Deep Creek Lake, v4.0

The current version of Deep Creek Lake isn’t the first, second or even third time a dam has been planned or built on or around Deep Creek.  Almost as soon as permanent settlers lived around it, Deep Creek and the area around it have been of interest to those who wanted to capture and use its waters for a variety of purposes.  One proposed plan to dam Deep Creek and two actual dams (one on Deep Creek and one on Cherry Creek) have been found in our research. 

In 1824, James Shriver, a leading civil engineer and proponent of expansion of the C&O Canal, published the rather verbosely titled “An account of surveys and examinations, with remarks and documents: relative to the projected Chesapeake and Ohio and Ohio and Lake Erie Canals “. In it, he lays out a speculative route for the continuation of the C&O Canal to connect the Potomac and Cheat Rivers by cutting through western Allegany (now Garrett) County.  To provide adequate draft for the barges and flood water for the locks, he proposes damming Deep Creek around the site of the current US Route 219 bridge. The plan also called for a tunnel under Backbone Mountain to connect this new waterway with the Potomac around Westernport.  His cost estimate for the entire project to connect Cumberland to Pittsburgh was $5,566,564.

The massive cost and burgeoning railroad industry prevented the development of the C&O Canal past Cumberland, but the rigorous work that Shriver did to plan his route remains an excellent resource of historical data on the area, including a detailed map of the region through which the planned canal would traverse. The text of his report describes some intriguing details of the area including trees of up to 12 feet in girth and a rock formation the locals had named “the Devil’s Castle”. In the detail of his map below, the green shaded area shows the proposed lake from damming Deep Creek around the current 219 bridge and captures the current shoreline of the southern end of the lake remarkably well.

You can view and download the fully digitized map here:
and read the scanned publication here:

Two more actual dams were built on Deep Creek and Cherry Creek in the late 1800’s as aquaculture projects.  The first was on Cherry Creek around 1883 and was the project of Gus W. Delawder, Commissioner of Fisheries for Western Maryland at the time. He named the new body of water Lake Cleveland in honor of President Cleveland who visited it and spent the day fishing there. The second dam was overseen by R. T. Browning, the grandson of the famous Garrett County frontiersman and hunter Meshach Browning and was completed in 1893, at the site of present Glendale Bridge.  This body of water was named Lake Brown after Maryland Governor Frank Brown (1892 -1896).

Local historian Champ Zumbrun has written a great, more detailed article on the history of these lakes that can be found here:

Although we have not been able to track down any maps of the exact extent of Lake Cleveland, the detail of a 1901 topographical map from the USGS shows Lake Brown quite clearly, with the dam almost exactly where the current Glendale Bridge is today.

In 1925, the dam was completed by the Youghiogheny Hydro-Electric Company on Deep Creek and the lake we know and love today began to fill. There were plans for three more dams, not on Deep Creek, but along the Youghiogheny River. The map below (with North pointed to the left) shows those three dams (and resulting lakes). For a variety of reasons, this scheme never came through. For more information on the lakes that may have been, check out Chris Preperato’s excellent article here:

So, for better or worse, Deep Creek Lake is what we’ve got. It’s exceedingly unlikely that any new major dam projects will happen in this area.

Published by Narrows Hill

Explore and connect with where you live. Some mapping, history and community service organization stuff related to Garrett County, Deep Creek Lake and the surrounding area. I'm Chris - welcome to my online attic!

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