25 U.S. Counties With The Most Boat Launches

Andrea Vale Andrea Vale · Updated March 8, 2024

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A boat docked on a dock in a lake.

There are 11.8 million recreational boats in use across the country as of 2022, according to the Coast Guard, meaning about 1 in 11 U.S. households own a vessel. Who knew having a boat was so popular in the United States? Well, despite stereotypes about boating, in reality, it’s not just a leisure reserved for the 1% — the annual household income for 3 in 5 boat owners in the U.S. is $100,000 or less, the National Marine Manufacturers Association reports.

In 24 U.S. states, as well as in Washington D.C., boating and fishing are the largest outdoor recreation activities, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the country overall, it’s the second-largest, at $32.4 billion, with Florida, California, and Texas contributing to that overall amount the most.

In recent years, however, droughts have unfortunately affected boating in many areas of the country, meaning getting vessels into the water is no longer a given. Extended periods of drought impact many Americans’ access to boat ramps, lakes, and reservoirs.

In October 2021, 90% of the western U.S. experienced extreme droughts. Lake Mead, the country’s largest reservoir by volume, had dried up to just 35% capacity. On other reservoirs and lakes across states like Arizona, California, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, Minnesota, and Illinois, boat owners could not access sufficient water to launch, with many boating and water sporting businesses suffering as a result.

The drought situation has since improved slightly. Total drought in the U.S. has dropped to 16.6% as of February 2024, and Lake Mead’s water levels are at their highest in three years, thanks in part to particularly heavy snow this winter. As warmer months approach, the effects those rising water levels will have on the boat industry will become clearer.

To see where boat launches are most prevalent in America today, CitizenShipper used 2022 Geological Survey data to rank the 25 counties in the U.S. with the most boat launches. (Note: The data has location information for nearly 25,000 boat launches across the country, but these numbers should be interpreted as estimates, as it does not feature every boat launch nationwide.)

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Great lakes region offers thousands of boat launches.

More Freshwater Sources Often Mean More Boat Launches

Boat launches tend to be clustered around lakes and reservoirs, so it’s no surprise that the Great Lakes region has the highest concentration of launching sites—however, not necessarily for the reason you might assume.

Although the Great Lakes region does dominate other areas of the U.S., it’s not necessarily due to boats being launched on the lakes themselves but rather on many smaller reservoirs that dot the geography of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

The most boat launch-sparse section of the country encompasses Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico, which is to be expected, considering those states have some of the driest climates in America. However, due to drought conditions in the western U.S., some states are considering constructing more reservoirs to hoard water, which could result in more boat launch sites in the future.

In coastal areas, there are options to launch boats into shallow depths of the ocean itself, often using the shelter of coves or bays, like the boat launch-dense Barnstable County along Cape Cod, Massachusetts’ famed Atlantic getaway. Even near the saltwater ocean, there are often reserves of freshwater rivers, lakes, and waterways—like the Dora Canal and St. Johns River in Lake County, Florida—that rank among the U.S. counties with the most boat launches.

Read on to find out where else to head if you want to set sail—whether by lake, river, reservoir, or sea.

An aerial view of a road in the middle of a swamp.

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#25. Lake County, Florida

– Total boat launches: 58
– Waterway with most launches: Lake Griffin (8)

A road leading to a mountain with trees in the background.

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#24. Douglas County, Oregon

– Total boat launches: 60
– Waterway with most launches: Umpqua River (14)

A dock with a boat in the water at sunset.

Denise Gerdes // Shutterstock

#23. Douglas County, Minnesota

– Total boat launches: 61
– Waterway with most launches: Lake Carlos (3)

The sun is setting over a lake and river.

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#22. Grant County, Washington

– Total boat launches: 65
– Waterway with most launches: Lower Crab Creek – Potholes Reservoir (10)

A dock leading into a body of water.

