Experience Deep Creek Lake!
Garrett County, Maryland
By Bob Tagert
Deep Creek Lake in Maryland’s Garrett County has long been an attractive place to go in the winter to ski at the popular Wisp Ski Resort. I can remember skiing there with friends twenty years ago and staying a short drive from the mountain at one of the many rental properties available in and around Deep Creek Lake. Wisp is the only full service ski resort in the state of Maryland.
When we were out there last month, the snow was gone from the lush ski slopes however the resort is still open offering events throughout the spring and summer including bonfires, kayak tours, paint ball, skate park and disc golf, not to mention a full size golf course. For the thrill seekers there is also the zip line tour that lets participants fly over the slopes and through the woods covering the mountain. The resort also includes the Mountain Coaster, which is a hybrid coaster car going 3,500 feet downhill over 350 vertical feet on the eastern side of the mountain. My pal Lani says she is going to ride it the next time we are in the area.
In 2007, the Adventure Sports Center International white water rafting and canoe/kayak slalom center was opened at the top of the mountain at the resort. Constructed at a cost of $24 million, it is the third pump-powered artificial whitewater facility built in North America. Since the Wisp Ski Resort already had a pump-filled mountaintop reservoir to supply its snowmaking machines with water in the winter, the artificial whitewater course was sited next to this reservoir to make use of its water in the summer.
The Wisp Ski area sits at the north end of Deep Creek Lake, the reason we made the road trip last month. Deep Creek Lake is the largest inland body of water in the state of Maryland. The man-made lake covers approximately 3,900 acres and has 69 miles of shoreline. The lake is home to a wide variety of freshwater fish and aquatic birds. Fishing is extremely popular on the lake, for species such as largemouth bass, small mouth bass, walleye as well as fly fishing for trout. Wildlife is abundant and chances are pretty good that you might see deer, small mammals, and occasional bear and for sure…lots of chipmunks. These little guys are everywhere…right Sherry?
Garrett County itself is striking. Garrett County is Maryland’s westernmost county, bordered o the north by the Mason-Dixon line with Pennsylvania to the south by the Potomac River and West Virginia, to the west by a land border with West Virginia, and to the east by a land border with Allegany County, Maryland. Garrett County is located entirely within the highland zone of the Appalachian Mountains. The county’s highest elevations are located along four flat-topped ridges and range to a height of 3,360 feet at Hoye Crest along Backbone Mountain, the highest point in the state of Maryland. The Eastern Continental Divide runs along portions of Backbone Mountain. The western part of the county, drained by the Youghiogheny River, is the only part of Maryland within the Mississippi River drainage basin. The “Yough” is also the source of three waterfalls in the area, Swallow Falls, Muddy Creek Falls and Tolliver Falls. All other parts are in the Chesapeake Bay basin. As is typical in the Allegheny region, broad flats generally lie below the ridge (mountain valleys) at elevations of approximately 500 feet. River valleys are generally narrow and deep, with ravines typically 1,000 to 1,800 feet below surrounding peaks. These high mountain valleys and deep ravines make for a great road trip if you are willing to take the “road less traveled” and have a full tank of gas. The scenery is spectacular. I can’t wait to go back in the fall.
This is the first time that I have had the opportunity to meet the “locals” at Deep Creek Lake…or as they are known- “The Lake People”. There seem to be two separate groups…the ones who live outside the lake and work there, and those who have second homes there or live at the lake year-round. The first group tend to be on the young side while the lake people are, well, sort of retired. This diversity plays into the marketing of some of the lake establishments. We were there on Wednesday and had to attend the “Double Nickel” night at Uno’s Chicago Pizzeria. I hadn’t heard the term “double nickel” since the days of the 55 mile an hour speed limits, but here it referred to 55 years of age…young by my standards. On Wednesday nights the double nickel club got 40% off their drinks…and the place was packed. Next door to Uno is Honi Honi, a place for the younger crowd. This place was not open for the season yet, but will be by months end.
Our accommodations were at the Suites at Silver Tree, a delightful place to stay. Our room was a two-story suite with two TV’s and a bed on each floor. The reported best dining at the Lake is Dutch’s, which is adjacent to Silver Tree. We didn’t dine, but did some research of the area with our bartender Sherry. Sherry lives in West Virginia and commutes 35 miles to work, so she is not a “lake person”, but was a whole lot of fun and full of information. The next morning we hit Little Sandy’s for a classic down home breakfast. In a renovated gas station, Little Sandy’s had it all at a real low price.
There are all kinds of accommodations available at Deep Creek Lake, from a one night stay at a place like Silver Tree or weekend or week long accommodations for two or twenty at one of the many cabins and houses. Check out the ads associated with this article.
Getting to Deep Creek Lake is pretty straightforward…Alexandria to 270 north, to I-70 north to I-68 west, to state route 219 to Deep Creek Lake. This drive is fast and under 3 hours, or as our new best friend, local Alexandria and Deep Creek Lake realtor, Delaine Campbell says…”From Old Town’s Slater Lane, there is not one stop light until you get to the Ski Slope turn in McHenry (Deep Creek)!
However, for my tastes…take your time and take the old roads. Coming back we picked up Route 40 (the old route), which parallels the new I-68. Leaving Deep Creek Lake the first place we came to off of route 42 and before route 40 was the cool little town of Friendsville, Maryland and Fred, the owner of Ken’s Irish Tavern. These are the encounters that make these road trips so much fun. We found out that Ken’s Tavern and the town of Friendsville is hosting the Garrett County Celtic Festival on Friday and Saturday June 3rd and 4th. Deep Creek Lake is only 16 miles away.
Another advantage of back roads is that we had the opportunity to see a wagon train “Travel the Road that made the Nation” which was part of the National Pike (route 40) Festival.
It doesn’t matter what road you take…just take the trip!