Now, there is another important criterion for measuring legal availability of stream and river beds and it centers on “navigability.” If the waterway is considered navigable, then the state not only owns the water but the ground beneath it all the way to the so called “high-water” line, which means it is indeed public. So, your next question is obviously “what streams are considered navigable?”
In the late 1980s, Steve Lucas, director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Commission’s division of hearings, took on the daunting task of determining which streams and rivers were considered navigable. Incidentally, navigability is largely dependent on whether these moving waterways were considered navigable and used as a corridor for transportation during the time Indiana gained statehood back in 1816.
To accomplish this, Lucas enlisted the help of conservation officers in all of Indiana’s 92 counties and most of the DNR’s other divisions. The results of several years of research were made available in 1990 which addressed many aspects of ownership as related to stream and river beds. Even to date, this document still changes from time to time.
To access this information go to the DNR’s website at www.in.gov/nrc/. When the web page opens, look to the right and click on the listing of lakes and rivers deemed navigable. It is a useful tool regarding information on the public availability of flowing waterways in our state.
One thing unusual was the fact that several small streams (some not much wider than a drainage ditch) were listed as navigable but our local Wildcat Creek is not. This is something I personally do not agree with because history proves our area’s early residents and inhabitants utilized the Wildcat as an important means of transportation. Why it is not classified as navigable, I don’t understand.