There Is No Right to Being a “Beach Walker” on an Inland Lake

Michigan is blessed in having so many lakes. Minnesota proudly crows it is the land of 10,000 lakes. Michigan has more than 11,000, including a handful of “Great Lakes” with 6 quadrillion gallons of water!

However, one falsity which never seems to be corrected is the notation that the public has the right to walk, stroll, or take an evening constitution around the shore of an inland lake. It just simply is not true.

This misunderstanding has its origins from the legal differences from the Great Lakes, i.e. Lake Huron, Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and an inland lake–a lake inside the territorial borders of Michigan.

In Glass v Goeckel, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that Michiganders do have a right to walk along beaches of the Great Lakes so long as they do not cross the high-water mark.

Nowhere did Glass determine the same right existed for beach walkers using inland lakes. And because the legal theory used by the Supreme Court to find a public “beach walking” right was the public trust doctrine, it is highly, highly unlikely such a ruling would ever extend into inland lakes in Michigan.

So, the next time you hear a stranger say “I can walk along your beach,” tell them to take a hike over to Lake Huron or Lake Michigan; otherwise they are likely trespassing.

Author: Philip Ellison

Philip L. Ellison, MBA, JD, Esq is an attorney, business counselor, and civil litigator with Outside Legal Counsel PLC. He represents riparians, backlotters, and others protecting water access on Michigan's recreational lakes. Visit his online profile at