Are Creeks Public Property in Arkansas? Understanding Access Rights and Regulations

Arkansas is a state renowned for its beautiful creeks, attracting outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy a variety of activities such as fishing, boating, and canoeing.

However, the question arises whether these creeks are considered public property or if access and usage are restricted.

Navigable waters are typically considered state property, while the creek bottom may remain private, depending on its location and the nature of the stream.

The concept of public property and access rights to creeks in Arkansas can be somewhat complicated, as land ownership and boundaries often come into play.

Outdoor enthusiasts should be aware of the access regulations pertaining to creeks, as well as their responsibility to protect and maintain the integrity of these natural resources.

By understanding the laws and respecting the rights of both private property owners and fellow creek users, everyone can continue to enjoy these natural treasures.

Key Takeaways

  • The status of creeks in Arkansas as public property depends on their navigability and location.
  • Access rights to creeks can be influenced by land ownership and boundaries.
  • Awareness of regulations and responsible use is crucial for protecting Arkansas creeks while enjoying outdoor activities.

Public Property Concept

Navigable Waterways

A key factor in determining whether a creek is considered public property or not depends on if it is deemed a navigable waterway. In general, navigable waters are recognized as property of the state.

While the creek bottom may still be considered private property, public access is commonly permitted for navigation purposes.

It’s essential to note that seasonal creeks or areas with storm runoff are not considered navigable waterways and usually remain private property 1.

Arkansas’ Definition

In Arkansas, the concept of navigable waterways follows a similar pattern. However, the state tends to favor property owner rights in cases involving eminent domain 2.

More clarity on the recreational navigation doctrine and its impact on riparian owners can also be found in the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law Review3.

While specific creek navigability and accessibility may vary, understanding the local laws, as well as general definitions of public property and navigable waterways, can help determine the status of creeks within Arkansas.

Creeks Access Rights

In Arkansas, the accessibility of creeks and other water bodies may vary depending on their classification as navigable or non-navigable waters.

Navigable waters are generally considered public property, while the ownership of non-navigable waters may be tied to private property rights 4.

When it comes to navigable waters, these are defined as bodies of water that can be used for transportation or commerce, such as rivers and significant streams.

In these cases, the creek bottom may remain private property, but the water itself is considered property of the state 1.

This means that individuals have the right to access and use navigable waters for activities like fishing, boating, and swimming.

On the other hand, non-navigable waters, such as seasonal creeks and storm runoff, are usually considered private property.

In these cases, individuals may not have the right to access the creek without the permission of the landowner.

However, if a creek runs through multiple properties, it could be subject to easement agreements that allow neighboring landowners to access the water for specific uses 5.

In order to determine the classification of a specific creek, river, or stream, it is essential to consult with local authorities, land surveys, or property deeds.

These sources may provide information on easements and access rights, as well as any restrictions in place for using the water body.

When using creeks and other water bodies in Arkansas, it is important to remember that respecting private property rights and obtaining necessary permissions is key to maintaining positive relationships with landowners and ensuring continued access to these natural resources.

Ownership and Land Boundaries

In Arkansas, determining whether a creek is considered public property depends on a number of factors.

One crucial factor is the concept of riparian rights, which refers to the rights of landowners whose property borders a body of water, such as a creek or river.

These rights allow landowners to access and use the water for various purposes, including irrigation, recreation, and maintaining the natural habitat for wildlife4.

The ownership of a creek in Arkansas can also be influenced by its navigability. A navigable creek is one that can support the passage of boats or other watercraft1.

Navigable creeks are generally considered public property, while non-navigable creeks can be considered private property, depending on the specific circumstances and local laws5.

Arkansas has an extensive system of public land boundaries, comprising various types of public lands, including local, state, and federally-owned parcels.

These boundaries often include information about acreage, land type, and the presence of wildlife2.

The Arkansas GIS Office provides a detailed database of public land boundaries, which can be helpful in determining the nature of a particular creek, especially in areas where public and private lands may intersect3.

