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Hayden Ferry on the Salt River, Arizona

The Case for Navigable Rivers

Upon joining the Union of states, each state receives title to the beds of its navigable rivers. And therein lies the problem; what constitutes a navigable river? State’s must make a legal case for what makes a waterway navigable. Federal law states that each river’s navigability be determined at a time when it was in ‘ordinary and natural’ condition.


Sketch of physical conditions of a river.


Jon Fuller addresses the myriad issues that could influence ‘ordinary and natural’ conditions and recommends technical definitions that incorporate a river’s flow rate and its boating conditions. His 135-page report is heavily illustrated with diagrammatic sketches and historic and recent photographs of river systems.

This AZGS Contributed Report (CR-18-B) provides case studies of five rivers, including Arizona’s Gila (p. 114), Salt (p. 98), and Verde (p. 111) Rivers, which illustrate Fuller’s approach to evaluating the physical features of navigable rivers.

Author Jon E. Fuller is a Registered Geologist (RG), Professional Engineer (PE), Professional Hydrologist (PH), Certified Floodplain Manager (CFM), and Diplomate, Water Resources Engineer (D.WRE).

Posted M. Conway, 23 Jan. 2018

Gila River, Arizona