Perhaps one of the most divergent areas of boundary law has to do with water boundaries and the riparian rights associated with the ownership of waterfront property. As we have discussed on several occasions, because of the heavy infusion of court decisions, boundary law is about as homogenized as any area of the law can get. However, that is not to say that it has uniform application across all jurisdictions. There are distinctions that have to be made from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. I’m saying this as a cautionary preface to the present discussion on non-navigable lakes. This area of the law seems to be very fractured if not down-right confusing. And relatively speaking, it is not heavily litigated. Nevertheless, I believe this to be an important area to look at as we continue to traverse the law, to aid in our understanding of a very limited and specialized subject.
Many, if not the vast majority of the states in the United States adopted the English common law as it would be further modified by the U.S. Constitution, the treaties of the United States, the constitutions of the various states, statues and additional development of the common law through our own court decisions made in the various jurisdictions.1 The common law is simply a system of law that was developed based on court-made decisions and the principle of stare decisis, or precedence established under earlier decisions. The idea being that later decisions on similar matters should follow earlier decisions in order to create stability in the law.