Michigan Legal Milestones
8. Public Access to Public Water

On a pleasant May morning in 1925, Gideon Gerhardt stepped into the Pine River near here to do a little trout fishing. That act triggered one of the most important public water rights cases in United States history, Collins v. Gerhardt. resulting decision affirmed the rights of the public to the use of public waters.

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Complete Text on Milestone Marker

Public Access to Public Water

On a pleasant May morning in 1925, Gideon Gerhardt stepped into the Pine River near here to do a little trout fishing. That act triggered one of the most important public water rights cases in United States history, Collins v. Gerhardt. The resulting decision affirmed the rights of the public to the use of public waters.

The land surrounding Mr. Gerhardt's chosen fishing spot was owned by Frank Collins, who brought a civil action for trespass. After a local court ruled in favor of Mr. Collins, the case reached the Michigan Supreme Court, which reversed the decision. for the majority in April 1926, Justice John S. McDonald wrote, "So long as water flows and fish swim in Pine River, the people may fish at their pleasure in any part of the stream subject only to the restraints and regulations imposed by the state."

Federal appeals kept the issue alive until 1936, but the legal principle set forth by the Michigan Supreme Court remained unshaken, and guarantees to future generations the right to the recreational use of Michigan's rivers and streams.

Placed by the State Bar of Michigan and the Mason-Lake Counties Bar Association, 1988.