River Rights and Usage
Where can I paddle?
All public freshwater lakes are open to paddlers. So are many streams, but the laws are more complicated.
Indiana rivers that have been designated by statute as "navigable" are open to paddlers. “Navigable” rivers and their river beds are held in trust by the State of Indiana and can be used by the public. Find a navigable river near you.
On streams that don’t have a navigable designation, the bed remains in private ownership, but the public may use the surface of the stream for paddling.
What does navigable mean?
The traditional law of navigability in Indiana says that a river is navigable if it could have been employed for commercial boat traffic when Indiana became a state in 1816. Read more.
What if a conflict arises?
You should contact an Indiana Conservation Officer stationed in the county where the conflict is. Contact a conservation officer.
Respecting private property
Keep in mind that the banks of all rivers in Indiana should be considered private property. Only a very small part of the riverbanks in Indiana are in public ownership. Please do not trespass on private property. Riverbanks are designated by the ordinary high watermark (defined by 312 IAC 1-1-26(1)).
Sec. 26. "Ordinary high watermark" means the following:
- (1) The line on the shore of a waterway established by the fluctuations of water and indicated by physical characteristics.
Examples of these physical characteristics include the following:
- A clear and natural line impressed on the bank.
- Changes in character of the soil.
- The destruction of terrestrial vegetation.
- The presence of litter or debris.
When on the river, the Ordinary High Watermark (OHM) is generally easy to see and should be used as the boundary between private land and the streambed on navigable rivers.