. Baby the same token, you won’t need to find storage in your garage for a jet ski.
Of course, not everyone has the luxury of being able to use a private boat ramp so keep reading to find out the dos and don’ts of etiquette on a public ramp.
Boat Ramp Etiquette and Protocol
Using a local public boat ramp means sharing the facilities with others so it’s essential to know the proper etiquette and protocol.
There’s nothing more excruciating than unintentionally offending someone simply because you didn’t know what’s considered to be polite behavior.
You can start by checking out the rules for your local boat ramp so you’re not caught out. All boat ramps create their own rules so don’t assume they will be the same as boat ramps you’ve used before.
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The first golden rule is to get everything ready before you move onto the ramp. This reduces the time you’re using the ramp and helps things to keep moving.
It may not seem much of a problem if it’s quiet, but during busy times other users will be cursing you if you’re taking longer than necessary in the space.
This means doing your pre-launch work before you move into the bay. This includes getting any lines ready if you’re fishing, checking the battery, smelling for any gas vapors under the seat and collecting up the gear you want to take out onto the water.
When you head down the ramp your jet ski or boat should be ready to head straight out without any delay.
If you’re not terribly confident about moving your trailer around, it may seem easiest just to drive down the center.
However, rather than being one large boat ramp, it may actually be several bays and by driving inconsiderately you’re stopping others from using the other bays. Wherever possible, pick the end bay on the boat ramp so there’s space for other water users to also drive into position.
Before you drive down to the water, it’s good protocol to check for any excess of algae or debris. This could either make your tires spin or block your path completely so it’s an important step in the process.
There’s etiquette while in the parking lots around the boat ramp too. It’s important to always drive slowly and with vigilance, as it’s not unusual for there to be lots of children around.
If the parking lot is empty and there are plenty of spaces, don’t drive up right alongside someone else. If there’s room to leave a space between you, do so. It’s not always easy squeezing into a vehicle when there are only a few inches of spare space.
It shouldn’t need to be said but always respect other people’s property. This means not tying up to another boat without permission, even if there’s no dock space left. You could easily cause knocks and scratches to their vessel, especially if bumper buoys aren’t being used.
Never be tempted to walk across another boat or jet ski to reach your intended location. You may not be doing any harm but it’s very rude!
Finally, while at the boat ramp you may spot some people struggling either because they’re inexperienced or because they’re on their own. Whenever you can, lend a hand. The watercraft world is a real community and it’s normal practice for everyone to pitch in and help each other.
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Launching your Jet Ski
You can expect to find different conditions in different locations because of the effect that tide and water levels have.
Although it’s important to launch your jet ski as quickly as possible, it’s also vital that you’re familiar with the water level and conditions.
You may, therefore, need to take a bit longer when you first start using a certain boat ramp.
Follow these steps at a speed you’re comfortable with and you’ll find your jet ski launches without any setbacks:
- Move your jet ski down to the water using your trailer until it just begins to float
- Unhook the safety chain plus the winch strap
- Push your jet ski into the water properly
- Place your vehicle in “Park” and put your parking brake on when the jet ski is in the water. This stops the whole rig from following the jet ski into the water!
If there’s a second person to help, the process is much easier as one person can maneuver the tow vehicle while the other manages the jet ski itself.
However experienced you are, care should always be taken on the boat ramp. They are wet and inevitably slippery and made worse if algae is growing there. In colder weather they can quickly become icy, creating very hazardous conditions underfoot.
Safely Retrieving your Jet Ski
Once you’ve finished in the water, there’s the small matter of retrieving your jet ski and loading it back onto the tow vehicle and trailer. Follow these steps for easy retrieval and loading:
- If all parties are on the jet ski, slowly approach the ramp so that someone can jump off to collect the vehicle
- The person on the jet ski should move back from the ramp to allow the tow vehicle space to approach
- The trailer should be backed up just enough so that the rollers and bunker are about two-thirds under the water
- The jet ski should not approach the ramp until the trailer is in this position
- Slowly ride the jet ski onto the trailer just far enough so it’s possible to reach the winch hook and attach it to the bow eye
- Once attached, use the winch to pull the jet ski the rest of the way onto the trailer and up not the bunks
- Once there is sufficient friction to hold the jet ski in position, the power can be shut off
- The safety chain and winch strap can now be attached to the bow
- Only once all these steps are completed, should you indicate to the driver to pull forward to allow the ramp to be cleared.
Very experienced riders who are confident can drive the jet ski right onto the bunks themselves by applying a controlled squirt of power. However, extreme care needs to be taken as this is not an easy option. Less confident jet ski riders should always opt to use the winch instead.
Top tips for Excellent Trailer Driving Technique
It doesn’t matter how accomplished you are at driving a regular auto, when you’ve got a trailer on the back it’s something entirely different!
Don’t wait until you’re heading down to the water to practice your driving techniques as you might be surprised at how tricky it is.
Go to an empty parking lot and use that to become familiar with how a trailer moves on the back of your vehicle. The white lines can be very handy in helping you to practice lining up in a restricted space.
You’ll notice that trailers don’t always move in the direction that you might expect, so give yourself sufficient time to get used to controlling it accurately. Traffic cones – if you have some – can create a challenging course to practice how to move the trailer around.
The turning radius is one aspect which you’ll need to be confident of so pay particular attention to this when you’re practicing. Once you’re confident with both the steering and turning ability, you’re ready to try a boat ramp for real.
It may feel daunting the first time but select an open ramp and make a wide swing. Make sure you’re far enough away from the boat ramp to be able to see it clearly in your mirrors behind you. With the ramp directly behind your trailer, slowly back up until you can see the jet ski and trailer in the water.
For the first few times at least, it will be enormously helpful to have someone stand outside your vehicle and give you some guidance on the distance.
Now that you’ve read our comprehensive guide you should feel much more comfortable at a public boat ramp, and when moving your jet ski around.
Whether you’re googling “find a public boat ramp near me” or using the boat ramp locator tool, these top tips should help you enjoy the maximum amount of time on the water, wherever in the US you are.