Access laws for lakes?

I’m hoping someone can direct me to laws/rules about kayaking on lakes that are surrounded by housing. I am surrounded by such lakes, and a few have places I could put in that are not posted, but don’t know what the law is, or what courtesies should be followed.

It would seem that Catskill rivers are open to anyone, but lakes seem to have different rules?


My rule is to keep a low profile.
If some land is not posted, you should be safe from arrest, but in order to avoid unnecessary time wasted talking to landowners or constabulary, you want to get on and off the water smoothly, and watch where you leave vehicles.

Hey I only got kicked out once. I do agree with the low profile method.

If there’s a public boat launch…
usually anyone can put in. If launch is on private property or owned by association, you might have to book or pay. Access should still be available in most cases. Reservoirs usually post no tresspassing signs, unless they have a management element such as a bass management lake.

The question is, was the reservoir
built by a governmental entity like the Corps or a state agency or even a large power company like Duke Power? Or was it built by a developer as a magnet for vacation housing? In the latter case, quite likely your presence is illegal. In the former cases, there are laws about public use of reservoirs that have been constructed by “taking” a segment of a river.

It used to be that Army Corps of Engineers reservoirs would soon be surrounded by development, but use of the waters was public. Now any new Corps reservoir no longer allows lakeside development. The shore must remain natural.

Question: if a reservoir is surrounded by docks and development, do you want to go there?

My rule of thumb is that if it’s not
posted, it’s likely private and I would never trespass. Just common courtesy. In some states, you don’t have to post your private property. If it doesn’t note that it’s public, don’t cross the line.

Think of it like this. If you own rural property, pay the taxes and folks come a hiking down your path, don’t you think it would be nice if they’d checked it out ahead of time? But then, I tend to be a private person.

And some who would cross others property, also leave their trash. A few ruin it for the masses.

We live by a river, have a large yard and there have been times people have pulled up to our ramp, backed in to unload a boat and we’ve caught them in time. We say, “What do you think you’re doing?” They, “Putting our boat in. This is a public ramp, isn’t it?” They act ‘dumb like a fox’. Last time I looked, I didn’t have “STUPID” tatooed on my forehead.

Besides, whether you invite people on your property or not, if someone is injured, you can be sued.

Most places in the USA, have townships where you can find out who owns the land and their addresses. Take the time to find out.

I think what people mean by “not posted” is that it doesn’t have a no trespassing sign. “Posted” land is off limits. In Maine there is a tradition of public use of private land, IF it is not posted. People who do not post their land generally are accepting of some public use, for hunting, hiking, snowmobiling, etc. So the assumption that an area not explicitly marked as public is off-limits, may not be correct in some areas.

More like Maine
Yeah, NY state is more like Maine with regard to posting. Having said that, I would try to ask someone in local law enforcement or in a township office what the deal is with the various lakes in the area. Might as well get the answer from the people who have the power to issue tickets.

BTW, if you don’t want people using your boat launch (a reasonable expectation), why not post a sign saying it’s private property, with no trespassing?

In my state it is the responsibility of the person seeking access to gain permission. Just because it is not posted does not necessarily mean you have permission. It is the responsibility of the “accesser” to gain permission not of the landowner to allow access ie if your on without permission you are trespassing.

My boat launch is in my front yard. One
has to drive across the lawn to get to it. Can’t get much simpler than that to know it’s not open to the public.

We’ve even had people walk past the house, across the lawn, towards the river, carrying a cooler, with the intention of having a picnic by our seawall and docks.

There are flower beds in various places that also should give a BIG hint that, HEY! We live here.

When you confront some, they really act stupid. Big Time–

It’s the opposite in Colorado

– Last Updated: Jul-22-10 1:35 PM EST –

Landowners are not required to post No Trespassing signs--it is the user's responsibility to find out. Big problem in a state where there is lots of public access to National Forest and other public land adjacent to or containing private inholdings. You cannot assume that location or lack of No Trespassing signage makes it legal to use. You might get shot at.

Fortunately, water access is more obvious; public boat ramps have signs with rules of use, OR the entire reservoir is inside a park. There are some lakes where houses are built on the shores, but again it's fairly clear where there is public access.

The biggest sore point concerns river passage through luxury flyfishing resorts...


– Last Updated: Jul-22-10 1:57 PM EST –

Regardless how obvious private boundaries might be, there'll always be people who figure the worst that can happen is they get kicked out. There are also those who will outright lie: a few years ago there was a fad for hikers to bag all the marked peaks (those with mapped elevations) in the county I live in. There happens to be a very dense concentration of such peaks in my neighborhood, and only a few of these peaks have public access.

For a while I kept noticing strangers' vehicles parked in odd places, or even in someone's drive but at the very end (away from the house). I'd see guys hiking straight up the fall line to one of these peaks, from the private homeowner's property. When I went up to one of these parked vehicles and stared at the license plate to memorize it, two guys came hurrying out of the woods. I told them I'd seen suspicious activity in the area and wanted the plate number "just in case" the homeowner reported a burglary. The guys claimed to be doing a land survey for the state. But they didn't look like a survey crew to me (lack of equipment), and they drove out of there in a big hurry.

Later on, I saw a message board devoted to this type of peakbagging, and some of the posters made it clear that while they contacted private landowners to ask permission, if the landowner did not respond or turned down the request, they WOULD go anyway. One of them had made a major mission out of bagging that very last peak that the landowner had not given permission for...and when he got it he crowed his victory to the Internet.

Shirlann, you could avoid the nasty No Trespassing type of sign but still get the msg across to most people by posting something like, "Home of the Joneses".

Florida and North Carolina
It is my understanding that you cannot be charge with trespassing in these states unless you open a gate, go through a fence or are warned in person or by a no trespassing sign.

When I grew up you could and did go everywhere with your guns or your rods. If there was a No Trespassing sign you rode your bike to the nearest house to ask for permission and you usually got it.

Boy things are really different now! I remember a neighbor stopping me and helping get to my friends house because I was having some trouble carrying the ammo to shoot clay target down the street. I had a rope sling for the shot gun but it is hard to steer a Schwinn and hold a box of shells in each hand. Later that year my folks got me a basket for the bike.