South Dakota has stream fencing laws

South Dakota has stream fencing laws The state departments of Agriculture, Game, Fish & Parks, and Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) have joined together to issue a reminder to landowners with livestock on property bordering certain navigable rivers and streams.

Although the 1990 Legislature passed laws allowing fencing across these streams under certain conditions, the law also requires gates on the fences.

Rivers and creeks in the state where gates are required on fences crossing the water include portions of the Bad, Big Sioux, Cheyenne, East Vermillion, Elm, Grand, Little White, Moreau, Red Water, Vermillion, and White rivers; and Flandreau, Firesteel, Moccasin, Split Rock, and Turtle creeks.

A map of the specified river and stream segments can be obtained from DENR or viewed on its web page at

Fencing is not permitted across portions of the rivers declared navigable by federal definition. These rivers include the Missouri, James, Boise de Sioux, and the lower five miles of the Big Sioux.

"The 1990 Legislature passed these laws specifically to ensure landowners keep the ability to fence their property to control livestock, while still allowing public use of the waterway for outdoor activities such as fishing, snowmobiling, and canoeing," said DENR Secretary Steve Pirner. "On the flip side, the public needs to be responsible and not abuse this access right by leaving these gates open when livestock are confined in the field."

Fences across these specified rivers and streams are required to have a gate with a minimum opening size of six-feet high by six-feet wide. The opening must be outlined with reflective tape or other highly visible material. Reflectors or highly visible material must also be attached to the fence connecting the gate with the stream bank, and the reflectors must be no more than 25 feet apart and visible from both up and downstream. When livestock are not present, the gates need to be kept open.

State law also requires that the location of these fences must be registered with the chief engineer of the Water Rights Program in the DENR. Registration can be accomplished by landowners either by mailing notice to DENR at 523 E. Capitol, Pierre, SD, filling out a registration form on the DENR web page at, or faxing a notice to DENR at 605-773-6035.

For more information concerning fencing requirements on a particular stream segment or if you wish to register a fence, contact Garland Erbele or Mark Rath with the DENR Water Rights Program at (605) 773-3352.

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