Quoting https://tpwd.texas.gov/publications/nonpwdpubs/water_issues/rivers/navigation/riddell/navigability.phtml (emphasis mine):

In Texas a stream is navigable if it is either “navigable in fact” or “navigable by statute.” These tests are explained below. Simply put, a non navigable stream is a stream which is neither navigable in fact nor navigable by statute. Along a navigable stream, the public may boat, fish, swim, camp, and in general carry on any legal activity. Public use must be confined to the stream bed and, to a limited extent, the banks.

In Austin, TX there's a stretch Colorado River (which is clearly a navigable waterway) that's between two dams (Longhorn Dam and Tom Miller Dam) that's known as Lady Bird Lake. Swimming is banned in Lady Bird Lake, per https://www.austintexas.gov/blog/lady-bird-lake-fiction-or-fact :

swimming was banned on Lady Bird Lake as long ago as 1964 due to several tragic drownings caused by hazards under the water’s surface. Remnants of old, washed-away dams, deep pits from old gravel mining operations, and other types of debris litter the bottom of the reservoir, creating a dangerous underwater landscape.

Also, camping is presumably not legal along the banks of the Colorado River. In particular, HB1925 banned (homeless) camping in public areas.

My question is... how does one reconcile all of this? I guess it'd be more accurate to say that swimming and camping are allowed if certain conditions are met but what are those conditions?

  • 1
    Navigability usually requires passage from the mouth - a river upstream of a dam (unless there are locks) doesn’t meet this criteria.
    – Dale M
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 22:50
  • 1
    Just to be clear, the Colorado River in Texas is different from the river actually passing through the state of Colorado of the same name (the one in Colorad was previously known as the Grand River). en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colorado_River_(Texas)
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 23:32
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    Also, a notable point is that there may be two not perfectly consistent bodies of law at work here. The navigable rivers of the United States as defined in federal law, are subject to certain federal statutes and admiralty law provisions (I once litigated an admiralty law case involving Colorado's Colorado River), and it sounds like there may be parallel but not identical Texas law also governing navigable rivers in the state as defined for state law purposes.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 23:35
  • For the most part, the laws you quote seem to be about the waterways themselves, not the banks. In navigable waterways, it is apparently permitted to navigate by boat (hence the name), fish and swim. But this does not necessarily include the right to access these waterways from land (since e.g. the banks might be privately owned).
    – PMF
    Commented Apr 23, 2022 at 11:01
  • @PMF - quoting tpwd.texas.gov/publications/nonpwdpubs/water_issues/rivers/…, "The entire bed is to be included in the width, not just the area covered by flowing water. The bed extends all the way between the fast land banks. These are the banks which separate the stream bed from the adjacent upland (whether valley or hill) and confine the waters to a definite channel"
    – neubert
    Commented Apr 23, 2022 at 22:07


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