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Navigability for Title Research

  • Are you trying to determine the status of a water body as it pertains to US laws and commercial use?
  • Do you need to know who owns a river, stream, or lake bed based on its commercial use at the time of statehood?
  • Does the title to a river or lake bed impact you in regards to commerce tolls, underlying mineral rights, etc?

We identify evidence pertaining to the navigability of waterways for the purpose of establishing title to the lands. Judicial rulings have held that water bodies are navigable under the law when they are navigable in fact. For the purpose of title, waterways must have been used for floating people or goods in commerce at the date of statehood. In addition, the law establishes that a waterway can be classified as navigable for title purposes if it can be shown that the river or lake was “susceptible” to such commercial use in its natural condition prior to the date of statehood.

Case Study:

Montana Stream Navigability for Title Study

During a class action lawsuit brought by multiple landowners against a government agency and corporate entities, Heritage researched evidence that the river was used for commercial transportation on the main river and/or its tributaries. In court proceedings, the opposing party conceded that the river was historically navigated for commerce and the State owned the streambed.

Research topics included:

  • Fur Trade
  • Military Posts
  • Mining and Smelting
  • Timber Industry
  • Transportation

Heritage created a database with abstracts and linked images that aided us in the efficient writing of topical reports and generating chronologies for use in developing the client’s legal strategy.