won my court case

I just wanted to let everyone know that almost a year later, I won my court case for landing my canoe on the bank of the Wisconsin river. The information you all provided was very helpful... even though I had to go to court so the people would read the information that I sent them. Apparently they didn't think they had to read it before hand and simply dismiss the case. I think this falls it into the "harassment" category... or at the very least the "We don't know the law" catagory, which is where "they" expect "us" to be.
Seriously who can know the law... certainly not the lawyers at the court house?


can you print a short summary
of the law? I don’t remember your case and it would be nice to know 1) what the plaintiff claimed and 2) what the law says. Short version preferred.

Archives has it

Very cool
I hope you’re going to the local newspapers with your story – that’d not only raise awareness of the issue, it would also prevent the same officer from harassing someone else. A little public humiliation is a good thing when power is abused. :slight_smile:

More details would be welcome, so that others can defend themselves when needed.

Good job!

Maine law
I do have to comment on the achives thread that says Maine law has held that the low water boundry is the law—that is not strictly true–most non-lawyers, including Maine Guides who should know better, think that the so-called Moody Beach cases say that. Not so–what the Moody Beach cases say is that people cannot walk across somebody’s private property to access the ocean front—for purposes of fishing, fowling, and navigation the intertidal zone is open to public access—so if you stop to check your chart and take a strech you are ok so long as you don’t go above the high water mark.

I just checked it out. Particularly good posts by Tiva and Seakak:


Sandbars and bends?
I like to paddle the Black River between B.R.F. and La Crosse.

So from what you learned in court, what would the ruling be on sandbars in the middle of and at the edge of a river? Clearly, the river deposited the sand so it must be below the “normal high water mark.”

I quick summary would be greatly appreciated by many.

you should laminate a copy of the ruling
and carry it with you. Next time you are in the area and get ‘harassed’ you can save everyone a lot of trouble by showing them the probably outcome of the ticket.

summary of event

– Last Updated: May-06-08 7:51 PM EST –

To be as succinct as possible. A group of us launched at a public landing and moved our boats down stream in front of a canoe outfitter...Black Hawk outfitters by name. It was a Monday morning and they were doing no business and if they were we would have been respectful enough so as not to imped business. They told us we could not pull our boats on shore to which I asked If we were in their way. The answer was "we were not in the way, we were trespassing". They called the cops and when they arrived and I informed the officer that we were legally landed because we were nowhere near the normal high water mark and we would be gone shortly. His response was... "do you know how long it took me to get here"? When I told the DA about the officers response, she just about choked and made some lame excuse about the officer having a bad day and ignoring the law. Only later after she read all the info did the DA dismiss the charges. Thank-you to all who offered help.


The Public Trust
This case, as you’ve said, should never have come to court; the law is very clear. And there really is no need to have a copy of the law w/you because most law enforcement personel in Wisconsin are usually very aware of it. It is, after all, basic to the state constitution. As to the question of sandbars in the river, there is no question; they are in the public waterway and ours to use. Everyone needs to play by the rules and be nice to each other, but, as you discovered, the law is unambiguous. I am, however, surprised at the reaction of the outfitters. I have used them many times for various groups and had no issues. As the new Mazomanie put-in is right above their operation, I can’t imagine that this wouldn’t be a regular occurance (and it must be a pain for them, too). However, like I said, all of us on the river (especially one as beautiful and easily accessed as the Lower Wisconsin) need to be aware of the needs each of us have, paddlers and, in this case, outfitters/landowners, alike. But don’t let it keep you off what is really one of the great linear playgrounds in America. Paddle On!

The outfitter knew better the whole time
I find it hard to believe the outfitter has never researched or was unaware of the law on this issue. They should not have called the police in the first place and should be fined for the nuisance.

It would be impossible to prove their prior knowledge, but if it were possible, I’d ask the DA to charge them with a nuisance call or something like that at the least. Give them the same hassle they caused you and for wasting the cop’s, the DA’s and the court’s time.

If the offender was an idiot employee and not the owner, however, the owner should be given an opportunity to apologize and explain why exactly he felt the need to hassle you. If you were interfering w/ his business (although it doesn’t sound like it), then maybe you should apologize. In either case, it would be a good idea to talk to them and work things out so that you can enjoy the river, and the outfitter can run his business w/o interference and an amicable solution can be gained between all involved.


