Water rights in Texas confuse many people. For example, the public generally has the right to access all navigable waterways because the state owns them, as well as all plants and fish in them. However, some people have deeds that make them feel entitled to sole ownership or enjoyment of the nearby stream, streambed or streambank.
If you live near a stream or river that doesn’t actually enter your property, you may want to access it from your neighbor’s property. You may also access the water from public lands but then face claims from your neighbor that you can’t step on the stream bed when passing through their property.
Does your neighbor have the right to claim ownership over the streambed or bank?
There’s a fine line between public waters and private land
Anyone boating in a public or navigable stream or river in Texas has the right not only to enjoy the water in their vessel but also to exit their vessel and stand in the water or exit the water to stand on the bank or edge of the shore.
Some property owners might claim that entering the water or standing on the stream bed is a form of trespassing on their property. However, your right to navigate the water in your vessel allows you to step on the streambed or on the banks, provided you do not go far up onto the streambank and openly trespass on someone’s private land.
While your neighbor may enjoy their privacy, their right to privacy does not invalidate your right to access public waterways in Texas. Understanding your water rights can help you address a disagreement about your access to a local stream with your neighbor.