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Deep Creek Lake

Deep Creek Lake is Maryland's largest freshwater lake, at a size of approximately 3,900 acres at full pool (full pool is at a lake level of 2,462 ft). It was built in 1925 as a hydro-electric plant by the Pennsylvania Electric Company (Penelec). The lake came to full pool (filled) by 1928. The land that was flooded by the construction of the dam, as well as many properties surrounding the newly created lake, had been acquired by the power company (There is a map in the hallway of the Garrett County Health Department that shows some of the initial land acquisitions being contemplated.) With approximately 65 miles of shoreline it is nestled in the mountains of Garrett County, Maryland.

The Deep Creek Lake watershed is located in the center of Garrett County, just west of the Eastern Continental Divide. The watershed is a high plateau bounded by several mountains (Marsh Mountain, Meadow Mountain, Snaggy Mountain, and Roman Nose Hill) that has its single, deeply incised valley flooded by a hydroelectric dam. The county lies entirely within the Allegheny Plateau, a physiographic area which is characterized by deep forests, diverse wildlife, and rich river valleys. These natural resources combined with a close proximity to major metropolitan areas such as Pittsburgh, Washington, and Baltimore, attract a wide variety of recreational users. Deep Creek Lake is Western Maryland's premier tourist destination.

Garrett County and Deep Creek Lake’s history are described on a separate page on this website here.

Because Deep Creek Lake is mostly groundwater fed, it has some of the best water clarity in the eastern United States. Deep Creek Lake is unique in that it lies within the Ohio River Drainage west of the eastern continental divide. Ultimately it's waters flow to the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi River.

Deep Creek Lake was created by the construction of the Deep Creek Dam located about 8 miles north of Oakland, Maryland. It consists of an earth and rock-wall dam across a tributary of the Youghiogheny River that was completed in 1925 by the Pennsylvania Electric Company. Additional details can be found here.

The lake is well-known for fishing. It supports a variety of fish habitat from steep rocky shorelines near the dam breast to silt bottomed shallow coves in the southern end. Deeper areas of the lake maintain cold water for trout year-round. Submerged stumps and the many floating docks along the shoreline provide excellent cover for both largemouth and smallmouth bass as well as bluegill and sunfish species

The Deep Creek Lake bottom, a buffer zone, and other parcels of land are now owned by the State of Maryland. It was purchased by the State from General Public Utility, Inc (GPU), Penelec's holding corporation, in 2000 for $17 million. The dam, intake, tunnel and power plant were not acquired by the State. GPU eventually sold these assets to Sithe Energy and, after several other transactions, has been in the hands of Brookfield Renewable Energies, Inc since 2005.

Jurisdiction of the lake is split between the Department of Natural Resources ​DNR​​ and the Maryland Department of the Environment ​MDE​


  1. See here for a more extensive description of the Deep Creek hydroelectric project, with historical notes at the end of the paper.