Utah Stream Access Coalition update regarding Utah's Lower Provo River.

Access Update – Lower Provo River – Utah Stream Access Coalition

Are you curious about fly fishing and recreational access laws on the Lower Provo River? Many others are in the same boat. Since this is a constant topic of conversation with folks who visit our shop, we figured that this would be a great time to address the issue of access, and where thing stand right now.

Right now, the access laws on the Lower Provo are about as clear as spring runoff, Murky at best! If it’s confirmed as navigable, accessing the river and fishing from legal access points would be allowed. But currently, this has not been determined, and state agencies aren’t addressing this uncertainty. Below, you will find a great synopsis of where the issue stands from our friends at the Utah Stream Access Coalition.


Historically, the Lower Provo River, running from from Deer Creek Dam to the mouth of Provo Canyon has been open to the public for fishing, boating and other recreational activities. Although some of the lands along the river are privately owned, there has never been a question about the public’s right to use the river itself. Recently, however, certain landowners along the upper reaches of Provo Canyon have begun harassing anglers who are legally fishing in the river. These landowners claim the river is not public, and that fishing is not allowed where the river flows past their properties. State and local law enforcement authorities have not recognized the landowners’ claims to the river, and, as far as USAC knows, no angler has been charged with trespass for being in the water. Nevertheless, the harassment continues.


1. Under the precedent established on the Upper Weber River in Utah Stream Access Coalition v. Orange Street Development, 2017 UT 82, the Provo River is a navigable water based upon its historical use for commerce. The general public are entitled to use the beds of navigable waters – up to the ordinary high-water mark – for lawful recreational purposes.

2. Consequently, there is no basis for pressing trespass charges against persons lawfully using the Provo River and its bed and banks below the ordinary high-water mark.

3. The public right to use navigable waters does NOT include the right to cross adjacent dry lands if those lands are not publicly owned or subject to an easement or public right-of-way. The crossing of such dry lands without permission from the landowner constitutes an act of trespass. USAC has always opposed such acts of unlawful trespass.


The Utah Department of Transportation owns numerous parcels of land adjacent to the Lower Provo River, as well as rights-of-way extending from public highways and the Heber Valley Historic Railroad (i.e., “Heber Creeper”) line, that allow lawful public access to the river from existing public parking lots through access corridors. However, not all of these public access corridors are well marked and some are being contested by adjacent landowners. None of this, however, affects the rights of the public once they are in the river.


If you are troubled by the current situation on the Lower Provo, USAC encourages you to direct your concerns to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, who are tasked with enforcement of wildlife related access and trespass laws. Call 801-538-4700 and ask for the Wildlife Resources Director’s Office. To quell the current campaign of harassment by Provo Canyon landowners, USAC has met with officials from Utah’s Department of Natural Resources in an effort to secure an official declaration that the Lower Provo River is navigable and therefore there is no basis to issue trespass citations to persons lawfully using the river and its bed below the ordinary high-water mark.

The last communication is attached here. State officials have neither acknowledged receipt of this letter, nor followed through on our request to issue a declaration of the public’s rights on the Lower Provo River. It is disappointing to say the least that illicit attempts to privatize treasured public resources are met with silence from responsible public officials.


As outlined above, unless the Lower Provo River is designated navigable, public access to it will remain unclear. Because its is evident that the State of Utah will not do so, adjudicating this case in the courts remains the only other option. To do so, USAC needs to put together a case with appropriate circumstances to support litigation. For now, USAC is actively seeking tips and information through “confrontation reports” submitted on the Coalition’s website in order to be able to a file a navigability lawsuit on the Provo River. With your assistance, USAC may be able to force this issue sooner rather than later.

As always, we appreciate your continued support!

— Utah Stream Access Board Of Directors —

Story Originally Reported by Angling Trade on 5/2/2024