Deep Creek Lake is a popular getaway region in the forested mountains of Western Maryland, centered around the large man-made lake of the same name. In addition to the lake and all of its recreational opportunities, the main attractions are the ski slopes at Wisp.
It's hard to get to Deep Creek without a car, and once you get here, you'll want to have one to be able to get around and explore the area.
I-68 is the main highway in the area, passing by east-west to the north of the lake. Depending on what part of the lake you are going to, it should take about 15–30 minutes to get from highway exit 14A for the Garrett Hwy (US-219). At that same exit, the northbound route along US-40 goes straight to downtown Pittsburgh. US-219 is also the main route heading south into the West Virginia panhandle.
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 at 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.
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 power houses. 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.
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 the 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 school houses.
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 Lodge. 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.
Taking almost 2 years to complete, the plant opened for operation at 4PM May 26th, 1925. Eighty years later, 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 its 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.
As word spread about the fishing and boating opportunities during the 1950s and 1960s, the area saw more visitors from Pittsburgh. In the 1980s, with the opening of Interstate highways from the East, an increased number of visitors came from the Baltimore/Washington population centers.
Today Deep Creek 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, maximum depth reaches about 75 feet near the breast area of the dam. A fortunate by-product of man's need to generate power, the resulting natural beauty of Deep Creek Lake cannot be denied. (Written by Mountain Lake Quarterly)
- 1 [formerly dead link] Deep Creek Lake Discovery Center, 898 State Park Rd, Swanton, ☏ . 10AM-5PM daily in the summer, irregular hours off-season. The Deep Creek Lake State Park's visitor center has a bunch of very kid-friendly hands-on exhibits, and offers free staff-led hikes and walks throughout the park. The gift shop is also worth a visit if you are looking for some souvenirs.
- 1 Wisp Golf, 296 Marsh Hill Road, McHenry MD 21541, ☏ . Golfstyles Magazine named the Wisp Resort Golf Course one of the "100 Must-Play Courses of the Mid-Atlantic." Designed around the natural contours at the base of Wisp ski slopes, with breathtaking views of the mountains, this 6,700 yard, par 71 championship course ebbs and flows along tree-lined fairways, and past strategically placed bunkers and water hazards. The multiple tees make it enjoyable and challenging for all players. Discover their new par-3 18-hole and ask about their new Short Game Learning Center.
- Oakland Country Club, 433 N Bradley Ln, Oakland, MD 21550, ☏ . One of Maryland's "former best kept secrets" is just minutes away from Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. The Golf Club offers 18 holes of championship golf spanning 6417 yards of beautiful scenery and rolling terrain. Oakland is host to the annual Western Maryland Amateur Championship, which brings amateurs from all over the country to test their skills. Although Oakland can be challenging for the low-handicapper, it is also enjoyable for golfers of all skill levels, including beginners, juniors and families. Under the direction of course superintendent, Rob Speicher and his staff, Oakland's greens are considered by many to among the best in the Tri-State area
- 2 Adventure Sport Center International, 250 Adventure Sports Way, McHenry MD 21550, ☏ . The Adventure Sport Center International whitewater course is flowing once again! Without missing a beat from the wild action of last season, the pumps roared into action and a river came to life on the world's only mountaintop whitewater course.
- 3 The Fun Zone, 75 Fort Drive, McHenry, MD 21541, ☏ . Restaurant and Funzone! We're more than great food and family entertainment! Smiley's is the place that makes fond family memories
- All Eco tours, Friendsville, MD 21531, ☏ , toll-free: . Garrett Counties Original Land and Water Eco-Adventure Company. Tours and outdoor activities take place throughout the state parks and forests. All natural, all ages, all fun! Custom programs and tours for groups along with regularly scheduled eco-adventures. Toddler program, yoga, farm tours, and more.
