Common Waters of Oregon

"All the Navigable Waters of the State shall be Common Highways and Forever Free"

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Your Rights and Responsibilities to Use Oregon's Waterways

Your Rights

Your Rights

Common Waters of Oregon is not providing you with legal advice. Please use the Attorney's Generals office for specific questions about your legal rights. Follow Oregon 's laws, exercise courtesy, leave no trace of your visit to the waterways, and be an active steward of the waterways.

On Navigable Waters

You have the right to be on Oregon 's navigable waters below the ordinary high water mark. You may walk, wade, swim, boat, float, bird watch, picnic, camp, ship goods and carry passengers, and enjoy the rivers as long as you obey the state laws.

On Floatable Rivers

You have the right to float waterways even where the bed is privately owned, and to make "reasonable, incidental use of the bed and banks." The courts have not yet defined what such "reasonable, incidental use" entails in the context of modern recreational use. Please be mindful that the right to use the river doesn't mean you have the right to trespass across the upland private property to gain access to the river.

1859 Oregon Admission Act Section 2

Your rights are fully described by Oregon 's Attorney General Opinion 8281 (PDF File)

Here is a summary of the Attorney General's Opinion (PDF File)

The Oregon Department of State Lands has laid out a list of Your Rights and Responsibilities.Including a list of illegal activities you need to watch out for.

If you are threatened or harassed on the waterways, contact local law enforcement. Also, if on a navigable river, contact the Department of State Lands and let them know If on floatable river, contact the Department of Justice. The NW Steelheaders have done a good job of helping folks through the issues of harassment and trespassing.

More on Navigable Waters

•  Today, these waters have completed the process and are clearly officially owned.

•  Trusted Brokers List -

•  ( Lakes)

•  (Rivers)

•  You have the right to ask the state to assert its ownership over the other waters by requesting a Navigability study. Find out how to request a navigability study here

•  Navigability studies are underway on several rivers and you may want to testify and monitor progress. You can contact the department of state lands to be added to their newsletter update list to be informed about navigability hearings, study, and public comment periods.

River Rights around the U.S.

Oregon is not alone in working to protect public rights. You can find out more about other states issues and solutions at the following sites:

•  Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Department

•  “Montana Stream Law Still Under Attack” By SUSAN GALLAGHER The Associated Press Monday, August 22, 2005; 2:42 PM

•  California Navigability Laws

•  Washington Navigable Rivers- Department of Natural Resources

•  American Whitewater Association

•  National Organization for Rivers

•  US army corp of engineers- their definitions of navigable

Related Oregon rights- The Oregon Beach Law

•  Eugene, Register Guard “Beachhead defense: Oregon takes a new look at how it governs its popular public sands”

•  Oregon Historical Society




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