Lawsuit Could Open Public Access to Colorado Rivers

Colorado is one of few U.S. states that has decided that private property owners supersede the public when it comes to access to rivers and streams.

June 30, 2022, 10:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

A fly fisher casts on a fog-covered river.

Diane079F / Shutterstock

“Who owns the beds of Colorado’s rivers?”

Ben Goldfarb reports for High Country News about a lawsuit that could change Colorado’s unique law that declares most of the state’s rivers to be non-navigable, and thus owned by adjacent property owners.

“From a river-access standpoint, Colorado is among the West’s oddest states,” explains Goldfarb. “Federal law dictates that the beds of ‘navigable’ rivers — waterways once used as highways for commerce — belong to the states, which, in turn, generally allow boaters and anglers to use them.”

“Colorado has historically denied that it even has navigable rivers,” adds Goldfarb. “In 1912, the state’s Supreme Court opined that the state’s waterways — steep, rushing, canyon-bound — were ‘nonnavigable within its territorial limits.’ By that logic, the beds of even major rivers belonged not to the state, but to the owners of adjacent private properties.”

Enter Roger Hill, who was repeatedly attacked by a property owner while fishing on the Arkansas River and decided to sue the property owners and the state, claiming that the river is, in fact, navigable.

More details on the case Hill has built to prove the river is navigable, with commercial traffic using the river back to the 1870s, is included in the article. Goldfarb also notes that Colorado is not the only state to litigate the issues of public access to rivers in recent years.

“In 2010, the Utah Legislature barred the public from wading non-navigable waters through private property, effectively closing more than 40% of the state’s miles of fishable streams; although anglers and boaters sued, a judge upheld the law last year,” for example. Advocates in New Mexico succeeded in fighting back a law that restricted access to the state’s rivers in 2015.

Monday, June 27, 2022 in High Country News

A image of the World's Columbian Exposition overlayed with a picture of Keanu Reeves in the rain from the movie Point Break.

Keanu Reeves Set to Play Daniel Burnham in ‘The Devil in the White City’

Planning is going to get a new level of star power as a limited series adaptation of The Devil in the White City gets ready for television screens in 2024.

August 8, 2022 - Reel Chicago


Opinion: Aging Population, Declining Fertility Requires Long-Term Investments

Faced with the dire consequences of a one-two punch of aging populations and declining birthrates, one writer has suggestions for how policy can help ensure a better future.

August 9, 2022 - Financial Times

People gather on a street with no cars during the L.E.A.F. Festival of Flowers in the Meatpacking District of New York City.

The Tide Has Turned Against Open Streets

Once a promising development for advocates pushing for a less car-centric future in cities, the open streets movement has ceded significant ground to cars since the height of the pandemic.

August 14, 2022 - The New York Times

Jacksonville Skyway monorail train passing on elevated rail in front of downtown buildings

Jacksonville To Replace Monorail With Autonomous Shuttles

The city’s aging monorail system will be repurposed as part of an expanded 10-mile shuttle system.

59 minutes ago - Smart Cities Dive


Richmond Weighing How to End Parking Requirements

A series of town hall meetings will allow the public a chance to give feedback about zoning changes in Richmond, Virginia that would include the end of parking requirements.

1 hour ago - WTVR

Three blue Amazon delivery trucks at bays at a distribution center

Key Warehouse Centers Challenge Distribution Center Expansion

Communities near major e-commerce distribution centers are increasingly resisting new construction, citing air pollution and other public health impacts.

August 16 - Bloomberg CityLab

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.