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Before the Dam – Life in the Glades before Deep Creek Lake

Originally published by Chris Nichols of Deep Creek POA.

Deep Creek Lake has been such a fixture in Garrett County for so long, it’s tough to think about the time when it wasn’t there, but it used to be that there was just Deep Creek flowing through “The Glades” (the central part of the county) until 1925 when it was dammed to create the lake we know today. But there is a rich history of the area pre-1925 including two earlier dams on Deep Creek, a rock formation known as the “Devil’s Castle” and that the Glades was a vacation hotspot back in the early 1800’s. We’ll dive deep into the history of Deep Creek before the dam.

It’s unclear who first named Deep Creek and when that was, but it was indeed deep, about three to four feet for most of its course, which is unusual for streams in the area. From its origin around Sand Flat Rd to where today’s 219 bridge is, the banks were grassy and marshy. This area, especially the area between today’s bridges, was subject to flooding during heavy rains and snowmelts, creating an intermittent lake. As the creek passed the area of the 219 bridge, its course became more rocky with a thick coverage of mountain laurel and rhododendrons until it met the Youghiogheny River.

The first written mention of Deep Creek I have found is from one of the McHenry family letters dated 1818. Colonel James McHenry, the namesake of both the fort in Baltimore and the local town, was a prominent early inhabitant of the Glades. He was a physician, aide to General Washington during the Revolutionary War, and Secretary of War under two administrations. When he retired from public service, he established a seasonal lodge generally where today’s Lake Pointe Inn is today. Colonel McHenry wrote of the Glades in 1812 in one of his letters to a colleague:

“I like this country, its salubrious air, its mild summers, its interesting views made up of hills, woods, glades, streams, and mountains; above all, it delights me as affording me at my time of life, a salutary retirement from the busy world and its cares. I do not feel, therefore, dispossessed to wander further or to quit it in a hurry. Indeed, did it quadrate with the interest of the whole of my family to fix here, I should never move from the spot I am now.”

Col. McHenry’s nephew John McHenry, a lawyer, inherited the homestead there and was a full-time resident until he died in 1856. He also seemed to appreciate the special appeal of the Glades and the Deep Creek area, eschewing a more profitable career as a lawyer in Baltimore to the quiet country life. Several of his letters discuss the incredible trout fishing in Deep Creek, noting that visitors from Virginia caught more than 700 trout during an outing. John was also host to a number of other visitors to the area who shared their favorable impressions of the Glades.

James Shriver was one of these visitors. He was an engineer with the C&O Canal Company, and around 1823, he was commissioned to write a report on extending the C&O Canal past Cumberland to eventually connect with the Ohio River. Unfortunately for Mr. Shriver and the backers of the C&O Canal, the railroads superseded transport via canal and the plan never moved forward. But Shriver did a meticulous study of what it would take to get this canal past Cumberland, including a two-week visit to the Glades and John McHenry’s home to get on-the-ground data on this possible route. His final report included a very detailed map, with the proposed canal route to include a dam on Deep Creek to create a navigable lake generally from Crab Tree Creek to the Youghiogheny (getting from the Potomac River to Crab Tree would have required a tunnel under Backbone Mountain!).

Below is a detail of Shriver’s map from the 1824 report. The course of Deep Creek is highlighted in yellow and the main roads in black. Several interesting landmarks are also called out including the McHenry home, the only bridge over Deep Creek at the time, the Narrows (site of the current Glendale Bridge), and the Falls of Deep Creek. The green shading indicates the area that Shriver speculated would be flooded if the proposed dam were constructed.

Before the Dam - Life in the Glades before Deep Creek Lake (Detail of Shriver's Map)

In the text of his report, Shriver discusses the course and flow of Deep Creek, noting its unusual width and depth, the seasonal inundation of the creek during heavy rains, and an interesting phenomenon near McHenry’s named Boiling Spring that is now under McHenry Cove. He also details a remarkable rock formation near the Falls of Deep Creek that locals had named “The Devil’s Castle,” so named because the towering cliff seemed to be ready to fall on the viewer at any moment. It seems likely that these formations may still be in existence, although the flow of water of Deep Creek has been substantially diverted through the powerplant now and permission to access the area is unclear. However, the Falls of Deep Creek were documented in a 1909 postcard, reproduced below.

