Southwest Paddler - Outdoor recreation guide to the rivers of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah and Mexico
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The right to navigate rivers, creeks and streams within the United States has been codified in federal law, and in some states' law, for more than 150 years or more, including the right of access, protections against private obstructions, and protections against claims of trespass for accessing private land to safely portage around natural and man-made obstructions that may pose a risk to life or property.

This section is intended to help paddlers know their rights and to provide a clearing house reference in the event of a confrontation between paddlers and local landowners or law enforcement personnel, most of whom do not understand navigation laws and rights. Also provided are links to organizations dedicated to the preservation of the rights of navigation, some of whom may be able to assist in disputes between paddlers and adjacent landowners who attempt to block the public right of navigation.

Always remember that top law enforcement positions are political appointments, in most cases, and arguing with a law enforcement officer who may not know (or care about) federal and state laws protecting the right of navigation may result in citations and/or incarceration. It is best to avoid aggressive confrontation and settle all disputes through public education, if possible, or in a court of law having competent jurisdiction over such matters if educational efforts fail. Many state attorneys general have already ruled in favor of the imalienable public right to navigate rivers, creeks, streams and coastal waterways. In some cases, it may be necessary to pursuade your state AG to pursue a lawsuit against landowners or law enforcement entities to compel compliance with established navigation law. Regardless, most river rights issues have long been settled in federal courts including the US Supreme Court, and their decisions cannot be reveresed by state courts or legislatures. Use the information at the links on this page to inform yourself and others about the legal decisions that protect our rights of navigation.

State Law Resources

Texas Navigation Law

Local and National Organizations

National Organization for Rivers

Summaries of Settled Case Law

Review of the Relationship of Federal and State Law

Protect Boater Rights
Join National Organization for Rivers
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Public Rights on US Rivers

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