When the sun reaches its highest seasonal apex, many Hoosiers gravitate to rivers and streams for a variety of recreational opportunities — and with good reason.
Indiana’s moving waters also are an important part of the geography and history of our state. Whether wade fishing, canoeing, kayaking or floating in a tube, our flowing waterways provide some of summer’s greatest enjoyment. However, in some cases it can translate into trespass problems.
In no way do I want to diminish the value of our beautiful lakes and reservoirs, but to me the real quality outdoor experience most often comes from our moving waterways, particularly rivers and streams.
My own personal experiences led me to the fact that a person who becomes part of the natural surroundings encounters a deeper enjoyment than one who has his backside firmly parked in a boat seat on a busy lake lined with cottages. Unfortunately, enjoying our rivers and streams also can bring up problems with riparian landowners. I have written on this several years back, but recent issues merit revisiting.
Over the past several weeks I have been involved in conversations regarding the legality of using our local moving waterways, which seems to happen every year during our summer months. For example, just the other day a friend asked: “Can a guy tell me I was trespassing on his property and ask me to leave even though I was standing in the middle of the Wildcat Creek and not on his land?” Ironically the question came within a few hours that I too was planning on an afternoon of wade fishing. The short answer to this question is yes.
In Indiana, those who own land adjacent to non-navigable rivers and streams actually own the land under the water, yet the water itself is public. So if you float through without touching the bank or bottom you are not violating any laws. Step out of your boat and by the letter of the law you are trespassing. Remember, the key word is “non-navigable.”