Arkansas Laws - What every paddler needs to know

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Arkansas Laws - What every paddler needs to know

Post by Cowper » Sat May 09, 2015 5:18 pm

If you paddle or float in Arkansas, there are a few things you need to know about PFD's and our anti-litter law.

It is not uncommon to encounter law enforcement officers, especially during prime floating season, who WILL write you a citation for failure to comply with these rules. This costs you money and generally ruins your day.

PFD's - Quoting from one AR website: "All vessels must be equipped with U.S. Coast Guard–approved life jackets, called personal flotation devices (PFDs). The quantity and type depend on the length of your vessel and the number of people on board and/or being towed. Each PFD must be in good condition, be the proper size for the intended wearer, and very importantly, be readily accessible! Readily accessible means you must be able to put the PFD on in a reasonable amount of time in an emergency (vessel sinking, on fire, etc.). PFDs should not be stowed in plastic bags or in locked or closed compartments, and they should not have other gear stowed on top of them."
ALSO: Children 12 and under must WEAR the PFD's.

Environmental law - PLEASE read the attachment at least once to get the full and most accurate picture. It's only one page. Many summaries you find on the web about his law are inaccurate and/or out of date; the attachment is copied directly from the current law (as of 2019). Red font has been used to emphasize a few key points, but the words are taken exactly from the Arkansas Code.

Buffalo National River / Federal Laws - On the National River and in National Parks (Hot Springs, for example) the Superintendent has the authority to establish rules specific to his/her Park that have the force of Federal Law behind them. For example, the rafting together of three or more canoes to form "floatillas" is prohibited, and playing radios on sections of the river that are designated at Wilderness is prohibited. The 2019 rules are found at https://www.nps.gov/buff/learn/manageme ... endium.htm
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Re: Arkansas Laws - What every paddler needs to know

Post by Cowper » Tue Jul 26, 2016 7:31 am

I wanted to update this thread to touch on another topic - the question: "I found a boat, can I keep it?" (I'll touch on other gear too.)

Many people have some misguided belief that if they find a boat in the river, there is some type of Maritime Salvage law or "finders keepers" rule that applies. A little googling led me to the conclusion that Marine Salvage laws don't say that, they only say you are entitled to some compensation when you help recover someone else's stuff, with the compensation varying according to whether or not it was risky for you, and also depending on how much effort or money you expended doing the recovery. But in the case of finding a boat pinned or abandoned on an Arkansas river, how can you know whether or not the owner already has other plans for recovery? Maybe he/she just went for help, or maybe they plan to come back when the water drops or the next weekend? You can't really know those things. So laws aside, I believe that what follows accurately reflects what most boaters consider to be good boating ethics:

If you find a trailer on the side of the road, with a flat tire, NO, you can't just keep it and all the contents. The rightful owner is coming back for it. If it is creating an unsafe situation, you CAN move it to a safer location where the owner will still find it.

If you find a car stuck in the ditch, even if the door is unlocked and the keys are in it, NO, you can't just take it. It is not your car.

If you find a 4 wheeler in the woods, it is not your 4 wheeler.

If you see a bicycle on the sidewalk and it isn't chained to a light pole, NO, it is not yours to take. That is stealing.

And if you find a boat pinned on the river, or sitting on the bank, NO, that is not your boat. If you can unpin it, then you can move it to higher ground and tie it up there. If you are afraid others will "steal" it, you can take it and report to local authorities and post on message boards like this one until you find the rightful owner. But it is not your boat. To just take it and keep it without making meaningful efforts to locate the rightful owner is stealing, not "salvage". The only exceptions I would see is if the boat has been totaled, to the point that it has no value and has become "river litter".

With found gear, some practical things come into play - if you find something of minor value like a low end paddle with no name or phone number, then no, I wouldn't expect anyone to spend an extraordinary amount of effort to try to locate an owner and return a $20 paddle. But with something like a boat, or a dry bag that contains items which might have sentimental value, there is no question in my mind as to what is right. Do everything you can to return the gear to the rightful owner!

UPDATE: I later found this link which takes you to the Arkansas Laws on salvage. I didn't see anything that really changes the above discussion, but it does establish some specific rights and responsibilities if you want to claim salvage instead of just giving the stuff back to the owner. It says salvaged boats should be secured at or near where found, but in the interest of actually getting the boat back to the rightful owner, I personally would have to bend the law on this one, or at least interpret leaving it at the local outfitters business as being "near where found". It also covers property found "afloat". It is interesting to note that even items valued at less than $100 are supposed to be returned to their rightful owner; but you can claim 25% of the value as salvage (vs. 10% for salvaged boats). So I guess if you find 4 beers and you know where they came from, you can drink one but must give the other 3 back... :beer2:
http://law.justia.com/codes/arkansas/20 ... apter-102/
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