Top 5 Things to Know Before Carrying on Pennsylvania’s Waterways and State Parks

You might think the only thing you need to figure out for your summer vacation is how to get your .44 magnum in your swimming trunks, but there are other factors you need to consider before you head out for fun in the sun. We want to make sure you know the law before you go soak up the sun, and we have developed five tips for carrying your firearm on Pennsylvania’s recreational lakes and rivers.

  1. License to Carry a Firearm—There are ample opportunities to have some fun in the sun on the waters of Pennsylvania. Our vast waterways offer many recreation options from floating the river, pleasure boating, and fishing to name a few. If you want to bring your firearm with you on a boat in Pennsylvania, you must have a valid License to Carry Firearms (LTCF). The Pennsylvania Game and Wildlife Code prohibits the carrying of loaded guns on a boat without an LTCF. This prohibition includes short-barreled rifles or shotguns, any other NFA weapon, any type of pistol or handgun, and any type of long gun. So, you if you want to bring your firearm on a boat, make sure you have your LTCF. Keep in mind that Pennsylvania shares waterways with some states that do not recognize your Pennsylvania LTCF. Crossing into New Jersey or Maryland waterways with a firearm could spell big trouble for you, even if you didn’t mean to go there.
  2. Storing Firearms While Traveling—It’s important to keep in mind how you’re going to get to your waterside destination because the laws can be very different depending on your mode of transportation. When traveling by vehicle, you must have a valid Pennsylvania LTCF to carry a handgun. You may, without an LTCF, transport a long gun in a vehicle as long as it is unloaded. When traveling by airplane, TSA guidelines require that your firearm is unloaded, locked in a hard-sided container with a TSA approved lock, and declared at check-in.
  3. Public vs. Private Property—Before you head out to the river or lake, it’s important to find out if you’re going to be on public or private property. Though most recreational waterways are public property, the adjacent landowners own the land from the high watermark and up and they can prohibit access. Pennsylvania law also recognizes a private owner’s right to restrict the carry of a handgun on their premises, including any portion of the waterway that they control. If your plans take you to a private area, be sure to check with the owner. Posted “no gun” signs do not carry the force of law in Pennsylvania, but if you bring a gun to private property and the owner asks you to leave, you must comply or face trespass charges. Public waterways, on the other hand, should be treated like any other public property in the state.
  4. Having a Firearm in Pennsylvania National and State Parks—Federal law provides that a person may possess, carry and transport a concealed, loaded and operable firearm within a national park in accordance with the laws of the state in which the national park is located.  If you are headed out to a national park, you may carry your firearm as long as you have a valid LTCF. Keep in mind however that all buildings in national parks, from restaurants to gift shops and visitor centers are considered federal facilities, and you may not carry your firearm in federal facilities even with an LTCF. If you are headed out to our state parks and have a valid LTCF, you may also bring your gun. There are many regulations related to firearms in state parks; however, if you have your LTCF, you may carry concealed or in a vehicle regardless of those regulations. But keep in mind, you may not open carry in a state park.
  5. Understand How the Law Changes When You Drink—While you may not be a person who takes part in wild parties over spring break, it’s important to know what can happen if you do drink while carrying your firearm. There are no laws in Pennsylvania prohibiting carrying a firearm and consuming alcohol. You can go into any bar or restaurant where alcohol is served with a gun. You can drink while you are carrying your gun, and if it is your cup of tea, you can get drunk as a skunk with your gun and not violate any Pennsylvania law. However, common sense dictates that if you are going to drink alcohol and carry a firearm, you should do so responsibly because even though the act of carrying a gun while drinking is not a crime, if you engage in reckless behavior with your gun while drinking, you could run into legal trouble.

If you remember these five things, you can maintain that peace of mind to enjoy your vacation. Remember, U.S. & Pennslyvania LawShield is not just the 24/7/365 Attorney-Answered Emergency Hotline. If you have a question, don’t hesitate to call our Non-Emergency Business Line on the back of your Member Card or bring your question to one of our Gun Law Seminars. To find a Gun Law Seminar in your area go to

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