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Public Use of Waterways

Two people holding paddles in a green kayak on a river.Oregon-owned rivers, lakes, and territorial sea are shared resources the public may use and enjoy for navigation, recreation, commerce, and fishing. The Department of State Lands oversees use of these Oregon-owned waterways, keeping them healthy and safe while promoting responsible waterway use.

Oregon-Owned Rivers and Lakes

The public has the right to use the beds and banks of Oregon-owned rivers and lakes for legal activities, including boating, swimming, sightseeing, and walking. Public users do not have the right to go on land above the banks, except in emergency situations, unless they have permission from the property owner.

On Oregon-owned​ waterways you may:
  • ​Swim, boat, and fish in the water.
  • Stand or walk upon the beds and banks to fish, play, collect rocks, or do other legal activities.
  • Pull your boat up to the bank to rest.
  • Briefly access private property above the bank only in times of emergency; for example, if your boat has overturned or you have been hurt.

When using Oregon-owned​ waterways you may not:
  • ​Go above the line of ordinary high water onto private land in non-emergency situations, including to enter or exit the waterway, without permission from the property owner.
  • Leave litter behind or damage property.
  • Operate a business on the waterway without an authorization​ from the Department.
  • Build and maintain a dock or any other type of structure without an authorization from the Department.

The Territorial Sea
Oregon’s territorial sea is also considered an Oregon-owned waterway. The territorial sea extends three nautical miles from the shoreline into the sea. While the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department has authority over use of the beach down to the point of extreme low tide, DSL oversees the use of the territorial sea from the point of extreme low tide to the three-mile mark. Use of the territorial sea is restricted in areas that have been designated as marine reserves.

Recreation Guidelines

When enjoying Oregon-owned waterways, waterway users should care for the health and safety of the waterway by following these rules:
  • Pack and carry out all trash and pet waste.
  • Follow all local, state, and federal laws.
  • Do not go onto private lands to enter or leave the waterway unless you have obtained the owner’s permission or there is an emergency.
  • Avoid activities that may disrupt others’ experiences or interfere with their use of the waterway.

Waterway Use Restrictions

To ensure that all can access and enjoy Oregon-owned waterways, there are restrictions on certain activities that can take place.

Boats using Oregon-owned​ waterways must adhere to Oregon’s limited duration rule, which restricts the amount of time a boat or other type of vessel can stay in one location (OAR 141-082-0255). Boats that stay longer than allowed by the limited duration rule are considered abandoned vessels. These vessels may be seized, and the owner may be cited for trespass and liable for the costs of vessel cleanup and removal.
  • ​Recreational and other non-commercial boats cannot stay in one location for more than 30 consecutive days. Once they have been in a location for 30 days, they must move to another location that is at least five miles away. Further, they cannot move back to that same location within a 12-month period.
  • Commercial vessels cannot stay in one spot for longer than 14 consecutive days.
The Oregon State Marine Board regulates recreational boating, including use of motorized boats and watercraft.​

Sections of several waterways have permanent or temporary restrictions in place that do not allow for camping or campfires at any time. Motor vehicle access may also be restricted. For a list of permanent restrictions, review OAR 141 -088-0010  - 141-0880-0240.
Long-term camping and live-aboard boating are increasing in communities throughout Oregon. These are complex issues that require coordination with local, state, and federal agencies; community organizations; and social service providers.
DSL works closely with our partners and local communities to address the impacts of unauthorized camping and live-aboard boating on Oregon-owned​ waters and lands. This includes monitoring and responding to sites, engaging with people living on lands and waters, and scheduling site clean-ups, when possible. We are also joining in bigger conversations to be part of real solutions.

Metro Abandoned and Derelict Vessels and Camping Working Group
Metro Abandoned and Derelict Vessels and Camping is a working group of residents, local business owners, partner state agencies, local governments, and other stakeholders that come together quarterly to discuss topics related to boats that have been abandoned or are degrading, as well as long-term camping. One of the topics the group focuses on is proactively addressing camping concerns. Learn more.


Blake Helm, Proprietary Specialist

Contact a proprietary coordinator for your county.
 Latest Conditions
Current waterway use restrictions: OAR 141 -088-0010 - 141-0880-0240


  Maps and inventories of public waterways

  Water hazard concerns – contact the Oregon State Marine Board

  Abandoned and derelict vessels on Oregon waterways

Houseless Resources

  211 Info (statewide support)

  Street Roots Rose City Resource (Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties)

  White Bird Clinic (Eugene)