American Whitewater prepared this handbook in 1999 as a starting point for understanding the public's rights (your rights) related to recreational use of private lands near the nation’s rivers and streams. We hope this information will help you deter and resolve conflicts.
All 50 states have enacted laws that greatly limit both private and public landowner liability. On the private side, these laws are called Recreational Use Statutes. For public land, the governing law is usually the state's Governmental Immunity Act or State Tort Claims Act. These laws are important for the future of whitewater boating as they can shift the burden of responsibility to boaters and away from private landowners and public land managers in the event of an accident. The effect of this shifting of burden is that Private landowners and public land mangers are more likely to welcome whitewater boating and other recreational activities if they are protected from liability. Hence American Whitewater stresses personal responsibility for whitewater boating and this notion is supported by these laws.
American Whitewater prepared this table with substantial help from the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) and the American Association for Horsemanship Safety (AAHS). In 2002, the National Park Service announced that they would be using our research on their Rivers and Trails Website.
State Liability Reports
DISCLAIMER: This handbook is not meant to be the definitive source of information on liability. Laws are not static and the law in your state may have changed since we conducted our research. Always contact your state Attorney General, your city or county Attorney, or private counsel regarding the status of liability laws in your state. If you learn of some new information that is not included on our website, please forward it to American Whitewater.