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Boat

Boat plates are known to exist for the years 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958 and 1959 in a format identical in size to, and similar in format to, motorcycle plates of the same era. The principal difference is that rather than the letter “M” prefix used by bike plates, the boat tags had a prefix consisting of a single numerical digit. That digit told the maximum number of passengers that the boat was rated to carry. A prefix of “0” was used for boat houses, which were also required to be licensed. Rather than being issued by the DMV, these plates were obtained from the New Mexico State Park Commission and the use of them was required only at Conchas Dam Lake.
 
                      
 
                            
   
   
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Boat Plates

Within New Mexico are several lakes created by dams built by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.  On at least two of them—Elephant Butte Lake and Caballo Lake—the Bureau of Reclamation required the use of boat license plates which were issued by that agency.  In contrast to the New Mexico boat plates illustrated above which were issued as singles, the BuRec tags were in some, if not all, years issued as pairs, with 1954 being a confirmed example.  See also Civilian Conservation Corps and U.S. Government for other types of license plates issued by the federal government within New Mexico.
 
                   
 
Modern New Mexico Boat Licensing
 
As mandated by the New Mexico Boat Act of 1959, New Mexico introduced statewide licensing of boats effective July 1 of that same year. Replacing the metal plates used at Conchas Dam Lake, and now required for all lakes and waterways in the state, would be “Two adhesive plastic plates—pliable 4" x 10" strips—[to] be issued by the Park Commission for every boat registered in this state. The registration number appears on those plates. One such plate must be affixed on either side of the bow of the boat. Each plate shall be no farther to the rear than one foot from the bow, and at a height on the hull which will permit it to be clearly and readily visible well above the water, whether the boat be in operation or moored.” Registrations were valid for three years, and were accompanied by a “pocket-size Certificate of Registration.”

These requirements remain essentially the same today, but with the addition of a 3" x 3" “Vessel Validation Decal” which shows the expiration date of the boat’s current registration. Licensing and registration nowadays are handled by the Motor Vehicle Division, but monitoring and enforcement are still conducted by the New Mexico Parks Department.
 
         
Illustration from The Handbook of New Mexico Boating Laws and State Park Regulations, New Mexico State Parks Division.    
 
 

 

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