Another visitor to the Glades in the early 1820s was a hunting enthusiast named F.G. Skinner, who traveled the world and the US publishing his stories in a New York-based magazine. His visit to this area is preserved in a collection of his stories, Reminiscences of an Old Sportsman. Skinner was visiting a Scotsman named Campbell who was living in the Glades at the time (his home is noted on Shriver’s map as well). Skinner has one of the best descriptions of what Deep Creek looked like, in the context of duck hunting:

“Deep Creek runs sluggishly between steep banks, varying from three to five feet in height, and in the absence of these elevated banks there is a tall growth of wild grass, so that the fowler can approach the stream anywhere perfectly masked from the vigilant ducks until within half range of No. 6 shot…”
Skinner was also apparently an early “foodie,” waxing rhapsodically about a meal he had at John McHenry’s, saying “I here do most positively assert that never anywhere at any time have I eaten anything to compare with those fat flaky salmon-colored Deep Creek trout…” Skinner rounded out his trip with several successful hunting expeditions of the larger game and was amazed at the abundance of deer and bear.

Meshach Browning was another hunter in the area who had an appreciation of the large populations of wildlife in the area. He was also a settler of the Glades during the early 1800s and “neighbor” to Campbell and McHenry, though by several miles. Browning wrote the book Forty-four Years of the Life of a Hunter which details many of his hunting tales but also provides a rich description of what life in the Glades and what would become Garrett County was like in the early 1800s. He and his wife Mary had several homesteads throughout the area, one of which is generally around the site of the current McHenry Community Park. Many of Browning’s hunting tales take place around Deep Creek, including a story of him “spotlight” hunting deer with a shuttered candle lantern from a canoe on Deep Creek at night. The trip was cut short by a bear who jumped out of the grassy banks, capsizing Browning, but not before he got off a shot into the bear which was later tracked down and harvested.
While some of Browning’s hunting tales may strain credibility, his appreciation of the natural beauty of the area rings true in his description of the area that would become Deep Creek Lake:

“My mind cannot imagine a more beautiful sight than could be obtained from the highest grounds of the Hoop-Pole Ridge, which commanded a view of the valley between that and the great Back-Bone . . . It was a grand sight to watch the tall grass, rolling in beautiful waves with every breeze that passed over its smooth surface, as well as the herds of deer skipping and playing with each other”

Before the Dam - Life in the Glades before Deep Creek Lake

After this flurry of coverage of the Glades from the McHenry’s, Shriver, Skinner, and Browning in the 1820s, the area seemed to go quiet until the 1870s when state and national levels of interest grew in protecting natural fisheries.
Part 2 of this article will cover the two dams that were built on Deep Creek before the current one and what kind of activity was going on here right before the dam was built. For more detail on Part 1 (and the rest of the story if you just can’t wait) visit https://dimesy.com/2024/03/09/before-the-dam-life-in-the-glades-before-deep-creek-lake/ for high-resolution maps and images and links to all of the sources for this article.

About the author: Chris Nichols is a Garrett County native, now living in the log cabin his grandparents built on Narrows Hill in the 1930s. He is a real estate agent with Taylor Made Deep Creek Sales and is active in the community, currently serving as the Treasurer for the Deep Creek Lake Lions, VP for Membership for the Property Owners’ Association of Deep Creek Lake, and Board Member for the Garrett County Historical Society.

Garrett College Launches Five Tailored Programs to Meet Diverse Student Needs

Garrett College is proud to announce the approval of five innovative programs, each meticulously crafted to cater to specific segments of the student population. With a focus on flexibility, career readiness, and addressing industry demands, these programs promise to redefine educational opportunities for learners of all backgrounds.

Starting from the upcoming fall semester, Garrett College will roll out an array of offerings, ranging from retooled degrees to specialized certificates, ensuring that every student finds their path to success.

