Who’s Lake Is This Anyway?

(The following is an excerpt from the University of Wisconsin Extension 2009 publication “ Choosing the Right Waterfront Property” .)

When you purchase land on the edge of one of Wisconsin’s lakes or rivers, you are essentially buying property on the edge of a “public park.” Wisconsin’s waters belong to all of us. Wisconsin’s Public Trust Doctrine grants rights for all of us to use the waters of the state and grants waterfront property owners certain additional rights.

The public has the right to swim, boat, fish or walk in the water right to the shoreline edge of your property. Healthy watersheds make healthy lakes and higher property values. The quality of our lakes and streams is ultimately a reflection of how we take care of the land area that drains to our waterways. Natural shorelines full of trees and native plants form the foundation of a healthy lake or river.

As a waterfront property owner, you can help protect the water quality, and natural beauty of our lakes and streams for yourself, your neighbors and future generations. When you buy waterfront property, you assume part of the responsibility of caring for a lake or river. Your actions on the land as well as in the water affect the health of the lake or river, and everyone’s enjoyment of it.

The State of Minnesota Public Trust Doctrine echos these same sentiments.