Lower Susquehanna Camping


I’ve paddled the lower Susquehanna many times. Does anyone know anything about camping on the islands below Holtwood Dam?


Hi Neighbor…

– Last Updated: Jul-11-09 4:58 PM EST –

I am from York ,and paddle there often. The Lancaster County side of the river is off limits except at campgrounds or boat ramps. Some kid was killed jumping off rocks,and the railroad who owns that bank side doesn't permit camping anywhere along the railroad,or trespassing,all along the railroad side of the river from the Bay to Harrisburg.

Now for the islands there are summer cottages on some of the islands,and they are leased by the state. Most are considered sanctuaries for migrating birds.

Above the Holtwood dam there is one island directly across from the Pequea boat ramp that the Pequea boat & ski club leases,and have picnic grounds & camping areas for boating members. Not sure they would let you camp there or not,but paddle to the ramp and ask at the boat house. There is a campground at Otter Creek just 1 mile below the Pequea ramp on the York side. Public is welcome,but along water area is seasonal rented sites,on the hill is public sites.{Otter Creek Campground}

Below the Holtwood dam I never seen any camping on any islands except the leased ones. That area is fish & boat patrolled waters,and they DO patrol it. Islands below Muddy Creek Launch are leased or owned by Excelon Power,and off limits. Only choice is Otter Creek Campground above the dam. I had a Susquehanna water trail map and it had marked about each island,and camping areas,boat launches,etc. I loaned it out and never got it back. The Susquehanna water trails map is available from Shanksmare outfitters at Long Level below Wrightsville 6 miles south on the York Co. side. Do a search on Susquehanna islands and you may find something there too.

Link where to get water trail maps.



Island camping
I see kayakers and canoeist camping on the smaller islands quite often. Mostly the upper islands (closer to bridge). Not sure if it is “legal” or not but seems people have been primitive camping on those islands for years. My brother and girlfriend camped there just 2 weeks ago and had a great time. I would avoid the islands with cottages though and make sure you have a ramp sticker if launching at the muddy creek ramp as they do check occasionally and will fine you. Also be careful of the currents(dam releases) up near the bridge as you may already know.

Camping with Permission
You summarized the situation well. I also have seen people camping there. I am attempting to find out how to go about camping there with permission. Who do I contact? What rules or regulations are in place etc.


Pa Fish & Boat to ask. That is their waters they should know. Various power companies lease some of the islands for power transmission towers. I believe the are enforceable off limits just for safety concerns of the high electrical current. Then I would contact Excelon Power below the Holtwood Dam,and Pa Power & Light above Holtwood. Also the Susquehanna water trails web site. They are the ones that created the map with camping areas,boat launches & such shown,so they may be able to steer you to the right place to ask permission.