1. Professional & Technical Studies Degree:

  • The revamped Professional & Technical Studies degree, now more flexible and inclusive, targets individuals with existing licensure or certifications, as well as working professionals keen on advancing their careers.
  • Julie Yoder, the dean of continuing education and workforce development at Garrett College, highlights the program’s adaptability, allowing students to tailor their technical coursework to align with their career aspirations.

2. Health & Exercise Science Degree:

  • The Health & Exercise Science degree equips students with a comprehensive understanding of health and fitness principles, preparing them for a variety of careers in the thriving health industry.
  • Christa Bowser, GC’s chief academic officer, emphasizes the program’s relevance in today’s competitive market, offering students a solid foundation in anatomy, physiology, and exercise science.

3. Addictions Counseling Certificate:

  • Tailored for credentialled professionals seeking specialization, the Addictions Counseling Certificate addresses the specific requirements for Certified Supervised Counselor-Alcohol and Drug (CSC-AD) certification.
  • Christa Bowser underscores the certificate’s significance, particularly for individuals aiming to pursue licensure and certification with the Maryland Board of Professional Counselors and Therapists.

4. Health Science Certificate:

  • The Health Science Certificate provides students with an academic groundwork essential for further studies or a career transition into specialized health programs.
  • Christa Bowser highlights the certificate’s role in facilitating seamless transitions for students pursuing advanced studies in health-related fields.

5. Engineering, Robotics & Technology Certificate:

  • Exclusive to Garrett County Public Schools (GCPS) students, the Engineering, Robotics & Technology Certificate offers a hands-on learning experience, preparing students for the dynamic field of engineering and technology.
  • This initiative demonstrates Garrett College’s commitment to fostering partnerships with local institutions and nurturing the next generation of engineering talent.

As Garrett College embraces this exciting chapter of expansion and innovation, prospective students are encouraged to explore these diverse offerings and embark on a journey of academic and professional growth. For more information on these programs and how to enroll, visit the Garrett College website.

Garrett College continues to be a beacon of educational excellence, dedicated to empowering students and serving the evolving needs of the community.

Visit Garrett College Website

Taylor-Made Deep Creek Sales Celebrates 10th Anniversary

In 2014, Jodi Taylor Refosco, her husband, Joe Refosco, and her brother, Chad Taylor, were the owners of Deep Creek Lake’s most successful vacation rental management company. Their knowledge of the resort market and desire to expand made real estate the logical next step. In April of that year, that vision came to fruition through a partnership with Jay Ferguson, a local, top-producing sales agent. With his leadership, they were able to attract experienced agents from around the area. Soon after, Betsy Spiker Holcomb, also a leading sales agent, signed on as a co-owner of the real estate company. The team quickly expanded when Taylor-Made bought a local brokerage in 2016. Many of the agents were happy to make the transition to this reputable company.

The Taylor-Made team includes more than two dozen sales agents led by Broker and Sales Manager, Terah Crawford, along with in-house marketing, media, and administrative staff. The experienced group of agents has spent decades serving the Deep Creek Lake area. Innovation, technology, and expertise have made them stand out as the hometown real estate team you can trust.

“Not only are we proud of how our company has grown, but we are also honored to serve our clients and the community,” said Chad Taylor, Owner.

Recently, Taylor-Made expanded into neighboring Pennsylvania counties and West Virginia where they focus on areas including Morgantown, Canaan Valley, and Snowshoe.

Commitment to community is at the core of the company’s culture. Individuals volunteer with a variety of originations, and the company supports numerous non-profits and local events.

The entire team looks forward to another decade as a valued real estate partner for buyers and sellers in Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

About Taylor-Made Deep Creek Sales

Taylor-Made Deep Creek Sales is a leader in Deep Creek Lake and Garrett County real estate services. The area is a popular vacation destination conveniently located within a few hours drive from Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Washington, DC.

JUST SOLD- 601 East Oak St, Oakland MD

3/4BR, 2.5 BA two-story home has been lovingly renovated & modernized inside and out! Vinyl siding & metal roof, high-end finishes in bathrooms & hardware upgrades. Recently added 100 amp electrical service, hot water tank, and wall heater in garage. Multiple living areas to entertain guests & eat-in kitchen with custom cabinets & potential breakfast nook. Original craftsman style woodworking & trim. Walking distance to most town amenities. 1 car att. garage. Wraparound porch (covered in front), back deck. Mature trees, corner lot.

