Buying River with Back Taxes

Learn how one family bought a piece of river by paying back taxes and how you can do it too.

| March/April 1971

What's wrong with having a river run through your back yard? "Easier said than done," you're probably thinking . . . but it wasn't so hard in our case.

About once a year our local paper advertises lots, plots and acreage on which back taxes are due. Usually this land is available for the taxes and advertising costs; occasionally the parcels are auctioned. We cut out the legal descriptions of any plots up for sale and hie ourselves to the county map at the county tax assessor's office or on the wall of an abstracting firm. When we have the lots located we select the ones we want and purchase them.

In one particular transaction, our five 25' X 150' lots turned out to be partly in the North Canadian River . . . a small matter since there is still sufficient terra firma for the granting of a building permit and public utilities (if desired) are less than a block away. This for a princely investment of $100, fifteen dollars more for costs and annual taxes of $1.14 on the bare lots.

Town lies south of the five plots but no neighbors are close enough to make us feel crowded. North—beyond the river—is farming and grazing land. East and west, which we are free to roam as far as our underpinnings will carry us, is the North Canadian River.

In its heyday the North Canadian swelled with the spring rains and roared through the countryside tearing out bridges. Now, with flood control dams, it has become a delightful pussycat of a river and is always interesting and enjoyable.

After heavy rains, a small dam twenty miles upstream lets out considerable water and bevies of catfish come swarming up from the larger dam fifty miles downstream. It's not unusual to catch 5 to 10-pound cats on bankpoles during such times; Some are channels, some blue cats and some flatheads. Any are tasty morsels when rolled in flour and cornmeal and fried to a golden brown.

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