Avulsion (legal term)

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In real property law, avulsion refers to a sudden loss or addition to land, which results from the action of water. It differs from accretion, which describes a gradual loss or addition to land resulting from the action of water.

Avulsion and riparian owners[edit]

The distinction between avulsion and accretion becomes important where a river forms the boundary between two riparian owners. In many jurisdictions (though not all), if the river changes channels by avulsion, the boundary does not change; it remains in the middle of the old channel. For example, the Mississippi River forms the boundary between several U.S. states; this principle is the reason that states on the lower Mississippi have occasional pieces of land on the opposite side from the rest of the state. The river changed course quickly in such locations, so boundaries did not change.[1]) However, as a river gradually changes through accretion, the boundary changes with it.

To prove that a change was avulsion and not accretion, it is sufficient for the owner of land which was washed away to point out approximately as much land added to the opposite bank as washed away from his bank.[2]

Avulsion and littoral owners[edit]

Avulsion can also affect littoral owners through events like hurricanes that can rapidly erode a shoreline.[3] Courts have determined that littoral owners have the right to all the land that they had previous to the avulsive event.


  1. ^ State of Arkansas v. State of Tennessee, 246 U.S. 158
  2. ^ Goins v. Marryman, 80 P.2d 286.
  3. ^ Walton County v. Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. 998 So. 2d 1102 (2008)