The Lykes brothers owned a portion of Fisheating Creek in
Florida's Glades County - or at least they thought they did
until the state of Florida tried to take it away from them.
The Lykes had allowed the public to use the creek for
recreational purposes and even maintained a campground on the
land. Then in 1988, they closed off the creek after vandalism
and poaching became a major problem. Angry residents persuaded
the state to sue the Lykes on the basis that the creek was a
navigable waterway that the state should never have sold decades
Initially, the state tried to file suit in federal court but was
rejected because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ruled that
Fisheating Creek was not a navigable waterway and thus not
subject to federal jurisdiction. The creek is quite small and
the only boats that can use it are small skiffs and canoes, and
then only during the rainy season. The state then successfully
sued the Corps of Engineers to have Fisheating Creek declared a
navigable waterway. The Lykes in turn sued the Corps of
Engineers to reverse the ruling. In 1995, a federal judge ruled
in the Lykes' favor. The judge rejected the claim that
Fisheating Creek could be useful "as a highway for commerce" and
characterized the creek as nothing more than a "series of small
pothole lakes, shoal areas, sandbars, narrow creek beds and
The state did not give up, however, and in 1997 filed yet
another suit against the Lykes in Glades County Circuit Court.
The judge refused to allow the Lykes to present evidence of the
federal ruling of nonnavigability or their deeds to the
property. After a six-week trial, the jury found Fisheating
Creek to be a navigable waterway and therefore not the Lykes'
property. The creek reverted back to the state. The Lykes are
currently appealing the verdict.
Source: Florida Legal Foundation
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