ATVs Fun Or Foe

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Published on: Jun. 2, 2002

Last revision: Nov. 12, 2010

to stop the damage to the stream. That's why she contacted us.

The Missouri Revised Statutes, Chapter 304, Traffic Regulations, Section 304.013, Number 2 reads, "No person shall operate an off-road vehicle within any stream or river in this state ... " That seems clear.

The rest of the sentence offers some exceptions: "... except that off-road vehicles may be operated within waterways which flow within the boundaries of land which an off-road vehicle operator owns."

This exception allows landowners to enter streams on their own property. However, landowners should be aware that such activities will harm their property, as well as that of their neighbors.

The statute continues "... or for agricultural purposes within the boundaries of land which an off-road vehicle operator owns or has permission to be upon ... " This allows the use of ATVs in streams for agricultural purposes (herding cattle, fixing fences, etc.) on land owned by the ATV operator or on land used for agricultural purposes by the operator with permission of the landowner. This would also apply to land that an ATV operator rents or leases.

The statute continues, " ... or for the purpose of fording such stream or river of this state at such road crossings as are customary or part of the highway system." This allows ATV operators to cross streams at fords that have customarily been used and are established as such. It also allows ATVs to cross a river or stream at a recognized ford that is part of the county or state highway system. This does not, however, allow people to establish fords for their convenience.

A violation of this law is considered a class C misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $300 and/or 15 days in jail. If damages occur, the attorney general or county prosecutor may institute a civil action which could cost you $1,000 per day of violation. A weekend of driving an ATV in a stream could get very costly.

The reason for having such a law is that riding an ATV in a stream can cause a lot of damage. It does not merely inconvenience someone else, it starts a chain reaction of environmental damage that can move upstream and downstream.

According to research conducted by the Missouri Department of Conservation, ATV activity significantly increases turbidity in streams. Turbidity is caused by the suspension of fine soil particles from stream

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