It is essential for those using creeks, whether for recreation or other purposes, to be aware of property boundaries and land ownership information.

This will help ensure that activities such as fishing, kayaking, or hiking are conducted legally and without infringing on private property rights.

Outdoor Activities on Creeks

Arkansas is home to several creeks, offering countless opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. In this section, we will discuss various activities that you can enjoy on these beautiful waterways.

Canoeing and Kayaking

Canoeing and kayaking are popular activities on Arkansas creeks, with many picturesque locations providing a unique and engaging experience for paddlers of all skill levels.

For example, Cadron Creek is central Arkansas’s major canoeing and floating stream, offering stunning scenery, including caves, bluffs, and pinnacles.

Another excellent location for canoeing and kayaking is Big Piney Creek, which provides an ideal setting for floating, fishing, camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities.


Fishing enthusiasts will find a variety of creeks across Arkansas that offer excellent opportunities for catching different fish species.

A notable example is Crooked Creek, which is well-known for its smallmouth bass fishing. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission designated the 22-mile Crooked Creek Water Trail in 2012, making it an ideal destination for fishing and exploring.

Additionally, Big Piney Creek is another great option for fishing, with its wide variety of fish species present in the creek, ensuring a fulfilling fishing experience.

Wildlife Exploration

The diverse ecosystems of Arkansas creeks provide habitat to a wide array of plant and animal species, making them excellent locations for wildlife exploration and observation.

For instance, Big Creek Natural Area includes approximately five miles of Big Creek, a major tributary of the Little Red River.

The site’s topographic relief, varied exposures, and extensive area provide an ideal environment for numerous plant and animal species.

In conclusion, whether you are interested in canoeing, fishing, or exploring the rich wildlife, Arkansas creeks offer a range of outdoor activities for everyone to enjoy.

Remember to comply with local regulations, and always take steps to preserve the natural beauty of these waterways for future generations to appreciate.

Notable Arkansas Creeks

Mulberry River

The Mulberry River is a scenic river in Arkansas, known for its significant recreational value, including fishing, kayaking, and canoeing.

This 50-mile long river is characterized by its clear waters, surrounded by lush forests offering a picturesque setting for outdoor enthusiasts.

As part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, the Mulberry River is managed to preserve its unique attributes.

Glass Creek

Located in Van Buren County, Glass Creek is another noteworthy creek in Arkansas. Like the Mulberry River, Glass Creek offers several opportunities for recreation such as fishing, hiking, and bird watching.

While creeks in Arkansas may be considered public or private property depending on whether they are navigable or not, it is essential to check the local regulations and land ownership before exploring these areas.

Rolling Creek

Rolling Creek is yet another natural water body in Arkansas. Although it is lesser-known compared to the Mulberry River and Glass Creek, it still provides a lovely environment for nature lovers.

As with any creek in Arkansas, it is crucial to remain mindful of riparian rights and respect land ownership boundaries while enjoying the tranquility of Rolling Creek.

Creeks Access Regulations

In Arkansas, the accessibility and ownership of creeks depend on factors such as their location and whether they are considered navigable. Navigable waters are classified as state property, while the creek bottom may still be private property.

“Navigable” refers to a body of water that can be used for transportation or commercial purposes.

This classification can vary depending on state laws and local regulations. So, the same creek could be considered private property if it’s a seasonal creek or a storm runoff, as it would not meet the navigable criterion.

For activities such as fishing, you must ensure that you are not trespassing on private land. In general, Riparian rights apply to property owners adjacent to navigable waterways, which means they possess certain rights and responsibilities relating to the use and maintenance of the waterbody.

For recreational purposes, Arkansas’ Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) offer great opportunities for hunting and fishing. Each WMA is considered a separate zone concerning wildlife regulations, and over 100 WMAs are available across the state.

