Become A Member
Learn how your membership helps protect our rivers and rights of use.
Learn More About River Law
Frequently Asked Questions »
FAQs about federal law regarding public ownership, use, and conservation of rivers
Why River Rights? »
NOR is the organization that focuses on achieving public-trust ownership of rivers, conserving rivers through public-trust ownership, and ensuring the public's legal rights to enjoy rivers
River Shooting Stirs River Law and Property Questions
This past July in Missouri, a landowner shot a man who was taking a pit stop from floating down the Meramec River and killed him. The man had stopped to urinate, and the landowner was upset about people trespassing on his property. The landowner came out with a gun and told the river users to get out, and instead of leaving they argued about property rights. The landowner felt defensive about protecting his property, and the river user felt adamant about telling him he was mistaken, which led to the shooting.
The typical situation was displayed in this case, where people are unsure of which rights apply. Various people in state government gave varying answers for who can go where. Some referenced the vegetation line, others said it depends on whether a river is deemed navigable. The correct answer came from Rob Brandenburg, an agent who covers Crawford County for the Missouri Conservation Department, who said that property lines actually go to the center of the river, but the public’s right to use this property is an easement much like a public road. A property owner owns a county road to the center of the road, for example, but a person can use that road.
This incident shows the importance of not arguing about trespassing while on the river. If confronted by someone, leave, and then distribute river law materials to authorities and landowners in the area.