This section is from the book "The Law Of Real Property and Other Interests In Land", by Herbert Thorn Dike Tiffany. Also available from Amazon: A Treatise on the Modern Law of Real Property and Other Interests in Land .
As rule of law or rule of construction.
Sudden and perceptible changes.
When the line between water and the land bordering thereon is changed by the gradual deposit of alluvial soil upon the margin of the water or by the gradual recession of the water, the owner of the land ordinarily becomes entitled to the new land thus formed;1 and. conversely, in case land bordering on water is gradually washed away, or the water otherwise gradually encroaches upon the land, the owner ordinarily loses the land which has thus been encroached on by the water, unless he retains its ownership as having previously been entitled to the land under the particular body or stream of water, or that part thereof.2
Is gradual. It is ordinarily immaterial, as regards results, which view is adopted, whether, for instance, it is said that one whose land bounds on the sea gains such land as may be left by the gradual recession of the sea and loses such land as may be encroached upon by the sea, or whether it is said that his boundary is presumed to be intended to change as the sea changes. In some cases, however, and for some purposes, it is material.
1. Rex v. Yarborough, 3 B. & C. 91; Gifford v. Yarborough, 5 Bing. 163; Jefferis v. East Omaha Land Co., 134 U. S. 178, 33 L. Ed. 872; Hagan v. Campbell, 8 Port. (Ala.) 9, 33 Am. Dec. 267; St. Louis, I. M. & S. Ry. Co. v. Ramsey, 53 Ark. 314, 8 L. R. A. 559, 22 Am. St. Rep. 195, 13 S. W. 931; Fillmore v. Jennings, 78 Cal. 634, 21 Pac. 536; Chicago Dock & Canal Co. v. Kinzie, 93 111. 415; Coulthard v. Stevens, 84
Iowa, 241, 35 Am. St. Rep. 304, 50 N. W. 983; Linthicum v. Coan, 64 Md. 439, 54 Am. St. Rep. 775, 2 Atl. 826; Widdecombe v. Chiles, 173 Mo. 195, 61 L. R. A. 309, 96 Am. St. Rep. 507, 73 S. W. 444; Saunders v. New York Cent. & H. R. R. Co, 144 N. Y. 75, 26 L. R. A. 378, 43 Am. St. Rep. 729, 38 N. E. 992; Caul-field v. Smyth, 69 Ore. 41, 138 Pac. 227; Fulton v. Frandolig, 63 Tex. 330.
When one acquires additional land by the deposit of soil, he is said to acquire it by accretion or alluvion, When he acquires it by the recession of the water, he is more properly said to acquire it by reliction (or dereliction), but the expression accretion is not infrequently applied in such a case as well as in that first referred to, and it will, for the sake of convenience, be so applied in the course of the following remarks. The gradual loss of land by the action of the water is occasionally referred to as "erosion," while its sudden and violent removal or separation by such action is spoken of as "avulsion."