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Can someone please point me in the right direction to locate the state law that allows recreation below the high water mark in rivers? I would like to get this in writing for the next time I get yelled at while fishing. A guy recently told his property extended into the middle of the river and that I was trespassing. It would have been great if I had the state statue in my wader pocket to hand him.

Thanks
 

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Sculpin Enterprises
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Be aware. Some places have local ordinances that seem to overrule the highwater/navigable water laws.
Hi Dustin,
Federal or state access laws will always supercede local ordinances [I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night....]. If state law explicitly says one can access a river or lake, the locals cannot deny access. Of course, you may have to convince the local sheriff of that fact on the spot.
Steve
 

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As I posted on another thread about our farm damage through the years, we now own land across the river and the river is now fully on what was our barn and farmland. Talk about crazy !

My mind would pop if I tried to figure out how that works out.
 

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Hi Dustin,
Federal or state access laws will always supercede local ordinances [I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night....]. If state law explicitly says one can access a river or lake, the locals cannot deny access. Of course, you may have to convince the local sheriff of that fact on the spot.
Steve
Well be aware that local police will still enforce the local laws, even if its not right. Specifically, I do not recommend fishing below damns even if you legally access the water.
 

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I grew up on the Washougal river. The deed to our home read ftom the middle of the road, then a state route, to the middle of the river. We could in no way keep people from traveling on either.

There is no frderal stream access law as such only a long list of court cases. The jist is that if a stream can be floated in a boat it is Navigable for title purpose. If it in Navigable for title purpose the water and the land under it up to the normal high water mark is held in trust by the state for public use. At the time of statehood streams that were navigable were supposed to be declared so. This was a condition of becoming one of the United States and state or local laws restricting public access are technically illegal. Most states are in violation of federal law in this regard but if you are going to challenge these laws you better have plenty of time and deep pockets. Your best course of action for the real world is to find out the prerogative of the local sheriff's office.
Technically speaking federal law trumps all deeds, the land under all floatsble streams is no different than a public road way, but what really matters to the angler is whether or not the sheriff will arrest you or not.
 

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dirty dog
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I have done some research on property along the Wenatchee river.
I have found that many have property that goes under the river, to the middle of the river, etc. in each case it is best to ask for permission even of you know you can wade/walk below the high water line.
I did tell a land owner to go ahead and call the sheriff and he backed down, but the conflict messed up my day so I left and went some where else.
 

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Hi Dustin,
Federal or state access laws will always supercede local ordinances [I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night....]. If state law explicitly says one can access a river or lake, the locals cannot deny access. Of course, you may have to convince the local sheriff of that fact on the spot.
Steve
Yup, Oregon included a stance on river rights that is based on federal rights in our constitution but I don't believe Washington did. However, it doesn't matter. You federal rights, as cabezon mentioned, are paramount. I did find this in relation to Washington and river rights. It may be what you're looking for.

http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/sea/sma/laws_rules/public_trust.html
 

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Sculpin Enterprises
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Also, one wrinkle in stream access to remember, you are allowed to float through (use the water) a navigable river, but you are not necessarily allowed to wade, i.e., touch the bottom (the land), which may be owned by a private individual. There are exceptions for threats to life and limb. While I am a huge believer in the therapeutic value of wading a river to sustain sanity, I don't think that this situation rises to the level of a threat to life and limb.
Steve
 

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You federal rights do allow you to touch the bottom of a river. In fact, as long as you stay below the normal high water mark, you can make your way up or downstream. These are your federal rights. Now, unless you have the time and money for a lawyer to fight a landowner who is harassing you, than it isn't worth making a point.

We've had recent court cases in Oregon that went the way of the river user and against the landowners who were screaming trespass so down here, things are not quite so up in the air as they were.

But you're not in Oregon so until it does come to a head in Washington, you're in a grey area.
 

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Gene is right. Just most states ignore federal law. Regardless of any deeds federal law essentially prohibits land ownership of lands along and under navigable streams. And states may not impose travel restrictions on these streams. This was a condition of statehood. Technically states that don't allow access shouldn't be states at all.

but again in the real world it's about the local sheriff.
 

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I've had the same guy call the sheriff on me 3 times in one season on the Klick.

I was a bit worried the first time but the sheriff was very cool. He asked how I got to where I was wading, was satisfied with my response(roadway easement overlapped high water mark), and told the guy I was cool.

Second time he came out just reiterated that I was fine.

Third time he offered to write the guy up for harassment of somebody fishing. I declined since the mad guy was a vet with mental issues.

Just pointing out that falsely accusing somebody fishing of trespassing in an aggressive manor is itself a crime. Lots of landowners go the shouting route to try and intimidate us from accessing our lands. Stand up!
 

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I've had the same guy call the sheriff on me 3 times in one season on the Klick.

I was a bit worried the first time but the sheriff was very cool. He asked how I got to where I was wading, was satisfied with my response(roadway easement overlapped high water mark), and told the guy I was cool.

Second time he came out just reiterated that I was fine.

Third time he offered to write the guy up for harassment of somebody fishing. I declined since the mad guy was a vet with mental issues.

Just pointing out that falsely accusing somebody fishing of trespassing in an aggressive manor is itself a crime. Lots of landowners go the shouting route to try and intimidate us from accessing our lands. Stand up!
The year that I lived in La Grande I was fishing with a local on the Grand Ronde in Washington. We parked along the road on a piece of state land. Our plan was to access the tiver on state land, cross the river and walk up on the other side staying below the high water mark. As we were putting on our waders we hear a dozen or so rapid gunshots we turned to look at the nearby private property there was a gut firing an AR at the river, the run we were going to fish was exploding with water from his bullets. Now we did not complain but word of the incident got around and the state police payed him a visit.
 

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Sculpin Enterprises
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There may be an interesting difference between the marine and river environment regarding floating vs. wading. While the standard for ownership of beach-front property in Puget Sound is to the normal high tide mark, the state has in the past sold the intertidal rights down to the low tide mark. This has created a patchwork in which you can legally walk along the beach below the high tide mark for one parcel but be trespassing on a second parcel. But if you are fishing the same beaches from a boat (and therefore not wading on private property), there is no legal barrier to you fishing right to the last inch of water up the beach.
Steve
 
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