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Lake bottom ownership question

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  • Lake bottom ownership question

    I've been following what's going on with the Whitney estate for a few years, with regard to the attempted sale of the 36,000 acres south of the Whitney Wilderness. In the last week or so I've seen a couple of news stories about the new attempt to sell the ugly beige box on Little Tupper, but one thing about it confuses me. The real estate listing says that the property includes 50+ (I forget the number) acres of land and 71 acres of the bottom of the lake. I didn't know anyone could own the bottom of a lake, and I'm wondering in practice if that means people are not allowed to boat over that area. It seems like it would be difficult to clearly mark, especially with water as dark as LTL has, unless maybe they have buoys or something. This is just idle curiosity, but I have not been able to find the answer and thought I would ask the brain trust here.

  • #2
    I have never heard of owning the lake bottom, but the county tax map does show the lake as part of the acreage.
    Though the county has it at 97 acres of woodland and 33 acres of "waterfront", where the real estate listing has it at 58 and 71. I measure it on the tax map at 81 acres of water.


    Must be something weird in the original deed. If i had a cool 5.5M laying around, i would buy it, but personally i cant even fathom paying the $18K/year tax bill.


    • #3
      Platted before it was lake bottom?

      I'd be surprised if you couldn't boat across it. Like navigable streams across private property - you can paddle it but don't get out or walk it. At least that is my understanding of NY laws.


      • #4
        It would seem that Little Tupper is all open for boating, but I believe the Whitneys were able to stop people from paddling up one bay of Forked Lake because they owned all of the shoreline. Likewise, they could block off the western half of Slim Pond because they owned all of the shoreline past that point. This was explained to me by Tom Martin, then the Regional Forester for Region 5. He said these were what he called "keyhole" bodies of warer in that access past a certain point provided no access to any public land beyond. In both the Moose River/Adirondack League Club case and the Shingle Shanty Preserve case there was access to public land after passing through the private land on a stream.
        Every time that wheel turns round, bound to measure just a little more ground.


        • #5
          Follensby Lake (the Philosopher's Camp) is also a keyhole access, which is why we cant paddle into there from the Raquette River.
          "Now I see the secret of making the best person, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth." -Walt Whitman


          • #6
            "Hrm oooh dzz, ggd uf mmm ayk bbbmm!"
            (Hey you kids, get off my lake bottom!)

            Maybe they secured the rights to the ice in the winter?


            • #7
              I live in NJ so this is just for NJ....I previously looked up the subject of private ownership of inland water bodies and found this:

              Certain areas of water are owned by the public as a matter of law, such as tidal zones and navigable areas of oceans, bays and rivers.  That law is as old as the Republic and, of course, had its basis in the interest of the commonwealth in protecting common access to the ocean and rivers for use and transport.
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              Last edited by John H Swanson; 09-23-2023, 08:28 AM.


              • #8
                It depends on the deed. Look up the Barclay Salmon River (property in Pulaski) decision. They own the bottom of the river. As I understand it, people can navigate the river and fish through their stretch of water in boats, but you can't walk the river or anchor your boat on their submerged land