Skip to main content

Oregon State Flag An official website of the State of Oregon »


State-Owned “Navigable” Waterways Scappoose Bay Marina 

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.     
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. 

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 

For 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, visit the Department of State Lands, Waterways and Wetlands page.