Lastly, it’s important to note that Arkansas is home to several Wild and Scenic Rivers as well. These rivers are preserved in their free-flowing state to protect their natural, cultural, and recreational values. Some of these rivers may contain creeks accessible for public use. However, it’s always essential to verify whether a specific creek is public, private, or falls under any special regulations before accessing it.

Protecting and Maintaining Arkansas Creeks

Arkansas is home to numerous creeks and waterways, which provide essential habitats for a variety of wildlife and serve as vital resources for local communities. Ensuring the health and sustainability of these creeks is crucial to maintaining the overall ecological balance of the region.

One important aspect of protecting Arkansas creeks is understanding its property rights. While navigable waters are typically property of the state, creeks that run through private property may remain under private ownership depending on factors such as their seasonal nature or if they are created by storm runoff [1].

To safeguard the water quality of Arkansas creeks, proper stormwater management is essential. Storm drains help remove excess water from homes and streets, keeping communities safe. These drains often lead directly to local creeks and streams without being treated, making it necessary for citizens to adhere to proper stormwater procedures [2].

Some measures that individuals can undertake to preserve the integrity of creeks include:

  • Avoiding littering or dumping waste into or near waterways
  • Properly disposing of hazardous household materials
  • Practicing responsible landscaping to prevent soil erosion
  • Maintaining septic systems to prevent leakage

Various programs and policies have been established in Arkansas to educate residents about proper stormwater management and to protect local water resources for future generations [2].

Moreover, to keep Arkansas creeks and their surrounding ecosystems healthy, preserving and enhancing the natural habitats of wildlife becomes vital. Habitat management not only benefits the native species but also contributes to the stability of the local ecosystems. Maintaining a balance between the diverse flora and fauna ensures the long-term survival and success of these natural systems.

Together, through actions and initiatives aimed at valuing Arkansas’s valuable waterways, everyone plays a part in fostering the health and well-being of these intricate ecosystems and the natural resources they provide.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do creek owners in Arkansas have special rights?

Creek owners in Arkansas have certain rights and responsibilities when it comes to the waterways on or adjacent to their property. These rights are generally referred to as riparian rights and can include the right to use and access the water, the right to protect and maintain the water’s quality, and the right to prevent trespassing on their land.

What is the definition of riparian rights in Arkansas?

Riparian rights in Arkansas refer to the legal rights of property owners whose land either borders or contains a body of water such as a creek, stream, or river. These rights can include access to the water for reasonable use, the right to protect the water quality, and the right to control the land adjoining the water, including preventing trespassing and maintaining natural vegetation.

How does Arkansas law define navigable waterways?

In Arkansas, navigable waterways are generally defined as waters that are capable of being used for transportation, either by boat or another vessel. The specific definition of navigable waterways can vary depending on the particular legal situation. Some examples of navigable waterways in Arkansas include the Arkansas River, the Mississippi River, and the White River.

Are there restrictions on access to creek banks in Arkansas?

Access to creek banks in Arkansas can be restricted in certain cases, particularly when the creek is on private property or the landowner has taken steps to protect their riparian rights. Property owners have the right to control access to their land, including the portions adjacent to the water, to prevent trespassing and maintain the natural environment.

What are Arkansas laws for recreational use of creeks?

Recreational use of creeks in Arkansas depends on the specific creek and whether it is classified as public or private property. In general, navigable waterways in the state are considered public property and are open for recreational use, such as fishing and boating, provided that the activity does not interfere with the rights of riparian landowners. However, non-navigable creeks on private property are not generally open for recreational use without the landowner’s permission.

How do property boundaries affect creeks in Arkansas?

Property boundaries in Arkansas can have an impact on the legal rights and responsibilities associated with creeks. When a creek lies entirely within a single property, the landowner generally has exclusive rights to the water and the land surrounding it. However, when a creek serves as a boundary line between multiple properties, the adjacent landowners typically share riparian rights for access to the water, maintenance of the creek banks, and protection of the water’s quality.


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