Rafting Is Trespassing?

Kelly, you really bummed me out last week about the beach, so I decided to go rafting instead. These crazy nuts along the Chattooga River started yelling at us and threatened to shoot us for trespassing on their land. Then one of them said I had a pretty mouth.  What’s up with that?

Lucky for you, I can deliver you the truth on this issue. Trivia: What year did Deliverance debut?

raftingGeorgia defines land adjoining flowing water: if the water is not navigable, then the adjacent property owners own to the center of the main current, which is different than the middle of the stream/river/brook. If the flowing water is navigable, then the property owner only owns to the low water mark of the riverbed. Easy. But what’s navigable mean? It doesn’t mean rafting or floating timber in small boats according to the Givens v. Ichauway case. Instead, Georgia says a river or stream is navigable if it is “capable of transporting boats loaded with freight in the regular course of trade either for the whole or a part of the year.”  (OCGA 44-8-2). I wonder? How many miles of river, stream or brook does Georgia have?

So where you were matters? Since you were on the Chattooga, that is “non-navigable” as it can not handle freight boats, just as the Ocmulgee above Macon is non-navigable. But the Ocmulgee below Macon has, in the past, been portable. Macon is on the “fall line”, where the Piedmont Range ends and the Coastal Plain begins. In days of yore, barges traveled up the river to Macon (and Augusta and Columbus), which is why Macon is where it is. After that, barge travel was not possible. So the Ocmulgee below Macon might be a navigable river to this day.

So, can that dude with missing teeth keep you off his river? Maybe. IF he owns both sides of the river, he can keep you off the river and also keep you from fishing, even if the fish were put there by Georgia DNR.  “If the riparian owner owns upon both sides of the stream, no one but himself may come within the limits of his land and take fish there and…his rights to the fishery are sole and exclusive” (Bosworth v Nelson, 170 Ga. 279, 286, 152 SE 575, 1930). But owning both sides is not common, so chances are he’s just hoping for a good time if you’ll come out of the water.

Deliverance was released in 1972. Georgia has 44,056 miles of perennial streams.


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