[Tweeters] Even more on navigable rivers

Kristin Stewart kristinstewart01 at comcast.net
Fri Jun 29 22:09:33 PDT 2007

MessageAnd as I understand the saltwater access: it is that you can walk (or boat) along any beach, but that you cannot stop on someone else's property to picnic, or sunbath, or swim, etc. For example, anywhere along Budd Inlet in Olympia, the public is entitled to walk the beach when the tides allow that, but the public is not allowed to access the non-tidal property along the way...so that if the tide is high, and there is no beach, the public has no right to walk along another person's land. Also, the public cannot access the beach through another person's property. Access must occur at a public/community spot, unless you own property along the way.

I could be wrong...

Kristin Stewart

From: Rachel
To: 'Ed Level'
Cc: tweeters at u.washington.edu
Sent: Friday, June 29, 2007 9:27 PM
Subject: [Tweeters] Even more on navigable rivers

A clarification for Ed Level:

I didn't say all streams were navigable (they aren't), just that all navigable streams are open to public access. Since the laws were written regarding passage of freight canoes, it's obvious that the laws are rather old. Apparently, at the time, the state felt that the needs of commerce, in the form of freight-carrying boats and their operators, outweighed the property rights of those owning land bordering the rivers. This may be an outdated concept, but it's still the law. Fishermen legally can, and do, wade along rivers that pass through private property. In this case, the law IS simple: if they are in the bed of a navigable river, they are on public property, and as long as they stay in the river, they are not trespassing. Property owners that try to prevent people from wading the river have no legal standing. The Washington law regarding navigable rivers does not refer to lakes or saltwater shorelines, however, so the situation is different there. Lakes and saltwater shorelines definitely can be private property.

Is anyone familiar with the laws in California regarding access to beaches? All ocean beaches in California are absolutely public, to the extreme displeasure of the rich people who own beachfront property. The most they can do is keep people from crossing their property to get to the beach. If these people want to walk from a public access point to a place on the beach that is in front of private property, there is no legal way to prevent them. There are books available with maps of all the public access points. Though the original rationales for the Washington river laws and the California beach laws might have been different, the end results seem similar.

Note that I am not advocating trespass or ignoring the property rights of landowners. No matter how much I want to see a bird, I will NEVER cross a fence line or ignore a "no trespassing" sign to do it. I am a firm believer in asking permission to enter private property, and I agree that a little politeness and consideration goes a long way. However, I do not think I should be intimidated by landowners into staying off of public property, just because it borders private property.

-----Original Message-----
From: tweeters-bounces at mailman1.u.washington.edu [mailto:tweeters-bounces at mailman1.u.washington.edu] On Behalf Of Ed Level
Sent: Friday, June 29, 2007 4:49 PM
To: tweeters at u.washington.edu
Subject: [Tweeters] Reecer Creek Warning

Re Roger Leed;

Remember the open range? Therefore, vacant private forest or
range land is generally available for public use unless posted otherwise.

If you see a sign along a road in central or eastern Washington that says "Open Range," don't assume

that you have a right to enter abutting lands. Don't assume that private lands are "generally available

for public use"; they are not. One using them without permission is still a trespasser, regardless of

absence of criminal trespass. Trespasser status is important; if you fall in a hole on trespassed land, for example.

Re Rachel Lawson:

If a fisherman (or birder) is wading or floating in the actual stream, the landowner

cannot prevent him/her from passing through the private property.

I have trouble with this. The State may own navigable waters, but in many shoreline situations it does not own the bed of the body y of water. Not all navigable waters are owned by the state; don't figure that you have a right to wade or otherwise utilize waters of a private lake even though it may be navigable. . Obviously one walking on a private tide lands at low tide is trespassing; I don't see how walking (wading) on the same land at high tide ceases to be a trespass. Not all streams are navigable, even though the state or other public entity may own the water flowing in it..


1. Don't assume that the law is simple in any situation.

2. Don't enter the private lands of another without permission.

Ed Level. Olympia, WA


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