Boater Info

State-Owned “Navigable” Waterways

The rules controlling public use of the submerged and submersible land underlying state-owned waterways are simple. The Public Trust Doctrine gives you the right to use state-owned (or what are also termed "navigable") waterways (including submerged and submersible lands) for a wide variety of authorized uses including navigation, fisheries, recreation and commerce.
However, this doctrine is not a license to trespass on private land. Anyone crossing private land to reach state-owned public land and waterways must have permission from the landowner. The landowner is under no obligation to grant this permission.
Waterways for Which a Navigability Study Hasn't Been Conducted
 In April 2005, the Oregon Attorney General issued an opinion which addressed the public rights associated both with waterways determined to be navigable and those for which the question of ownership of their submerged and submersible lands has not been addressed. ISee link to the right).

When using Oregon´s waterways:

  • Always get the landowner’s permission to cross private land to get to the waterway
  • Be sure to launch and take out your boat at public launches or parks
  • Avoid conflicts with landowners
  • If you see trash, pick it up and carry it out, but avoid trespass to do so
  • Obey laws and common rules of decency at all times 

The submerged and submersible land underlying Oregon's waterways is publicly owned if:

  • ​it has been determined to be navigable for title purposes



Following is a list of Oregon waterways that have been determined to meet the federal test of navigability for purposes of State ownership of the underlying submerged and submersible land:

Chetco River
RM 3.3 to "at least" RM 11 (about one mile upstream from the mouth of Elk Creek)
Oregon v. Tidewater Contractors, CV-93-6017-HO (D.Or. 1994)
Columbia River
RM 0 to 309 (Oregon-Washington border)
Oregon Admissions Act
Coos River
RM 0 to 4.5 (mouth of the Millicoma River)
Tide Lands Act of 1876
Coquille River
RM 0 to 36.3 (confluence of the North Fork and South Fork)
Tide Lands Act of 1876
John Day About RM 17.5 to 22.5 and 134.5 to 135.5
River mile 10 (Tumwater Falls) to river mile 184 (Kimberly)  
Marion County Circuit Court, June 2002
State Land Board declaration 2005
Klamath River
RM 208 to 233 (California border to Keno)
State Land Board declaration 1986
McKenzie River
RM 0 to 37 (Dutch Henry Rock)
Oregon v. Riverfront Protection Association, 672 F.2d 792 (9th Cir. 1982) State Land Board declaration, 1976
North Umpqua River ​Approximately RM 34.5 ​​McCormack v. State of Oregon​, Douglas Circuit Court Case No. 09CV1654CC
Rogue River
RM 0 to 68.5 (Grave Creek)
Administrative rule, OAR 141-81-050(1), adopted by the State Land Board in 1975
RM 68.5 to 157.5 (Lost Creek Dam) Land Board assertion of ownership, June 2008.
Sandy River
RM 0 to 37.5 (confluence of the Salmon River)
State Land Board declaration, February 2002
Snake River
RM 176 to 409 (Oregon-Idaho border)
Oregon Admission Act
Umpqua River
RM 0 to 28 at Scottsburg
Administrative rule, OAR 141-81-050(3), adopted by the State Land Board in 1976.
Tide Lands Act of 1876
Willamette River
RM 0 to 187 (confluence of the Coast and Middle Forks)
Corvallis Sand & Gravel v. Oregon, 429 U.S. 363 (1977).
Tide Lands Act of 1874


 On waterways that are deemed "navigable," federal AND state boating regulations apply.