Environmental and Recreational Issues

Environmental and Recreational Issues

The Youghiogheny River

River Fisheries
River Water Quality
River Recreation

Deep Creek Lake

Lake Fisheries
Lake Levels
Lake Recreation


The Youghiogheny River

River Fisheries

A man wearing waders and kneeling inthe river holding out a brown trout.High water temperatures occurring in the river mainstem during summer may significantly limit trout habitat. However, Maryland Department of Natural Resources has found that during these periods of high temperature and low flow, trout seek refuge in areas affected by cooler water discharges from the Deep Creek Station, as well as in small tributary streams. Fish habitat is also affected by water flow; during dry periods, natural river flow may be too low for optimal habitat.

More than 100 species of fish have been documented in the Youghiogheny River drainage or are thought to have occurred there. Historically, the Youghiogheny River in Maryland supported excellent fisheries for brook trout and smallmouth bass. Due to their relative abundance, brown trout are currently the most important gamefish in the Youghiogheny River from the Deep Creek Station tailrace to Friendsville, MD. Optimal brown trout habitat is characterized by cool to cold water, rocky substrates providing sufficient cover, and riffle-run habitat in combination with areas of slow, deep water. Extreme water temperatures are probably the most important limiting factor to brown trout. The upper limiting temperature to brown trout is 26-27°C.

Back to Top

River Water Quality

graphgraphAnother important river issue involves water quality. During plant shutdown periods, a discharge of about 9 cubic feet per second is released at the Deep Creek Station. This flow comes from leakage through the turbines. Water enters the power tunnel from the deepest part of the lake, which is naturally lower in dissolved oxygen (DO) in late summer due to thermal stratification. Since the power tunnel may be full of this low DO water at startup, the discharge at the start of generation resembles the water quality at the bottom of the lake. DO levels in the tailrace dropped immediately after startup and historically during these times may have remained below state water quality standards of 5 parts per million (ppm), depending on DO levels in the lake.

Back to Top

River Recreation

Two guys in a canoe going over fast moving water.The Youghiogheny River is an exceptional whitewater recreation resource. A major issue with boaters is the timing and dependability of releases from the project for advance trip planning. The river draws a wide variety of people mostly from the mid-Atlantic region. Novice boaters take advantage of many rafting outfitters who take customers down the river. More experienced users run the river in their own watercraft, primarily in kayaks. While whitewater boating is probably the most well-know activity, the river corridor is also popular for fishing and supports several land-based activities such as hiking. The "Upper Yough", which runs from Sang Run to Friendsville, is the key section of the river with respect to the Deep Creek Project. Releases from the project make whitewater boating feasible when natural flows are insufficient. During dry periods, the Upper Yough may be the only whitewater resource in the area available to boaters. Whitewater boating increased dramatically from less than 50 commercial rafters in 1980 to over 3,000 in 1988; numbers since that time have remained relatively stable at about 3,000 rafters per year.

Back to Top



Deep Creek Lake

Lake Fisheries

Entrainment Study Nets below Deep Creek Station PowerhouseBecause of a deep water intake, concerns were raised during relicensing about entrainment of trout and other deep water species. Entrainment studies were conducted in the early 1990's using nets to evaluate the importance of this issue (see photograph at right).

Warm surface water conditions in summer and a deeper cool water environment create favorable conditions for both warm and cool water fish species. The fish community of Deep Creek Lake has a total of 23 fish species. The major sport species include walleye, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, northern pike, yellow perch, pumpkinseed, bluegill, rock bass, and black crappie. Additionally, Maryland Department of Natural Resources annually stocks brown trout. The major forage fish in the lake is golden shiner.

Back to Top

Lake Levels

Monthly historic Deep Creek Lake Water Levels 1970-1990 graphWater levels in Deep Creek Lake were sometimes lower than the boat ramp at Deep Creek State Park by mid-September and the rate at which the water level dropped could be as much as two feet in one month. These water level issues were of concern to lake users.

The Deep Creek dam impounds a 3,900 acre lake with a 65 square mile drainage area. Historically, the project was operated to maximize storage of spring runoff and provide for power generation year-round. This resulted in an average annual water level change of about 9 feet. Since the early 1970's, the project has been operated to provide suitable levels for lake recreation and the average water level change since that time has been about 7-8 feet.

Back to Top

Lake Recreation

Deep Creek Lake is the center of Garrett County's recreational attractions. Among the popular water-based activities are boating, fishing, swimming, water skiing and sailing. These activities can be affected by lake levels since underwater hazards may be more exposed as water levels decline. There may also be aesthetic concerns as lower water levels result in a greater area of exposed shoreline. The 3,900 acre lake offers year round recreational opportunities, but is most popular during the summer months. People are drawn to Deep Creek Lake for a number of reasons and participate in water and/or land-based recreation.

Back to Top