A natural collection of waters, arising from springs or
fountains, which flow in a bed or canal of considerable width and length,
towards the sea.
2. Rivers may be considered as public or private.
3. Public rivers are those in which the public have an interest.
4. They are either navigable, which, technically understood, signifies
such rivers in which the tide flows; or not navigable. The soil or bed of such
a navigable river, understood in this sense, belongs not to the riparian
proprietor, but to the public. 3 CainesRep. 307; 10 John. R. 236; 17 John. R.
151; 20 John. R. 90; 5 Wend. R. 423; 6 Cowen, R. 518; 14 Serg. & Rawle, 9;
1 Rand. Rep. 417; 3 Rand. R. 33; 3 Greenl. R. 269; 2 Conn. R. 481; 5 Pick.
5. Public rivers, not navigable, are those which belong to the people in
general, as public highways. The soil of these rivers belongs generally, to the
riparian owner, but the public have the use of the stream, and the authors of
nuisances and impediments over such a stream are indictable. Ang. on Water
Courses, 202; DaviesRep. 152; Callis on Sewers, 78; 4 Burr. 2162.
6. By the ordinance of 1787, art. 4, relating to the north-western
territory, it is provided that the navigable waters, leading into the
Mississippi and St. Lawrence, and the carrying places between the same, shall
be common highways, and forever free. 3 Story, L. U. S. 2077.
7. A private river, is one so naturally obstructed, that there is no
passage for boats; for if it be capable of being so navigated, the public may
use its waters. 1 M Cord s Rep. 580. The soil in general belongs to the
riparian proprietors. (q. v.) A river, then, may be considered, 1st. As
private, in the case of shallow and obstructed streams. 2d. As private
property, but subject to public use, when it can be navigated; and, 3d. As
public, both with regard to its use and property. Some rivers possess all these
qualities. The Hudson is mentioned as an instance; in one part it is entirely
private property; in another the public have the use of it; and it is public
property from the mouth as high up as the tide flows. Ang. Wat. Co. 205, 6.
8. In Pennsylvania, it has been held that the great rivers of that
state, as the Susquehanna, belong to the public, and that the riparian
proprietor does not own the bed or canal. 2 Binn. R. 75; 14 Serg. & Rawle,
71. Vide, generally, Civ. Code of Lo. 444; Bac. Ab. Prerogatives, B 3; 7 Com.
Dig. 291; 1 Bro. Civ. Law, 170; Merl. Repert, h. t.; Jacobsen s Sea Laws, 417;
2 Hill. Abr. c. 13; 2 Fairf. R. 278 3 Ohio Rep. 496; 6 Mass. R. 435; 15 John.
R. 447; 1 Pet. C. C. Rep. 64; 1 Paige s Rep. 448; 3 Dane s R. 4; 7 Mass. Rep.
496; 17 Mass. Rep. 289; 5 Greenl. R. 69; 10 Wend. R. 260; Kames, Eq. 38; 6
Watts & Serg. 101. As to the boundaries of rivers, see Metc. & Perk.
Dig. Boundaries, IV.; as to the grant of a river, see 5 Cowen, 216; Co. Litt. 4
b; Com. Dig. Grant, E 5.
Source: Bouviers Law Dictionary 1856 Edition