Document Type

Response or Comment

Publication Date



The Act of March 3, 1877, generally known as the Desert Land Act, provides for the sale of desert lands to persons who agree to irrigate and cultivate such lands. The act defines desert lands as lands which will not, without some irrigation, produce crops, and provides that the Commissioner of the General Land Office shall determine what may be considered as such lands; it provides also that the right to the use of water on such lands shall depend upon appropriation, and continues as follows: "and all surplus water over and above such actual appropriation and use, together with the water of all lakes, rivers, and other sources of water supply upon the public lands * * * shall remain and be held free for the appropriation and use of the public for irrigation, mining and manufacturing purposes, subject to existing rights." Defendants were appropriators of water from Spearfish Creek, and plaintiffs (apparently since March 3, 1877) had acquired title to lands bordering on that stream; defendants diverted all the water in the stream during a dry summer, in order to satisfy their appropriations, and plaintiffs brought an action to determine their riparian rights. It did not appear that either the riparian lands of plaintiffs or the lands on which the defendants used the appropriated water had been obtained under the Desert Land Act. Held, that no riparian rights exist in connection with any public lands granted by the government after the passage of the Desert Land Act.