Deep Creek Lake History

Deep Creek Lake was developed as an electricity project in the early 1920's.

Deep Creek Lake History

As your boat skims across the rippled blue waters, it is difficult to imagine that the vacation paradise we know as modern-day Deep Creek Lake was once occupied by rolling hills peppered with farms, roads, schools, and private residences. Over eighty years ago, the idea was conceived to harness the water powers of the Youghiogheny (pronounced “yock-a-gain-ee” or locally referred to as the “yock”) River, Maryland’s only designated “wild” river and Deep Creek, a tranquil stream situated between Roman Nose Ridge and Marsh Hill Ridge, for the production of electricity.

1908 - Planning Begins

Planning began as early as 1908 but early attempts fell through. In 1921 the Youghiogheny Hydro-Electric Corporation was granted the right to construct dams across Deep Creek and the Youghiogheny River, a subsidiary of the Pennsylvania Electric Corporation (PENELEC).

Preliminary surveys were conducted in 1922 to determine the water power possibilities by measuring the running levels of the Youghiogheny River and establishing gauging stations to determine the amount of water flow. The concept that resulted from these surveys proposed the construction of four dams and three powerhouses. One of the dams would be located near the confluence of Deep Creek and the Yough, another in the Yough north of Deep Creek, and 2 dams south of the Deep Creek project. Because it would be financially self-sufficient, feasibility studies showed that the Deep Creek dam and powerhouse should be completed first. In the end, it was the only dam from the original concept to be constructed.

1923 - Land Acquisition & Construction

As the project began in November of 1923, the first step was the acquisition of land. The Eastern Land Corporation was licensed by the state to handle real estate transactions. The price per acre ranged from $5.00 to $2,500, with an average cost of about $55.00. Entire farms were purchased even when just a portion of the land would be flooded. Many farms were purchased not because they would be flooded but because the roads leading to them would be cut off by the rising water. In total, about 140 farms were purchased to make up the 8,000 acres acquired for the project, with only 4500 acres actually inundated. When possible, buildings were moved to higher ground including private homes and 2 schoolhouses.

The dam and powerhouse were built by Mr. Charles Hawley & Company, Inc., of Washington, DC. The 1,000 men employed for the purpose of construction were housed in 2 large buildings close to the location of what is now Red Run Condominiums. Various other projects resulted from the construction process including: connecting the B&O Railroad at Oakland and extending it to the dam and power sites, relocation of nearly 15 miles of highway, relocation of 2 steel bridges, the opening of a quarry to prepare stone for the dam and roadways.

1925 - Open for Operation

Taking almost 2 years to complete, the plant opened for operation at 4 p.m. on May 26th, 1925. Today, the earth and rock fill dam remains much as it was then. It is about 1,340 feet long and crosses Deep Creek about 1.75 miles upstream from it’s confluence with the Yough. Water from the lake is transported to the powerhouse through a 7,000-foot power tunnel. The brick powerhouse is capable of producing about 18 megawatts of electric power with its 2 Francis-type turbines and 2 generators. Both of the original steel bridges have been replaced with more modern concrete structures.

Early Recreation & Tourism at Deep Creek Lake

Tourism was not always the booming industry that it is today. Initially, local residents enjoyed the recreational opportunities the lake provided. During the winter, the vast expanse of flat frozen ice that covered the lake inspired the imagination of residents accustomed to mountainous terrain. Ice boats, and even an ice plane, were built by local mechanics who couldn’t stop thinking “What if …..” As word spread about the fishing and boating opportunities during the 1950s and 60s, the area saw more visitors from Pittsburgh, and Deep Creek Lake cabins started popping up around the shoreline. In the 1980s, with the opening of Interstate highways from the East, an increased number of visitors came from the Baltimore/Washington population centers.

Deep Creek Lake Today

Today, the lake is owned by the state of Maryland and managed by the Department of Natural Resources. Holding the title of Maryland’s largest freshwater lake, it is 13 miles long with 65 miles of shoreline and covers about 3,900 acres. With an average depth of about 25 feet, the maximum depth reaches about 75 feet near the breast area of the dam.  

Traditional lake activities are always in style and summer at the lake means boating, swimming, fishing, water skiing, and paddle boarding.  During the spring and fall months, seven state parks are favorite spots for hiking and biking surrounded by beautiful fall foliage.  

Deep Creek Lake activities also include a wide variety of recently added options that range from mild to wild throughout every season.

    More than just a winter destination, Wisp Resort has expanded its warm weather recreation opportunities to include zip lines, mountain biking, a mountain coaster, disc golf, pontoon boat tours, kayak and paddleboard rentals, and much more.  In the summer, their free concert series is a favorite way to enjoy an evening of entertainment at the start. 

    Four area courses are available to golf enthusiasts that visit Deep Creek.  At Wisp, Fantasy Valley and Lodestone provide scenic fairways and challenging greens.  At the southern end of the lake, you can play 9 holes at Thousand Acres Golf Club where the remaining 9 holes are still under construction.  The Oakland Golf Club is a local favorite for those looking to hit the links.

    Atop Marsh Mountain, you’ll find the Adventure Sports Center International (ASCI) where guides lead whitewater rafting tours on the manmade, recirculating “river”.  ASCI also includes the Fork Run Recreation Area where you can access rock climbing cliffs or enjoy backcountry hiking and biking.

    Vacation rental homes, cottages, and condos are popular lodging options for vacationers.  With sizes ranging from 1-9 bedrooms, families large and small can gather together to make memories and share experiences.  Deep Creek cabins are brimming with amenities that include everything from private pools and hot tubs to outdoor fire pits and stunning views.

    Without a doubt, our area is truly special and offers a desirable lifestyle.  It's no surprise that Deep Creek Lake real estate is sought after by those seeking the "lake life".  Visitors who fall in love with the area can match their best-loved activities with the property they purchase, creating the ultimate getaway.