Just how long is the shoreline of Deep Creek Lake? Most sources say 64 miles, but I’ve seen “authoritative” values of 69 and 74 miles as well (two different signs at the State Park – within visual distance of each other – claim the 64 and 69 mile distances). So, I decided to do the logical thing and hike the shoreline to find out.
Everything you know is wrong. Black is white, up is down, that other political party you hate really is right, and the published length of the shoreline of Deep Creek Lake is drastically incorrect. From January 2021 to March 2022, I hiked the shoreline of Deep Creek Lake over 6 legs and tabulated the full distance of 72.2 miles which is entirely different from range published by the DNR of 65-69 miles. What else are they hiding from us? Where are all those extra miles of shoreline? Is there a secret enclave of the elite there? All will be revealed in this article.
In the 2021-2022 winter season, Brookfield Renewable, the operator of the dam, lowered the lake level to 2,455.5 ft for maintenance. There are a number of spots I wouldn’t have been able to really follow the shoreline if the water levels hadn’t been this low.
So, what have I found so far? One of the first things I have been struck by are the prevalence of bivalves (“mussels”) and mollusks (“snails”) along some of the stretches of the lake shore. I’ve never been aware that there were populations of them before, so I contacted Julie Bortz, the DNR biologist for the lake, to see if she could tell me anything about them.
The mollusks I found are Chinese or Japanese Mystery Snails and they are actually an invasive species, so the DNR is interested in keeping track of them. If you see any north of the North Glade area, be sure to let Julie know at firstname.lastname@example.org. Then be sure to pick up a few to get a fancy French appetizer for free! The bivalves were likely the Eastern Floater Mussel and they are unremarkable. But if you see any critters or plants you’re not sure about, definitely send Julie an email with a photo and she’ll check it out.
My second observation is that while there are about 15 obvious feeder streams to Deep Creek Lake, when you are walking the shoreline, especially in the southern end, especially after some rainfall, it’s clear that there are many more springs and seeps that also feed water (and sediment) into the lake. There were several muddy slogs through areas of shoreline where there was no visible running water, but there was obviously flow coming from the land. Seeing this perspective really makes the issue of sedimentation more obvious than driving around these coves in the boat.
After so many muddy areas, my wife who accompanied me on one of the legs of the trip, found a quicker way to cross Green Glade Run. I opted to go a bit further upstream where I could jump across some rocks.
For Leg 3 of my hike, I started from Turkey Neck and made it to the Glendale bridge for a total of 14.7 miles. It was late January and the lake was still frozen, which made this hike much easier than if I had to cross all of the tributaries on this stretch. One of the highlights of this portion was getting to the “headwaters” of the lake at the southernmost end. Deep Creek really wasn’t too deep at the point where it flows into the lake, so I guess it must have gotten its name further downstream. But this was a nice spot, and one that I would have probably never made it to if I had not been doing this hike.
View from the southernmost end of the lake
The rest of Leg 3 was relatively uneventful. The day started fairly clear and developed into a fairly heavy snowstorm. Luckily my end point at the Glendale bridge is less than a mile from home, so it was easy to wrap up the day.
For leg 4, from the Glendale Bridge to the northernmost point of the lake, I had a beautiful bluebird February day. The lake was still mainly frozen, and combined with the great weather, I logged 18.8 miles which is way more than I was planning. One of the highlights from this stretch was that I brought my drone along and got some cool footage of the frozen lake.
Aerial picture of the lake around stump point
For transiting the area around the dam, it was especially critical that the lake was still frozen since I wouldn’t have been able to walk that section on land. Most of the stretch of shoreline from the 219 Bridge to the dam was very quiet, but there was a lot of activity on the lake as I got closer to the Wisp and more of the houses that were rented.
I had the pleasure of participating in a round of Beer Curling being played by a group of college guys on the ice. I am looking forward to when it takes its rightful place in the Olympic pantheon.
Exhausted, but very satisfied with my progress, I ended this leg near the northernmost tip of the lake.
A few weeks after I finished Leg 4, the ice had melted and I realized I had better get out for the last stretch before the levels came back up. I got lucky with another day of great weather for Leg 5 of 11.1 miles. This last stretch was more about little unexpected discoveries. One of my coolest finds was a flag that had broken off the Deep Creek Lake robo-boat during the Boat Parade last year. I remember watching it sink into the water and figuring we’d never see it again, but the Lady of the Lake decided to give it back. Some other items of note were an interesting ice phenomenon, a retaining wall made of old gravestones and a tunnel leading to those extra miles of lakeshore.
This way to the secret Illuminati base
No, it wasn’t anything that exciting, just a culvert passing under 219 to Gravely Run, but another example of seeing new from a different point of view.
The weather for this leg was fairly warm and sunny all day, so I got it in my head that a jump in the lake at the end would be a fun way to wrap up the hike. So even though the sun was going down and it was cooling off quickly when I got back to where I originally started, I still braved the water for a celebratory plunge. My normally faithful companion Spencer decided that he wasn’t ready to follow me into the lake, though.
Even Man’s Best Friend has his limits
So, after logging 72.2 miles of hiking the shoreline, did I have any major epiphanies? Not really, it was more of a lot of little discoveries along the way. Overall, it was a fun personal challenge and a way to see the lake from a new perspective. So, even if you don’t have the time, ability or desire to hike the whole length, I’d recommend even just some little parts of the route that you can take on.
And just in case my tongue-in-cheek tone did not come through, I did not have any real intention of establishing an official measurement of the lakeshore. Not only were my methods inadequate for the job (my phone’s activity tracker app), there’s a whole long discussion on “what” the actually shoreline is and how do you really measure it. For the time being, how about we all agree that the length of the shoreline is “around 70 miles”?
There are links to lots more videos, photos, maps and other adventures around the area at my website, dimesy.com. What should I do next? I’m thinking a “boat-packing” trip, where I follow the lakeshore in a canoe and sleep on board overnights. I’ll be looking for places to stop for a beer along the way. . .