John's Creek, VA Access Update

Posted: 09/08/1999
by Jason Robertson

American Whitewater advises boaters to stay off John's Creek until the access situation is resolved. Another arrest will only drive a deeper wedge into the situation.

Two years ago, a group of local boaters completed improvements to the new American Whitewater access in New Castle, Virginia on the popular Class III-IV John's Creek. American Whitewater secured the access site with the specific intent of allowing boaters continued access to John's Creek without infringing on the rights of riparian landowners or the good nature of the New Castle community. Despite our good intentions, in March of 1999, one defiant boater was charged with trespassing while paddling John's Creek.

The boater has since dropped his appeal of the trespassing charge, and the issue of access to the John's Creek gorge remains one for further negotiation or litigation. The landowner that precipitated the trespassing arrest is claiming title to a King's Grant. King's Grants frequently granted deed holders broad ownership of all property resources including streambeds, banks and the water. The exclusiveness of John's Creek landowner rights are still unknown despite earlier reports. And, although the King's Grants originated from a King who no longer rules and whose government no longer domains, the concept of English Common Law is still deeply protected in conservative Virginia, especially as it pertains to resource and property rights.

Because the task of defining ownership is complicated and arduous, and because of the legal mind set in Virginia, the issue of John's Creek access remains delicate. A team of boaters, consultants and legal advisors continues to pursue negotiation and litigation options. In the meantime, AW requests that boaters refrain from paddling the John's Creek gorge. Please share the message that any further trespassing charges, at this point, could jeopardize access to John's Creek and affect precedent for other rivers in Virginia and the East.

As of September 2000, we are still consolidating our research. We expect to post an update in December 2000 on what we've found.
Jason D. Robertson
635 Joseph Cir
Golden, CO 80403-2349