Navigating Data Discrepancies: Understanding the Deep Creek Lake Bill Debate

In the tranquil expanse of Garrett County’s Deep Creek Lake, a bill aimed at regulating water levels has sparked a contentious debate, highlighting discrepancies in data measurements and raising concerns among stakeholders. Senate Bill 837, proposed by Sen. Mike McKay, seeks to periodically lower the lake’s water levels to facilitate environmental studies and enhance recreational opportunities. However, the bill’s reliance on different data than that used by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has ignited opposition and calls for clarification.

Understanding the Discrepancies: At the heart of the issue lies the utilization of distinct vertical datums – the North American Vertical Datum of 1988 (NAVD88) referenced in SB 837 and the Historical Spillway Datum 2462 employed by MDE for permitting purposes. This discrepancy, amounting to approximately 1.82 feet, has significant implications for water level management and regulatory compliance.

The Implications for Stakeholders: For Brookfield Renewable US, the company responsible for operating the lake’s dam to generate electricity, SB 837 poses operational challenges that could disrupt regular dam releases and impact summer whitewater rafting businesses. Furthermore, the bill’s potential to lower lake levels significantly raises concerns among local officials and residents in nearby Friendsville. Jess Whittemore, a resident and former councilman, emphasizes the adverse effects such a reduction could have on the town’s economy and recreational activities.

Addressing Concerns and Seeking Solutions: As the debate intensifies, stakeholders advocate for inclusive dialogue and comprehensive assessments of the bill’s impact. John Bambacus, a former state senator, underscores the need for alignment between legislative proposals and regulatory standards set by MDE. He highlights the importance of public engagement in the legislative process to prevent oversights and ensure informed decision-making.

In response to concerns raised, Sen. McKay has introduced amendments to SB 837, adjusting the proposed water level requirements to align more closely with MDE’s standards. The amended bill aims to strike a balance between environmental stewardship and economic considerations, acknowledging the diverse interests at play.

As SB 837 navigates through the legislative process, stakeholders await further deliberations and seek clarity on the bill’s implications. Delegate Marc Korman’s acknowledgment of the significant public interest underscores the importance of transparent governance and robust public engagement in shaping policies that impact local communities.

Local Farmers Markets around Garrett County to visit this summer

  1. Oakland Farmers Market: Located in the heart of downtown Oakland, the Oakland Farmers Market is a beloved community gathering spot. Open seasonally from May to October, this market features a variety of vendors offering fresh fruits and vegetables, artisanal cheeses, baked goods, crafts, and more. Live music and special events add to the festive atmosphere.
  2. Mountain Fresh Farmers Market: The Mountain Fresh Farmers Market operates at multiple locations throughout Garrett County, including Oakland, Grantsville, and Accident. This expansive market showcases the bounty of the region, with a wide selection of locally grown produce, meats, dairy products, honey, flowers, and handmade crafts. Visitors can interact with farmers and artisans, learn about sustainable agriculture, and enjoy a true farm-to-table experience.
  3. Grantsville Farmers Market: Located in the charming town of Grantsville, the Grantsville Farmers Market offers a quaint and cozy setting for shopping for fresh, locally sourced goods. Open on Saturdays during the summer months, this market features a variety of vendors selling fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, homemade jams, baked goods, and more. Visitors can also enjoy food trucks, live music, and other entertainment.
  4. Friendsville Farmers Market: Situated along the scenic Youghiogheny River, the Friendsville Farmers Market offers a picturesque setting for shopping for farm-fresh produce and locally made products. Open on Fridays during the summer season, this market boasts a friendly and laid-back atmosphere, with vendors selling a diverse array of goods, including fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, meats, cheeses, baked goods, and artisan crafts.
  5. Accident Farmers Market: The Accident Farmers Market provides a charming and welcoming environment for visitors to browse a wide selection of locally grown and produced goods. Open on Fridays during the summer months, this market features vendors selling everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to handmade crafts and baked goods. Visitors can also enjoy live music, special events, and demonstrations showcasing the talents of local artisans and farmers.

