Pennsylvania River Rafting

Summer's Best Two Weeks v. Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Up a Creek Without a Paddle: Challenging Pennsylvania’s River Rafting Cartel

Government at every level imposes itself with greater frequency on even the most innocent areas of our lives.  In Pennsylvania, that now includes summer camp.

For more than 30 years, “Summer’s Best Two Weeks,” (SB2W) a non-profit non-denominational Christian summer camp located about an hour southeast of Pittsburgh in Boswell, Pa., helped its campers navigate the whitewater rapids of the nearby Lower Youghiogheny River in Ohiopyle State Park.  But nothing on the river prepared the Camp for trying to negotiate the tricky waters of Pennsylvania’s regulatory bureaucracy.

Even though any other private party using acceptable equipment can travel down the river without hiring a commercial outfitter, in 2001, Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources withdrew its longstanding permission for SB2W’s annual rafting trips on the Lower “Yough,” ending—for now—a 30-plus-year rite of passage for campers.  As a result, for the past four years, SB2W campers have been denied this opportunity.  The Department now demands that Summer’s Best Two Weeks either pay Ohiopyle’s cartel of four commercial outfitters up to $30,000 each year to take its campers down the Lower Yough or that the camp stay off the river entirely.  This is the State’s demand even though no camper in SB2W’s long history rafting the Yough has ever suffered serious injury, while at least four rafters under the supervision of the commercial outfitters have died in the past ten years.

Summer’s Best Two Weeks is both unwilling and unable to pay the outfitters for trips the Camp had always handled itself.  Left with no other option, on April 4, 2006, the Camp, represented by the Arlington, Va.-based Institute for Justice, filed suit in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg seeking to declare unconstitutional the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ arbitrary denial of SB2W’s freedom to raft on the same terms as every other private party.

Essential Background


Backgrounder: Up a Creek Without a Paddle: Challenging Pennsylvania’s River Rafting Cartel

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Latest Release: Summer Camp In Court To Defend Its Right to Raft (April 7, 2008)

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Legal Briefs and Decisions

Launch Release: Up a Creek Without a Paddle: Summer Camp Challenges Pennsylvania’s River Rafting Cartel (April 4, 2006)

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Case Timeline

Filed Lawsuit:


April 4, 2006

Court Filed:


Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg




Current Court:


Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg



In Discovery

Next Key Date:






Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

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Op-eds, News Articles and Links

Article: IJ Argues Case for Summer Camp; Liberty & Law (June, 2008)

Article: A Somerset program sues after Pa. bans it from the Youghiogheny River Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (May 27, 2007)

Op-ed: Braving the constitutional rapids Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (May 23, 2007)

Article: Pennsylvania's River of Red Tape: IJ Challenges a Rafting Cartel, Liberty & Law (June, 2006)

Op-ed: Why we sued the DCNR Pittsburgh Tribune Review
April 5, 2006

Article: Christian camp sues state over restrictions on raft trips Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
April 5, 2006

Article: Jenner Township camp suing state over rafting trips The Tribune Democrat
April 4, 2006


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Institute for Justice
901 N. Glebe Road, Suite 900
Arlington, VA 22203
Tel 703.682.9320, Fax 703.682.9321
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