Always obtain permission!

I like river camping here in Texas but most adjacent land is private.

My river guide recommends to “always obtain permission” before camping on someone’s river property to avoid trespassing. That’s sound advice, of course, but how do you go about it in practice? Are you supposed to obtain the landowner’s phone number and call them? Is anyone actually doing that?

Not sure it’s practical advice unless your cousin owns the land.

I’ve seen information in some river and lake guidebooks but I camp where it’s obvious to that others do. But I always exercise my second amendment rights just in case. Land owners are not the problem, it’s local shmucks with nothing to do but cause trouble.

It IS their land and camping on the shore of a river is no different from camping in someone’s driveway or yard.
They may not be able to stop you from using the river as a “navigable right of way” but once you hit that shore, you are on their land and are a guest or trespasser.
Check a good map, ask around, I do not know who keeps records but someone must. maybe the country records??? County Treasurer?

The Green River passes Rita Ranch which is privately owned and they will grant you beaching permission for $5 or so. They will allow you to take out or put in for another fee and they will happily sell you water. But Rita is posted in all the guidebooks.

Walters Landing on the Lower Colorado is also posted in the guidebooks… Below Walters the land is private with houses built on the shore or owned by developers who have not yet built on the land. But below Imperial Dam to Yuma, most of the land is Indian Reservation (they don’t care if you take-out or put-in) or farmland so stopping for lunch is ok (clean up and they will pretend you are not there) but camping is a problem.

Good question. Requires some research and the only place I can think of is the County Recorder.

You can camp on the public portion, the boundary as defined here, of the river.

Q: What is considered a public stream?

A: In Texas a stream is public if it is “navigable in fact,“or” navigable by statute.” There is no precise test for whether a stream is navigable in fact. The term is based on the idea of public utility. One court has observed that "[w]aters, which in their natural state are useful to the public for a considerable portion of the year are navigable."1

A stream is navigable by statute if it retains an average width of 30 feet from the mouth up.2 It is important to understand that the entire stream bed is to be included in the width, not just the area covered by water on a given day. A navigable stream may be dry part of the year, but does not lose its character as a navigable stream.

To complicate matters, some Texas land titles originated with Spanish or Mexican land grants, and the law of Spain and Mexico did not distinguish public and private streams on the basis of navigability. Streams were valued primarily as a source of water for household use and for irrigation, rather than a way to move people and goods. So when the sovereign granted land, perennial streams were retained for public use, regardless of navigability, so as to make as much land as possible capable of settlement.3 A stream is perennial if it flows most or all of the year. In determining the rights of holders of title under Mexican grants, the laws of Mexico in effect when the grants were made control.4 So in counties that contain Spanish or Mexican land grants, there are an unknown number of perennial streams which are public streams, even though they may not be navigable.
Q: How do I determine the boundary of a streambed?

A: The Texas Supreme Court has stated that the bed of a stream is “that portion of its soil which is alternately covered and left bare as there may be an increase or diminution in the supply of water, and which is adequate to contain it at its average and mean stage during an entire year, without reference to the extra freshets of the winter or spring or the extreme drouths of the summer or autumn.5” Not clear? Again, the Texas Supreme Court: The streambed is that land between the “gradient boundary” on each bank. The gradient boundary is defined as “a gradient of the flowing water in the stream, and is located midway between the lower level of the flowing water that just reaches the cut bank and the higher level of it that just does not overtop the cut bank.6” Clear as mud? Blame it on those civil judges.
Q: What if the stream is dry?

A: A navigable stream does not lose its public character during periods of low water. A stream is navigable if the bed of the stream averages 30 feet wide from the mouth up, regardless of the actual water level on a given day.

@DrowningDave said:
I’ve seen information in some river and lake guidebooks but I camp where it’s obvious to that others do. But I always exercise my second amendment rights just in case. Land owners are not the problem, it’s local shmucks with nothing to do but cause trouble.

In Florida above the “vertical datum line” you likely would be on private property. Depends upon the area. Trespassing on private property with a fire arm can also be a third degree felony. Just for informational purposes.

I always follow the law and do my best not to trespass. Thanks for the head up though.

In Arizona you can camp on any public land unless it is posted otherwise. When the National Forest privatized camping in the forests, they posted a lot of ‘no camping’ signs around to force people to use the very expensive campgrounds.

If the river flows through public lands, you can camp there UNLESS, like Cibola or Bill Williams, it is posted as no camping. This is generally because they changed it from public lands to a wildlife refuge. I suspect because too many people were trashing the area.

Arizona is a generally liberal state unless you meet a cop with an attitude. He will arrest you and the case will be thrown out of court. BUT, you have STILL been arrested, strip searched, spent time in jail and have a permanant police record forever which is what they like to do.
BUT, both the Nudist Clubs and the Kayak Clubs test the law every few years. In the case of kayakers, some of the clubs will deliberately paddle the stream and rivers that are in question just to be ticketed (almost never arrested) so they can get a court ruling. Almost always the paddlers win. BUT it has to always be pushed and tested because once the state posts a sign, it is precedent and they can post more signs claiming that no one complained so…

BUT, trespassing is trespassing and the Second Amendment mentioned above also protects the land owner. So be safe and get permission and mostly and ALWAYS, be polite to the landowner!