Whether you’re a local resident or a visitor exploring Garrett County’s scenic countryside, the farmers markets offer a delightful opportunity to connect with the community, support local businesses, and savor the flavors of the region’s rich agricultural heritage. Don’t miss the chance to experience the abundance of fresh, seasonal produce and artisanal goods that Garrett County has to offer at these wonderful markets.

A Perfect Day Trip to Deep Creek Lake, Maryland: Your Ultimate Summer Adventure

With summer on the horizon, there’s no better time to plan an unforgettable day trip to Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. Nestled amid the Allegheny Mountains, this charming destination offers a plethora of outdoor activities and scenic vistas that promise to delight visitors of all ages. Whether you’re craving adventure on the water or seeking tranquility in nature, Deep Creek Lake has something for everyone. Join us as we embark on a journey through the perfect day trip itinerary, ensuring you make the most of your summer escapade.

Morning: Embrace the Great Outdoors Kickstart your day with a breath of fresh mountain air and an array of outdoor adventures.

  1. Explore the natural beauty of Deep Creek Lake by hitting the trails. Deep Creek Lake State Park boasts several picturesque hiking routes, catering to all skill levels. From leisurely strolls along the lake shore to challenging uphill treks, there’s a trail for every preference.
  2. After working up an appetite, indulge in a hearty breakfast at one of the lakefront cafes or diners like Perkins or Canoe on the Run. Savor freshly brewed coffee and mouthwatering pancakes as you soak in panoramic views of the glistening lake.

Midday: Dive into Water Sports As the sun climbs higher in the sky, it’s time to cool off with a variety of water-based activities.

  1. Rent a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard and set out to explore the tranquil waters of Deep Creek Lake. Glide along the shoreline, admiring the lush greenery and majestic mountains that frame the lake’s azure waters.
  2. Thrill-seekers can take to the water for an adrenaline-pumping session of waterskiing or wakeboarding. With expert instructors available, even beginners can master the art of gliding across the lake’s surface with ease.

Afternoon: Picnic by the Shore As lunchtime approaches, find a scenic spot along the lake shore to enjoy a leisurely picnic amidst nature’s splendor.

  1. Pack a picnic basket filled with delicious treats from local markets and bakeries such as Casselman’s bakery. Freshly baked bread, artisanal cheeses, and seasonal fruits make for the perfect lakeside feast.
  2. After lunch, unwind with some leisurely activities by the water. Lounge on a blanket, soak up the sun’s rays, or dip your toes in the refreshing waters of Deep Creek Lake.

Evening: Sunset Serenity As the day draws to a close, bask in the golden glow of a Deep Creek Lake sunset, a truly magical sight to behold.

  1. Embark on a sunset cruise aboard a pontoon boat and cruise along the lake as the sky transforms into a canvas of vibrant hues. Sip on your favorite beverage and savor the serenity of the moment.
  2. Conclude your day trip with a delicious dinner at one of the lakefront restaurants, whether it’s Aces Run, UNOs or Firewater Kitchen & Bar, where you can feast on fresh seafood and regional specialties while enjoying panoramic views of the lake and surrounding mountains.

Bill to lower Deep Creek Lake heads to House

Deep Creek Lake, nestled in the heart of Maryland, has long been a focal point for recreation, tourism, and environmental stewardship. However, a recent proposal has stirred up significant debate and concern among stakeholders. Senate Bill 837, slated for a hearing in the Maryland House, seeks to lower Deep Creek Lake periodically over a four-year period during winter months. The aim? To study the impacts of reduced water levels on aquatic vegetation and sedimentation.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mike McKay, emphasizes the importance of managing nuisance aquatic vegetation and excess sediment, citing them as key goals outlined in the 2016 Deep Creek Watershed Management Plan. Proponents of the bill argue that lowering the lake levels during colder months could naturally “burn out” problem vegetation without resorting to chemical treatments. They also suggest potential benefits such as improved recreational activities like swimming and easier boat access to the lake’s coves.

