New Law Requires Gates For Paddlers

Jun 24, 2016

A kayak along the banks of the Big Sioux River near Brandon.
Credit Erin Mairose

Navigable streams and rivers in South Dakota used for kayaking, canoeing, and snowmobiling are considered public highways. But landowners with livestock often put fences across the water. The fences can pose major safety hazards to those paddling or traveling downstream.  To allow access through fenced off portions of streams, a law going into effect July 1st compiles a list of streams requiring gates

Mark Rath is with the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources. He says under the new law the list of streams that requires fences to have gates is codified, meaning landowners don’t have the option of petitioning against allowing access through waterways. 

“In the existing statutes prior to this current change, the landowners had the option to petition the chief engineers on a couple different things. One of them was if could the stream would be deemed as non navigable so they could not be on the list, and other issue was if there wasn’t enough usage that justified they had to have gates so they could be removed from the list,” says Rath.

The streams requiring gates must be marked with reflective material. And gates must allow for easily passage.  

Cory Diedrich is a kayaker who regularly paddles on the Big Sioux. He says unmarked fences can create hazardous situations for recreational users.

“Sometimes along this river, people will fence across it so that their livestock can cross back and forth without going off their property. Some are electric, many of them are barb wire, often times you can’t see a grey wire until you’re onto it,” says Diedrich.

Diedrich says he never encourages kayakers to clip fences. Instead, he says paddlers and landowners should work together to meet recreational and livestock needs.   Some of the streams requiring gates include portions of the Big Sioux, Turtle Creek, and the Vermillion and Cheyenne Rivers.

To view the list of streams and rivers codified in HB 1082, click here