Lyle Lovett has a great song called If I Had a Boat. Maybe he should write a follow-up called If I Had a Ramp.
Sure, it’s nice to have a boat, but it’s also nice to have a place to put it in the water. Marinas, moorings, private clubs with docks, and dry-stack storage all work, but in some areas they can be crowded, oversold, and expensive. Meanwhile lots of people keep their boats on trailers. One big reason is that it’s a good way to save money, especially if you have room for the boat at home. Another is that it allows you to live at a distance from the water but still travel to coastlines, rivers, and lakes all over the country.
Most trailer-boaters are familiar with their own local ramp access, but there have always been an intrepid few who venture farther afield. Every summer you see boats being towed all over America’s highways, many of them on their way to new areas and unfamiliar waters. And the perpetual challenge, as trailerboat road-warriors will attest, is finding public-access ramps.
States with sizable boating populations usually have web pages that provide information about public-access ramps, but one of the best overall resources we’ve seen for this type of exploration is the Marinas & Places to Boat page at DiscoverBoating.com, a website run by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA).
The map is populated with clickable icons showing not only public-access boat ramps but a lot of other point-of-interest (POI) information, from bait shops to gas stations and lodging. The user can easily filter POI information, the (Google-based) map navigation is intuitive, and there don’t seem to be a lot of blank data fields. Registered members can create their own points of interest.
Another good resource, and one that improves all the time, is Google Maps. Just type “boat launching ramps” into the search window and Google will display ramps in your immediate area. Click the box that says “Update results when map moves,” drag and re-center the map wherever you like, and the ramp list will update.
Lyle Lovett is from Klein, Texas, just an hour or so from Galveston Bay. He’ll find plenty of boat ramps to choose from in that area, and can see them in both map and satellite view — useful for judging the launch facilities and local waters.
Who knows, maybe Lyle does have a boat, and tows it beind the band bus in case there’s a launching ramp near the next gig…
Note: An earlier version of this article was originally published in July, 2013.