On March 5, in “Flies and Lies,” columnist Don Oliver wrote about river access and private property rights in Colorado. He makes some mistakes in his analysis. He says, “Until now, the streambeds and banks have been private.” There is no “until now.” The streambeds and banks are in fact private property. To tread on such property is trespassing. However, the river itself is deemed in Colorado to be public and floatable.
Oliver also suggests, “The landowner believes that . . .[he] owns the land and the water.” Not so! Most riverfront property owners know that rivers can be floated upon by the public as long as they don’t touch the riverbank or bottom. Further, Oliver suggests that if a “fisherman} can get to the river legally, the streambed is public and . . . [he] can stand in the river and on its banks.” This too is not true. It is trespassing.
I own riverfront property in Durango and have kayaked the Animas River for 47 years. I too see both sides of the issue. Colorado has for decades held a compromising solution to this issue of river access that would seem to equally benefit both property owners, as well as boaters and fisherman. This is not likely to change.
I, however, agree with Oliver that folks on both sides of the issue should be courteous and respectful of the law and each other.