article photo 1

John Day navigability Study Initiated (OR)

Posted: 11/20/2003
by Jason Robertson

Oregon's Division of State Lands notified American Whitewater that they are initiating a formal navigability study on the John Day River from Tumwater Falls (approximately River Mile 10) to Kimberly (approximately River Mile 184).

The process used to determine ownership of the beds and banks of Oregon's waterwater is governed by ORS 274.400 to 247.412 (enacted in 1995) and administrative rules OAR 141-121-0000 through 141-121-0040.

The study was requested by <b>John Day River Chapter of the Northwest Steelheaders</b> in 1997 and was endorsed by American Whitewater.  Since that time, various government agencies, legislators, river users, and landowners have attempted to find a solution to problems attendant with public use that would avoid a formal navigabiity determination. These activities were not successful. In the meantime, the Marion County Circuit Court determined in March 2002 that the waterway is navigable from McDonald Ferry (River Mile 18) to Burnt Ranch (River Mile 135). This decision is under appeal and a final judgement is not expected until mid-2004 at the earliest.

At its October 8th, 2002 meeting the Land Board decided that there was a "broad and substantial interest" in having a navigability study conducted of the John Day River; however the Board delayed the study until the Oregon Legislative Assembly had the opportunity in 2003 to consider the issues of ownership and use of the beds and banks. With the close of the 2003 legislative session, the Board has ordered the commencement of the study.

Over the next year, the Division of State Lands will undertake a study of the title navigability of the 174 mile segment. The effort will involve collecting and reviewing historic evidence to see if the river meets the requirements of navigabiliyt as determined by the legislature and courts. These are:

  1. The water must be capable of, or susceptible to use as a highway for the transportation of people or goods;
  2. Transportation must be conducted in customary modes of trade and travel on water;
  3. The waterway must be navigable in its natural and ordinary condition;
  4. Navigability is determined (meaning that the first three criteria must have been true) as of the date of Oregon's statehood (February 14, 1859).

For more information, contact:

Jeff Kroft, Hearings Officer, Oregon Division of State Lands

503-378-3805 ext 280,


Jason D. Robertson
635 Joseph Cir
Golden, CO 80403-2349