The rock-hurling spat that could upend Colorado’s river access rules |

The rock-hurling spat that could upend Colorado’s river access rules

The Colorado Supreme Court will wade into a technical aspect in angler Roger Hill’s lawsuit arguing Colorado rivers are public property if they were used for commercial activity – like floating timber – at statehood

Jason Blevins
The Colorado Sun

It’s been more than a decade since a riverside property owner hurled rocks at angler Roger Hill as he waded and stalked trout in the Arkansas River above the Royal Gorge. 

The ripples from that splashy spat could upset Colorado’s murky river access rules

The Colorado Supreme Court this week decided it would take up the case of Hill, an 80-year-old angler who is suing the landowner who threatened him, arguing that landowners can’t own riverbeds and the public has a right to wade through waterways. 

The Colorado Supreme Court this week decided it would hear Hill’s argument that he has a right to sue the landowner, a technical aspect of the lawsuit he filed in 2018. Hill’s ability to sue for access — and possibly create a legal precedent that codifies Colorado’s tenuous rules for floating and wading through private property — is a point of contention for Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, who has waded himself into Hill’s case, arguing that shifts in river access policy should be handled by lawmakers in a public process, not the courts. 

“For decades, Colorado’s legislature and executive branches have adhered to the established and existing legal policy to govern river access and have declined opportunities to alter it,” reads a statement released by Weiser this week. “In this case, our office is doing our duty to defend Colorado’s legal policy. As for any possible change to that policy, it is the province of the political branches, not the courts, to do so.”


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