Michigan's Natural Rivers Program

Part 305 of P.A. 451 of 1994 - Natural Rivers Act

Rogue River - A river system subject to the Michigan Natural River Act

The Michigan Natural Rivers Program, a state-imposed zoning scheme managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, is a highly complicated and detailed law containing more than one-hundred pages of regulations and standards controlling how riparians (property owners along a river) utilize their land. The Michigan Natural Rivers Program was established by the Natural River Act (Part 305 of P.A. 451 of 1994) for the purpose of preserving a designated river's various values (along with its various creeks and tributaries) including aesthetics, free-flowing condition, recreation, boating, historic, water conservation, floodplain, and fisheries and wildlife habitat.

Since 1970, over two-thousand miles on sixteen rivers or segments of rivers have been designated into Michigan's Natural Rivers Program. Lands and property affected by the Natural Rivers Program under the Natural River Act span numerous counties concentrated in West and Northern Michigan. Covered rivers (and their creeks) include:
    The federal Wild and Scenic River Act of 1968 applies only to federally owned land; the Michigan Natural River Act covers private and state-owned land.

    According to the Michigan DNR, Michigan has over 36,000 miles of rivers and streams, including over 12,000 miles of cold water trout streams

    A natural river district covers 400 feet on either side of a designated river.
  • Au Sable River
  • Betsie River
  • Boardman River
  • Flat River
  • Fox River
  • Huron River
  • Jordan River
  • Lower Kalamazoo
  • Pere Marquette
  • Pigeon River
  • Pine River
  • Rifle River
  • Rogue River
  • Two Hearted River
  • Upper Manistee River
  • White River
The real-world effect of this law is a complicated and difficult set of regulations to work through by riparians and developers across Michigan with enforcement by the Michigan DNR and local zoning administrators.

If you have been contacted by the Michigan DNR with a letter of violation or need assistence with the Michigan Natural Rivers Program and its maze of regulations, contact a riparian rights attorney at OLC by using the form below.

The initial case consultation fee for new clients is waived.


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