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Legal Representation, Navigability Toolkit©


This Navigability Toolkit is intended to serve as a starting point on navigability law. The Toolkit serves as an educational tool, trying to explain in simple terms the public's rights to access and float rivers and streams. It is by no means the final authority in each state on this topic. It is intended to merely act as a springboard for further research of the law.

Though this toolkit was constructed with properly cited authority and clarifies the public's rights in navigable and non-navigable rivers, it is not a definitive source for many reasons. One is that the “law” is always changing, and therefore all of this information will need to be reconfirmed prior to going to any court. Additionally, this resource does not replace proper legal representation because a local attorney, besides having a background in the local law, will have an understanding of how the local community applies and reacts to navigability issues. This would include relationships with the court system, police, and possibly politicians who may be able to have an impact on a pending situation.

Another aspect to consider is tact. When confronted with a landowner or public officer (police/park service) it can at times be frustrating at best to try to explain the laws of navigability and the right to float through someone’s property once legally on a navigable river. However, having an understanding about where it is and is not appropriate to assert navigability rights may save a bit of hassle in the future.

Most importantly though, the impact one case can have on subsequent cases is great, and therefore it is important not to create a restrictive legal precedent. A case should be looked at not only from the perspective of the party going to trial, but also with foresight as to its possible effects on boaters, fishermen, and other recreationists that may desire access to the same area in the future. Most of the time it is therefore helpful to have capable legal counsel when addressing any issue in a court of law.

American Whitewater and local paddling clubs may be able to help boaters find adequate legal counsel regarding navigability questions. If you are interested in volunteering your legal assistance or donating to AW, we would appreciate your assistance.

Feel free to contact American Whitewater with any questions, concerns, comments or updates.