Are you quite sure of this? I’m not informed about the laws of Maine but recently attended a little talk about paddling in Maine by a MASKGI guide who, in passing, mentioned that ME and MA both have tidal laws saying that property rights extend to the low tide line.

Any particular court cases to back of your claims? Kind of wondering now…


congratulations and question for brent
Congratulations and kudos for hanging in there, I admire that!

As I said in my previous post way back, this is an ever growing issue, and landowners and realtor organizations are forming neighborhood committees so that they can keep you and me off of the water adjoining their privately held land. Unfortunately, as a group, these people have financial resources the rest of us do not. ask an Ohioan paddling on Lake Erie what a problem this has become.

I would like to shame the outfitter into a public apology, I think this kind of behavior is contrary to the spirit of canoeing and kayaking. If you had pitched a tent, been drunk and disorderly, or taken a leak on their land obviously I would see it differently.

But really, I would like to appeal to Brent and this forum. this website has a “weekly articles” section that is often informative, I’m not sure how many other people read it but I certainly do. so I would love to see a writeup of this issue in the Weekly Articles. We are seeing it covered in the AAA magazine for Michigan, in real estate publications and in local newspapers. Surely it’s a relevant topic for the weekly articles section.

Public Shoreline Access in Maine
Public shoreline access in Maine was clarified in 1989 when the Maine Supreme Judicial Court issued a decision in the case of Bell v. Town of Wells, 557 A.2d 168 (Me. 1989). This is referred to as the Moody Beach Case. It has been several years since I read the opinion, but my recollection is as follows:

When Maine separated from Massachusetts it inherited Massachusetts’s common law. Part of this common law was that shoreline land owner’s property ownership extends down to the low tide line. But this ownership is subject to a public easement for use of the area between the low tide line and the high tide line for the purposes of fishing, fowling and navigation. I don’t recall whether the pertinent tide levels are extreme or mean. Public usage of the intertidal zone is strictly limited to fishing, fowling and navigation and the public does not have any right to use the intertidal zone for general recreation.

A discussion of the public’s right to shoreline access in Maine by the Marine Law Institute, University of Maine School of Law; Maine Sea Grant College Program; and University of Maine Cooperative Extension is available online at: http://www.seagrant.umaine.edu/documents/pdf/pubacc04.pdf

So, if I have my picnic and take out the blue chart, I am OK? :slight_smile: Or perhaps bring a fishing rod…

Very interesting link. I’ve bookmarked it and shall read that when I have time…


I think you are OK with the Blue Chart and the fishing rod, but I don’t think you can eat your chicken sandwich unless you shot the chicken in the intertidal zone.

you have to understand
the measures private landowners, neighborhood asociations and realty and development organizations are taking to deceive you and enforce the unenforceable. And to understand the influence they have on the beat cop. I’m not defending him but he has the choice of dealing with a bunch of angry influential citizens or a guy in a canoe. And he has to pick up kids and groceries after work.

I fault the outfitter and think they should be publicly blackballed unless they make a public apology. And I fault landowners and realtors who misrepresent their rights to each other.

A curious question.
Dismissal does not equal a win.

There is no compensation for time

lost defending even a minor legal


Not playing devil’s advocate here,

but did you have to land near the

outfitter to begin with? Unless a

dire emergency, I avoid even setting

a foot anywhere near the border of an

outfitter’s property line (regardless of waterline/tide).

For me, it’s better to wait and paddle

off to a more opportune public landing

somewhere else. (I know as long as I stay

on the water, I’m safe. Police/property

owners have no case or confusion about

either property lines or legal statuates.)

And I in turn, have no confrontations/conflicts.

If in fact, you were purposefully harassed

by both the outfitter/the police, then by

all means, publicize the incident. The paddling

community near that outfitter should know of

the unfriendly existence of their unwelcoming

business. But perhaps, it is better not to be

vindictive and let the whole matter drop.

it’s abuse of the law

– Last Updated: May-07-08 11:16 AM EST –

Or negligence in the least. Do you think an outfitter might take that approach, or be that ignorant of the law?

I would like to find out more about this case from all viewpoints but if it's as bad as represented, I have a mind to start a letter to the outfitter and the local paper.

Remember what Bobby Knight said to Connie Chung.

be a duck
not a goose