According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, if a waterway is navigable in fact or by statute, it is open to public use. One court determined that waters in their natural state provide many benefits to the public. As such, these waters are considered navigable under the law. You should also know that the entire streambed qualifies as navigable — not just the parts that are submerged.
An example to consider
Say that you and a neighbor have homes that are both near the edge of a stream or river. You often try to go boating or fishing on the waterway. Every time you do, your neighbor claims that part of the streambed or bank belongs to him and denies you access. Could this possibly be true?
The state government is not likely to allow ownership of the waterway or the streambed, which means you may enter the water and use it responsibly. However, many decades ago, some landowners managed to secure deals that gave them ownership of navigable stream or river beds.
To remedy these situations, lawmakers came up with the Small Bill, which grants continued property rights of streambeds to landowners. However, a critical portion of the code clarifies that other people may still access and use these navigable waters and beds without a property owner’s interference.
If your neighbor consistently infringes upon your rightful water access or threatens you with lawsuits, find out how to protect your water rights and possible legal strategies for the continued use of public and privately “owned” waterways and river beds.