227 U.S. 229 (1913), 86, Scott v. Lattig

Docket Nº:No. 86
Citation:227 U.S. 229, 33 S.Ct. 242, 57 L.Ed. 490
Party Name:Scott v. Lattig
Case Date:February 03, 1913
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 229

227 U.S. 229 (1913)

33 S.Ct. 242, 57 L.Ed. 490




No. 86

United States Supreme Court

February 3, 1913

Argued December 13, 1912




An error in omitting an island in a navigable stream does not divest the United States of the title or interpose any obstacle to surveying it at a later time.

Purchasers of fractional interests of subdivisions on the bank of a navigable stream do not acquire title to an island on the other side of the channel merely because the island was omitted from the survey.

Lands underlying navigable waters within the several states belong to the respective states in virtue of their sovereignty, subject to the paramount power of Congress to control navigation between the states and with foreign powers.

Each new state, upon its admission to the Union, becomes endowed with the same rights and powers in regard to sovereignty over lands under navigable waters as the older state.

An island within the public domain in a navigable stream and actually in existence at the time of the survey of the banks of the stream, and also in existence when the state within which it was situated is admitted to the Union, remains property of the United States, and, even though omitted from the survey, it does not become part of the fractional subdivisions on the opposite bank of the stream, and so held as to an island in Snake River, Idaho. United States v. Mission Rock Co., 189 U.S. 391, followed; Whitaker v. McBride, 197 U.S. 510, distinguished.

17 Idaho 506 reversed.

The facts, which involve the title to an island in a navigable river and whether it remained public land after the survey, are stated in the opinion.

Page 239

VANDEVANTER, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE VAN DEVANTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

This was a suit in the district court of Canyon County, Idaho, to quiet the title to Poole Island in the Snake River. The plaintiff, Lattig, claimed the northern part by reason of his ownership of lands on the east bank of the river, and rested his claim to the southern part upon adverse possession. One of the defendants, Scott, claimed the entire island under the homestead law of the United States, and the other defendant, Green, claimed the southern part by reason of his ownership of lands on the east bank of the river adjoining those of Lattig. Following a trial of the issues, a decree was entered sustaining Lattig's claim to the northern part and Green's to the southern, and quieting their titles against the claim of Scott. The supreme court of the state affirmed the decree, 17 Idaho 506, and the case was then brought here.

The material facts are as follows: Snake River is a navigable stream, and, at the place in question, is the boundary between the States of Oregon and Idaho. It flows northward past Poole Island in two channels, one on either side, and has a fall of 6 feet from one end of the island to the

Page 240

other. The channel on the western or Oregon side is about 1,000 feet wide, and the one on the eastern or Idaho side is approximately 300 feet. The island is on the Idaho side of the thread of the stream, is over a mile in length, is from 500 to 1,200 feet in width, and has an area of 138.15 acres. It has well defined banks extending from 3 to 5 feet above high water, is mostly covered with a growth of wild grass, sage brush, and small timber, bears undoubted evidence of permanency and of having been there many years, and concededly was in the same condition as now in 1880...

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