Tide Lands Law and Legal Definition

The wet sand area between the high and low water marks that tidal action covers each day is known as the tideland. Tideland is also referred to as the foreshore. Questions of beach access generally start with these concepts of high and low water marks, which were derived from the public trust doctrine. The public trust doctrine declares that title to lands beneath navigable waters, including the tideland, were held by the federal government and vested in a state upon its admission into the Union. The state holds title to such lands in a trust for its people and can only dispose of them "when such parcels . . . are used in promoting of the interests of the public therein, or . . . without any substantial impairment of the public interest in the lands and waters remaining." Therefore, states were thus left to define the shape of the doctrine within these limits.

Most of the twenty-three states that border on either the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans or the Gulf of Mexico view the mean high tide line as the seaward limit of private property. A minority of the twenty-three bordering states view the mean low tide line as the seaward limit, generally subject, consistent with early interpretations of the public trust doctrine, to narrowly proscribed public rights of navigation and fishing in the tidelands.