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 .
In speaking of the acquisition of land by accretion, the courts evidently have reference to visible land and not to land covered by water.16 It would never be suggested, for instance, when the bed of a stream or body of water does not originally belong to the owner of the bank or shore, that, because such bed is raised by an alluvial formation gradually extending outwards from his land, but not of such depth as to appear above the water, he is entitled by accretion to that particular stratum beneath the water. On the other hand, if the owner of the bank or shore does own the bed of the stream or body of water, or of part thereof, any vertical addition to the bed, whether or not sufficient in depth to appear above the water, belongs to him, not by reason of the doctrine of accretion, but because his ownership extends upwards as well as downwards, as it does in the case of land absolutely dissociated from water.17 In other words, such new land belongs to him merely because it is within the boundaries of his land, the limits of his ownership18
16. Hess v. Muir, 65 Md. 586, 5 Atl. 540, 6 Atl. 673. Land cannot be acquired by accretion, it is said, if it appears above the water merely temporarily. Bennett v. National Starch Mfg. Co., 103 Iowa, 207, 72 N. W. 507; Sapp v. Frazier, 51 La. Ann. 1718, 72 Am. St. Rep. 493, 26 So. 378; Anderson v. Ray, 37 S.
D. 17, 156 N. W. 591
17. Ante, Sec. 251.
18. See St. Louis v. Rutz, 138 U. S. 226, 34 L. Ed. 941; Mulry v. Norton, 100 N. Y. 424, 53 Am. Rep. 206, 3 N E. 581; Hopkins Academy v. Dickson, 9 Cush. 544; Bussen v. Dickson, 97 111. App. 310; Griffin v. Johnson, 161
As the courts, in recognizing the acquisition of newly formed land, consider only conditions as they appear above the water, so, in recognizing the loss of land by erosion, so called, they consider only conditions so apparent. That is, the fact that, after the disappearance of the strata which previously appeared above the water, the lower strata beneath the water still remain as before, as is usually the case, is not considered. The riparian proprietorship is regarded as ceasing as to the lower strata, so soon as the upper strata disappear.
The consideration above referred to, that the doctrine of accretion has reference to visible land only and not to land covered by water, would seem to show that it is not the governing principle in the following cases. When land is bounded on the centre of a stream as a monument,19 the centre of the stream is still the boundary, although the location thereof is substantially changed by the gradual change of the bed of the stream.20 And likewise, if one owns the bed of a stream, without any land outside the stream, he continues to own such bed, in spite of any change in the location of the stream.21 In both of these cases the person who owns the bed of the stream, or a portion thereof, acquires, as the stream moves in the opposite direction, the bed, or a portion of the bed, of the stream in its new location, but this new acquisition, being of land covered by water, cannot be based upon any doctrine of accretion. And when, as occurs in the case first referred to, the land which he owns while covered by water, remains his after it is laid bare by the transverse movement of the stream, he cannot be regarded as newly acquiring such land, already owned by him, upon the theory of accretion, or upon any theory whatsoever.
111. 377, 44 N. E. 206; Linthicum v. Coan, 64 Md. 439, 54 Am. Rep. 775; State v. Muncie Pulp Co.. 119 Term. 47, 104 S. W. 437.
19. Ante, Sec. 445:
20. Nebraska v. Iowa, 143 U. S. 359, 36 L. Ed. 186; Wallace v. Driver, 61 Ark. 429, 31 L. R. A. 317, 33 S. W. 641; Welles v. Bailey, 55 Conn. 292, 3 Am. St. Rep. 48, 10 Atl. 565; State v. Livingston, 164 Iowa, 31, 145 N.
W. 91; Fowler v. Wood, 73 Kan. 511, 6 L. R. A. (N. S.) 162, 117 Am. St. Rep. 534, 85 Pac. 763; Cruikshanks v. Wilmer, 93 Ky. 19, 18 S W. 1018; Trustees of Hopkins Academy v. Dickinson, 9 Cush. (Mass.) 544; Gerrish v. Clough, 48 N. H. 9; Niehaus v. Shepherd, 26 Ohio St. 40.
21. Foster v. Wright, 4 C. P. Div. 438; State v. Muncie Pulp Co., 119 Tenn. 47, 104 S. W. 437.