- Pleasant Valley Dreamrides Horse and Carriage Rides & Services, 1689 Pleasant Valley Road, Oakland MD 21550, ☏ . The picturesque area known as Pleasant Valley is the backdrop for your horse drawn tour of the Miller Family Farm. Take a winter sleigh ride or a horse drawn carriage ride and enjoy the pastoral mountain beauty of this Amish community. Tour the agricultural facilities and learn about daily life on an Amish dairy farm. Educational hands-on experiences are included. Be sure to ask Ray about the name of his farm, Duntrussen Holstein LLC
- Western Trail, 4009 Mayhew Inn Road, ☏ . Western Trails has trail riding, lessons, hand led pony rides and group hay rides. There is a large variety of horses including Appaloosas, paints, quarter horses, Belgium's, pintos as well as draft horses. While on the trail you may see whitetail deer or wild turkey. The open fields and undeveloped mountain side offer views of Deep Creek Lake. The one hour trail ride is 4 miles long and the terrain varies from open fields to a wooded mountain side with an old apple orchard.
- 1 Archie's Barbecue, 25259 Garrett Hwy, McHenry, MD 21541, ☏ . Barbecue.
- 2 Brenda's Pizzeria, 21311 Garrett Highway, Oakland MD 21520, ☏ . Casual restaurant for pizza.
- Cornish Manor, 830 Memorial Drive, Oakland MD 21550, ☏ (phone). Built in 1868, Cornish Manor is a restaurant that truly represents the history, charm, and legendary hospitality of Garrett County. It welcomes guests with its classic elegance and unique mix of Victorian and modern decor. Enjoy dining on the charming covered porch, watch the big game on the flat screen TV in the lounge or reserve one of the upstairs rooms for a special event. Jacques Hourtal, chef-owner, came to the area from Atlanta, GA, where he operated three popular restaurants.
- 3 Pine Lodge Steak House, 1520 Deep Creek Drive, McHenry MD 21541, ☏ . Pine Lodge Steakhouse offers freshly prepared food in a casual and relaxed atmosphere. In this majestic rustic log lodge, Executive Chef Adam Murray and his staff serve only the finest cuts of beef, as well as, elk, trout, cold-water lobster, duck, crab cakes and more.
- 4 DC's Steak House, 296 Marsh Hill Road, McHenry MD 21541, ☏ . At Wisp Resort.
- 5 Lakeside Creamery, 20282 Garrett Highway, Oakland, MD 21550, ☏ . Families who vacation and live in the Deep Creek Lake area have made Lakeside Creamery a favorite destination for over 14 years. It's no wonder. This old-fashioned ice cream parlor on the shores of Deep Creek Lake features exceptional premium homemade ice cream from recipes that have been tested over and over until perfected.
The most popular lodging option at Deep Creek is to rent a house or a cabin, but there are plenty of hotels and bed and breakfasts as well.
- Streams and Dreams Retreat, 8214 Oakland Sang Run Rd, Oakland, MD 21550, ☏ . Located slightly outside the heart of Deep Creek, near the Youghiogheny River. The "Streams and Dreams Bed and Breakfast" (for adults) is cozy, and has great breakfasts—ask about the omelets and pancakes. The "Brookside Cottage" is large enough to comfortably house families with children as well as larger groups (up to 20 people). The retreat has hiking trails, a stream and small waterfall, and a fish pond stocked with trout. The owners are lovely people who are knowledgeable about the area, fly-fishing, and nature in general; you can receive fly-fishing lessons from one of the best (lessons can be made by appointment and you do not need to stay at the retreat). There are also activities such as ice-fishing in the winter, all for a very reasonable price.
- Taylor-Made Deep Creek Vacations, 1550 Deep Creek Dr, McHenry, toll-free: . Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 10AM. The newest vacation rental company in Deep Creek Lake offers anything from lake front to ski in and ski out chalets and town homes. Summer weekends: $200-2200, weeks: $600-5000; off-season weekends: $200-1600, weeks: $600-3200.
- Long and Foster - Deep Creek Lake Rentals, 23789 Garrett Highway, McHenry, MD 21541, toll-free: . From lakefront cabins to ski-in/ski-out townhomes, Long and Foster offers the full array of rentals for your romantic or family vacation to Deep Creek.
- Swallow Falls State Park is a great day trip about 25 minutes west of Deep Creek Lake, with lots of good hikes and waterfalls—a favorite of Thomas Edison's.
- Morgantown to the west and Cumberland to the east are both charming towns worth a visit, and are both just under one hour's drive.
- If you want to get back into the city, Pittsburgh is a relatively easy day trip, as it only takes about two hours to get to its downtown from Deep Creek.