and I have found a pretty good way to find if a waterway is considered "public access".
I contact the area agricultural extension agent and find out if streams or rivers are cleared for fencing to contain livestock. I have found that the agriculture agents work with (in most states) USGS and Corp of Engineers for advice if a waterway can, or should be, fenced to contain livestock.
If it is cleared for cross river fencing it is not considered public access waterway and permission is required.
The extension office has the land owner contact information, and in my experience a five minute phone call will get you permission to paddle, and in most cases a pretty decent report on the conditions of the river in regard to safety issues and wildlife in the area.
I have found that local farmers have some of the best real time information on some pretty cool places to go.
Kayak & Canoe Outriggers
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