cut downed trees

what is the law concerning cutting downed trees that have fallen into a river and completely blocking passage? i happen to like paddling on small, winding streams and on occasions, the path is completely blocked by a downed tree that’s lying in the water. can i saw a section off so i, and anyone else coming after me, can pass or must i portage?

cut downed trees
I see evidence of it often in northern Michigan.

Removing logs

– Last Updated: Oct-17-06 12:12 PM EST –

Good article on tree removal:

There's been some debate on the legality of clearing rivers for navigation. State laws vary. If you go ashore to do it you are risking legal action from the landowner.

I think that it is the polite thing to do.

It makes the river safer, too - especially if you haul them up on shore above the high water mark.

It is a form of trail maintenance.

I have no clue if it is legal on private land.

Just Do IT
Its better to beg forgiveness then ask permission… But make the cuts JUST big enough for YOUR boat to pass through…

Where I live
"People on the river are happy to give", but you might not like how loud & fast it flies at you. Be careful with the “just do it” thing.

I’d call city building, or DNR.

depends on

– Last Updated: Oct-11-06 6:04 AM EST –

if it's classified a wild and scenic river or a trout stream or if it is a river thru private property or.....just because you have the right to float a river (and the wish to).....doesn't automatically give you logging rights. is this a river, a stream? Is it being used comercially?

All land is owned by someone and so are all trees. It may be private or state or county owned. Some waterways the DNR or land owners want kept open....others they want left alone....some they don't really care.

I would call the DNR ....their opinion will count, might save you alot of time and money....or it might be easier to just pick a differant river. If you were cutting trees on the river that runs around my house (without asking me) just because you felt like they were in your way, the Sheriff or the DNR or both would be recieving a call....I own both sides, and the trees on both banks.

Best Wishes

I’ve wondered about that
I’m close to a river that could possibly be a nice trip, but there are a lot of deadfalls, and a couple log dams have formed up. I fear one land owner wont like anyone trimming away any deadfalls as he may gain in allowing the river to divert around the log jam. Beyond that, it’s more of a passage/safety issue.

Lucky for them, I kinda don’t have the time to dink around the river this year, so I’m kinda hoping that the winter/spring flooding may clear out or change some of the situations - - to my advantage

We do it
The shop that does trips on the little river(cadiz ky) clears somthing every year. but it has to do with safty for the people doing the trips, more so than the guids. so far no legal probloms yet.

So if you are Canoeing down some river and get snagged by a tree and that tree is on private property can you sue the LAND OWNER??

Been doing some cutting

– Last Updated: Oct-10-06 11:48 PM EST –

Prior to this year, I had never cut any timber in the river, mostly because it was easier to haul over or around than it was to cut. This year I've been doing out and back trips, meaning I'd have to do twice the haul, coming and going. That, and the fact I planned to return to some of the waterways again, tipped the balance to cutting. I use a hand saw, and I don't ask. I do try to think about how the cuts will affect the river, and adjust my cutting in hopes of minimizing impact to the stream bed. For example, I will usually cut on the inside of river bends so that I don't accelerate bank erosion.

I also hooked up with a group operating under the moniker of Patuxent Roughnecks. The Patuxent Riverkeeper got this going with a goal of opening to paddlers some mid-river stretches that have long been strainer choked. Since spring, we have opened five or ten additional miles of river, including cutting some big honkin's tree trunks that have been laying in the same spot for several years. No permission to cut was sought or granted, to my knowledge. (news article below, vaguely mentions permissions. I'll have to ask about that next time I'm out with them)

Pics -- big honkin log

Storms like Ernesto and the recent Noreaster have produced several high-water events in the last month or so. I am anxious to get back into the stretch we cleared and see what has changed. Last weeks' storm pumped the river level up by six to eight feet. The big honkin trunk, wedged in place for a number of years before we cut it this summer, had to, I think, float and being severed in the middle, most likely has moved. I will be curious to see if all the work we did resulted in anything but a temporary gain.

The newspaper in Annapolis ran a story on the Roughnecks and it appeared on the front page. The riverkeeper was quoted as saying the goals included restoring passage for fish and other aquatic organisms, which made me cringe because if anything, the wood in the water benefits aquatic life. I only mention this because I expected that there'd be a reaction from either the public, a land owner, or some State official with a bunch of reasons why our strainer-busting efforts should be stopped. According to the riverkeeper's office, they only received favorable responses. It might just be that nobody gives a rat's ass about cutting a few logs out of the river.

~~Chip Walsh, Gambrills, MD

You are welcome to cut any on…
my section of the stream, but the deal is you have to cut it firwood size, split it and then stack it neatly under the front porch.



If you
clear any on my section of river and haul them to the high water line I’ll buy refreshments.

getting back on topic …
Fish & game is a factor as they like the fish habitat that downed trees provide.

Around my neck of the woods they also recognize the needs of paddlers and tend to follow a live 'n let live policy, so long as too much is not removed – so we try to leave at least one-half and have had no problems.

Bottom line is that there are state laws pertaining to the destruction of fish habitat and beaver dams, so you’re damned if you don’t and it’s a crap shoot if you do.

follow up
reason i posted this is i would think it’s more of an intrusion of a landowner’s property to get off the kayak, set foot on his land, and portage around the obstruction (and remember, that would apply to everyone who goes down that section of the river), than it is to cut a small gap in the tree and pass through.

as far as i understand it, paddlers have the right to float through a river, even if it flows through private lands, if it’s deemed navigable through the “public trust” doctrine. however, private ownership applies to the streambeds so we can not get out, wade in the water to fish.

i guess that’s my other reason for the post. if we have the right to pass through, then who’s responsible for the trees that are blocking our passage?

If I can cut it from the boat
I will usually cut open a passage for the boat. I carry a small folding saw that will cut through decent sized branches, I don’t do the heavy work when it becomes easier to portage I usually do.

Cutting and removing debris
Here’s an interesting study that makes a case against cutting or removing fallen timber on one of my local paddling spots.

I suppose it comes down to finding a balance between usage and ecology. I’d tend to err on the side of ecology myself. I don’t cut but the liveries sure do.

Liveries do a lot of cutting on Ozark streams. Mostly they cut away the strainers in fast water that would pose a real danger to their clients, and will cut small sections out of trees blocking the stream in slow pools.

As I see it, there is no reason to cut out whole trees. Maybe cut a passage toward the end of the tree with small branches. If you can get around it without having to climb a high water bank, there is no reason to cut it. I like to have some obstructions on the smaller streams I often float, since it may serve to discourage other people from doing a repeat trip once they experience a lot of obstructions and have to work a little.

This year, however, there was a big, wide windstorm that blew down a LOT of trees across a wide swath of the eastern MO Ozarks. I “floated” a small creek a few weeks after the windstorm, and I knew when I planned the trip that it was going to be work, since the creek was flowing about 11 cfs and I’d have to walk almost all the riffles. But what I didn’t take into account was the hundreds of big tree limbs and whole trees that were obstructing the creek. I was one tired puppy at the end of that day, and I would have welcomed somebody cutting some of those trees.

Thats great!
In the past, I’ve sometimes put in the Pax river over by Governers Bridge Road in Bowie. Last year the river was so badly choked with trees that I couldn’t get very far. I haven’t been back since.

Cut it, float it out, build a boat.