However, opposition to the bill is robust, particularly from stakeholders like Brookfield Renewable US, which operates the dam at Deep Creek Lake. Prusha Hasan, the manager of state policy at Brookfield, raises concerns about the potential negative impacts on their operations, including carbon-free power generation, local tax revenues, and recreational opportunities. Dustin Droege, Brookfield’s Director of Operations, further warns that the bill could disrupt downstream uses of the water with little positive impact on the lake itself.

Local voices also weigh in on the matter. Friendsville Mayor Spencer Schlosnagle highlights the importance of whitewater releases for his town’s economy, urging legislators to vote against the bill. Jess Whittemore, a resident and former councilman of Friendsville, expresses skepticism about the bill’s motivations, suggesting that it circumvents proper channels of oversight.

The debate surrounding Senate Bill 837 underscores the complex interplay between environmental conservation, economic interests, and community well-being. As Maryland lawmakers prepare to weigh the merits and drawbacks of the proposed legislation, the future of Deep Creek Lake hangs in the balance.

In conclusion, the fate of Deep Creek Lake rests on the outcome of this legislative battle. Whether the bill passes or not, one thing remains clear: finding a balance between environmental preservation and economic vitality is no easy task, but it’s one that must be tackled with careful consideration and collaboration among all stakeholders involved.

State Parks to Visit in Maryland and Pennsylvania this Spring

As spring ushers in warmer weather and sunnier days, outdoor enthusiasts are gearing up for adventures in nature. Whether you’re an avid hiker, cyclist, or kayaker, there’s no shortage of breathtaking landscapes to explore. If you’re looking for the perfect day trip destination, consider visiting some of the stunning state parks in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Here are a few gems worth adding to your outdoor itinerary:

1. Swallow Falls State Park, MD

Located in Garrett County, Maryland, Swallow Falls State Park offers a picturesque escape into nature. As you make your way through the scenic Allegheny Mountains, you’ll be greeted by towering windmills and the pristine waters of Deep Creek Lake. The park entrance may require a nominal fee, but the experience is well worth it.

The highlight of Swallow Falls is undoubtedly Muddy Creek Falls, a majestic 60-foot waterfall that cascades into a tranquil pool below. While Swallow Falls itself is a charming 16-foot cascade, both waterfalls are awe-inspiring sights that shouldn’t be missed. Be sure to hike the Canyon Loop Trail, which winds its way through the park, offering stunning views of the waterfalls and ancient boulders.

After exploring Swallow Falls, consider extending your adventure by visiting nearby attractions like Deep Creek Lake or New Germany State Park. With its abundance of hiking trails and natural beauty, Garrett County is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.

2. Cunningham Falls State Park, MD

Cunningham Falls State Park beckons with its towering cascades and scenic trails. The crown jewel of the park is Cunningham Falls, the tallest cascading waterfall in Maryland, standing at an impressive 78 feet. The best time to visit is after a heavy rain shower when the falls are at their most majestic.

For a memorable hike, trek along the lower trail to Cunningham Falls, which offers stunning views of the waterfall up close. You can also explore the cliff trail for a different perspective before looping back. With trails suitable for all skill levels, Cunningham Falls State Park is the perfect destination for a day of outdoor exploration.

3. Pine Grove Furnace State Park, PA

Pine Grove Furnace State Park offers a blend of history and natural beauty. Take a leisurely stroll along the Koppenhaver Trail, which meanders through the tranquil Pennsylvania woods, offering glimpses of a babbling stream along the way. This moderate loop trail spans approximately 1.6 miles and is perfect for a relaxing hike.

For those seeking a more challenging adventure, tackle the Pole Steeple Trail, which rewards hikers with sweeping views at the summit. Alternatively, explore Camp Michaux, an abandoned World War II POW camp that offers a fascinating glimpse into history.

Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned hiker, Pine Grove Furnace State Park has something for everyone. With its diverse trails and rich history, it’s the perfect destination for a day of exploration.

Plan Your Outdoor Adventure Today

With spring in full swing, now is the perfect time to embark on an outdoor adventure. Whether you’re chasing waterfalls, exploring historic sites, or simply soaking in the natural beauty, the state parks of Maryland and Pennsylvania offer endless opportunities for exploration. So lace up your hiking boots, pack a picnic, and get ready to experience the great outdoors like never before. Happy exploring!