Protecting your riparian and littoral rights are critical. Once they're gone, they are likely gone for good.
Philip L. Ellison, MBA, JD, Esq.

Michigan Riparian Rights Are Water Rights

Attorney Philip L. Ellison at the Rifle Lake Beachway following a victory for the legal rights of owners of nearly 480 lots in the Shady Shores Park subdivision near Rose City, Michigan.

Michigan has a lot of water--a whopping estimated 6 quadrillion gallons of fresh water. Michigan has four of the five Great Lakes which constitutes 90% of the United States' fresh surface water , and about 20% of the world's fresh surface water.

Michigan has approximately 3,288 miles of Great Lakes coastline, more than 10,000 inland lakes and ponds and is interwoven by a 35,000-mile web of freshwater rivers, streams, and wetlands.

With that so much 'blue gold,' Michigan water law, known as riparin law, has developed to regulate, divide, and protect the waters of this State.

Michigan landowners have a legal right to use the surface waters immediately adjacent to their property. Land is riparian when it includes or is bounded by a natural watercourse. Littoral land includes or abuts a lake. These exclusive rights including the right to erect and maintain docks along the owner's shore and the right to anchor boats permanently off the owner's shore. Within a subdivision (platted property), non-riparian owners may not acquire riparian rights by conveyance or reservation, but may acquire easements, licenses, and other legal forms for right-of-way access to the water.

Michigan Riparian Rights Resource Center

Infomation About Riparian Rights

However, these water rights are not absolute and are limited by the existence of certain property rights of others. The activities of riparians must be undertaken in a reasonable manner as not to interfere unnecessarily with the corresponding rights of others including the public.

Nonriparian owners and members of the public who gain access to a navigable waterbody also have a right to use the surface of the water in a reasonable manner for boating, fishing and swimming. An incidental to the public's right of navigation is the right to anchor boats temporarily.

Issues that often arise with riparian property include:
  • walking along and using the lake shore
  • right of direct access to lakes and streams
  • trespass, noises, and nuisances
  • docking and mooring
  • shore stations or raft anchors
  • keyholes and funneling
  • beaches, private associations, and offshore bottomland

Protect Your Rights

If you are having issues with neighbors, community members, or the public with your public or private lake access or lake front property, contact a riparian rights attorney by contacting the office today.


PO Box 107
Hemlock, MI 48626
(989) 642-0055
(888) 398-7003 - fax

Licensed to practice before all Michigan State Courts, the Michigan Court of Appeals, the Michigan Supreme Court, the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Court, the US District Courts for the Eastern and Western Districts of Michigan, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court.