California is fortunate to have some of the most iconic natural features in the world, including its many natural waterways that have benefited both its flora and fauna for millions of years. Likewise, its human inhabitants for more than ten thousand years have enjoyed the benefits of its rivers, lakes, and oceans. Today, with nearly 40 million Californians, the need for guidance as to rights of the public to access and use California’s waterways is clear. This guide is intended to aid in understanding the rights of the public as well as their limitations. This guide is the result of years of development by the California Department of Justice and the California State Lands Commission. A rich history of the progression of the state’s laws from Gold Rush days to the present cannot be fully described, but the guide seeks to identify the most important enactments and judicial decisions that establish the law.