What’s the Difference Between Rivers and Streams in Chatham County?

There are many tracts of land within Chatham County that have a river or stream running through them, or along one of it’s edges. Knowing what kind of water feature runs through or next to your property is important, because it can effect the boundaries that you share with neighboring properties.

The Rocky River, Haw River, and Deep River all run through this county, and are all categorized as navigable rivers, but that certainly doesn’t mean that you could actually travel along them in any sort of water craft. In fact, a navigable river is one that can be used to navigate, such that it flows along a path that is consistent enough that it can be marked on a map and followed. When a properties lies on a navigable river, the property line lies on the bank of the river, but does not extend into the water.

A stream, on the other hand, is typically smaller, and can change drastically from season to season, both in terms of course, and water volume. Perennial streams have water that flows year round, while intermittent streams (sometimes called a “nine month stream”) can get dry during some seasons, but will return later in the year. Any property that has a stream running along it’s edge owns the land all the way to the middle of the stream. This means that some of the waterway does in fact belong to the land owner, but that the property line may move slightly over time as the land erodes and the stream changes course.