Shelly Bychowski Shots // Shutterstock

#21. Sawyer County, Wisconsin

– Total boat launches: 68
– Waterway with most launches: Nelson Lake (4)

A boat sits on a dock at sunset.

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#20. Hubbard County, Minnesota

– Total boat launches: 69
– Waterway with most launches: Long Lake (3)

A canoe sits on the shore of a lake.

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#19. Polk County, Wisconsin

– Total boat launches: 71
– Waterway with most launches: Balsam Lake (4)

A large bridge over a body of water.

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#18. Sabine County, Texas

– Total boat launches: 73
– Waterway with most launches: Sabine River – Toledo Bend Reservoir (31)

An aerial view of a town with boats and a harbor.

Alizada Studios // Shutterstock

#16. Barnstable County, Massachusetts (tie)

– Total boat launches: 74
– Waterway with most launches: Bass River (6)

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A dirt road leading to a dock on a lake.

Aaron J Hill // Shutterstock

#16. Barron County, Wisconsin (tie)

– Total boat launches: 74
– Waterway with most launches: Red Cedar River (7)

A dock on a lake surrounded by fall foliage.

Oleksandr Koretskyi // Shutterstock

#15. Marinette County, Wisconsin

– Total boat launches: 75
– Waterway with most launches: Menominee River (16)

A white truck is parked next to a boat in the water.

Daniele RUSSO // Shutterstock

#14. Aitkin County, Minnesota

– Total boat launches: 77
– Waterway with most launches: Mille Lacs Lake (12)

A frozen marsh with ice and grass.

Ken Wolter // Shutterstock

#12. Burnett County, Wisconsin (tie)

– Total boat launches: 83
– Waterway with most launches: Saint Croix River (8)

A large tree in the middle of a grassy area.

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#12. Oconto County, Wisconsin (tie)

– Total boat launches: 83
– Waterway with most launches: Oconto River (8)

A group of sailboats on a lake with mountains in the background.

Jamie Hooper // Shutterstock

#11. Lane County, Oregon

– Total boat launches: 84
– Waterway with most launches: McKenzie River (21)

A wooden dock leading to a body of water at sunset.

Adam Outdoors Photography // Shutterstock

#10. Becker County, Minnesota

– Total boat launches: 87
– Waterway with most launches: Detroit Lake (4)

A lake with a dock and reeds in the background.

Jennifer Tepp // Shutterstock

#9. Washburn County, Wisconsin

– Total boat launches: 99
– Waterway with most launches: Long Lake (4)

A lake with a dock and reeds in the background.

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#8. Crow Wing County, Minnesota

– Total boat launches: 105
– Waterway with most launches: Mississippi River (6)

A lake with a dock and reeds in the background.

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#7. Otter Tail County, Minnesota

– Total boat launches: 114
– Waterway with most launches: Dead Lake (4)

Three kayaks sit on a wooden bench near a lake.

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#6. Polk County, Florida

– Total boat launches: 127
– Waterway with most launches: Saddle Creek Park (5)

An aerial view of a lake in the fall.

mpete714 // Shutterstock

#5. Cass County, Minnesota

– Total boat launches: 134
– Waterway with most launches: Leech Lake (16)

A lake with trees in the background.

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#4. Oneida County, Wisconsin

– Total boat launches: 137
– Waterway with most launches: Rhinelander Flowage (5)

A lake surrounded by trees and grass.

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#3. Vilas County, Wisconsin

– Total boat launches: 148
– Waterway with most launches: Big Lake (3)

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A lighthouse sits on a frozen body of water.

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#2. St. Louis County, Minnesota

– Total boat launches: 184
– Waterway with most launches: St. Louis River (9)

A sign for mississippi lincoln county.

Edgar Lee Espe // Shutterstock

#1. Itasca County, Minnesota

– Total boat launches: 192
– Waterway with most launches: Mississippi River (12)

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Story editing by Jaimie Etkin. Copy editing by Paris Close. Photo selection by Clarese Moller.