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Located in the mountains of western Maryland and bordered by West Virginia and Pennsylvania, Deep Creek Lake is just 175 miles from Washington, D.C.--but a world away. The lake serves as the heart of historic Garrett County, which has become a quite popular tourist (and boater) destination.

At 3,900 acres and about 13 miles in length, Deep Creek Lake is Maryland’s largest freshwater lake. It was created in 1925 with the opening of the Youghiogheny Hydro-Electric Corporation to generate electric power. The lake features 65 miles of shoreline and has a maximum depth of 75 feet (averaging about 25 feet). It’s owned by the state of Maryland and is maintained by the state’s Department of Natural Resources.

The quaint town of McHenry on the northern end of Deep Creek Lake serves as its major hub. In addition, Wisp Resort (www.wispresort.com) has turned into a four-season activities haven. U.S. 219 bisects the lake and several additional roads provide easy access to the lake and all of Garrett County’s offerings.

Deep Creek Lake is quite boater-friendly. In fact, an excellent brochure, Travel By Boat, provides a nice overview of more than 30 businesses that welcome boaters (from restaurants to house rentals right on the lake). With names like “Chateau on the Lake,“ many visiting boaters choose to rent a home right on the water--or to stay at one of many varied resorts or B&Bs.

Basic boating rules and courtesies apply on Deep Creek Lake, with rules of interest including: a maximum length for pontoons of 30 feet and 26 feet for all other craft (not including ski decks); two people in the boat for waterskiing (operator and observer at least 12 years old); and no wake zones 100 feet from shore and in buoyed areas. Those with personal watercraft should note that they aren’t allowed between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. on the Saturday, Sunday, and Monday of Memorial Day weekend and on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays from July 1 through Labor Day (also 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

There are several full-service marinas on the lake: Deep Creek Marina (www.deepcreekmarina.com); Patterson Boat Company (301/387-5000); Bill’s Marine Service (www.billsmarineservice.com); and Silver Tree Marine (www.silvertreemarine.com). Of course, supplies, service, and boat rentals are all available. Personal watercraft, kayaks, and canoes can also be rented at several other lake businesses. There’s also a public boat launch at popular Deep Creek Lake State Park (301/387-5563), which is located south of Meadow Mountain.

Once there, the possibilities include swimming, excellent fishing (especially trout, perch, and walleye), waterskiing, wakeboarding, scuba diving (bring your own gear), and much more. There’s also world-class whitewater rafting, kayaking, and canoeing nearby (including the Youghiogheny, the Savage, the Potomac, and the new Adventure Sports Center International).

One of the great things about Deep Creek Lake is that boaters can dock at many locations and easily reach places on foot. For instance, boaters in the know dock right at Lakeside Creamery (www.lakesidecreamery.com) for homemade ice cream and head next door to Sacred Ground (www.sacredground.com) for southwestern jewelry, pottery, and more--all at half-price! Boaters who love the outdoors (and don’t all boaters?) will also want to dock at High Mountain Sports (www.highmountainsports.com) for a great selection of outdoor gear and clothing.

Off the water, Garrett County abounds in history, culture, and activities. The possibilities include: the National Road (one of the nation’s first roadways); shopping; hiking; biking; birding; golf; state parks; nature tours; several quaint towns worth exploration (like McHenry, Deer Park, Grantsville, and the county seat of Oakland, including the 1884 Queen Anne-style B&O Railroad Station); plus a variety of dining options on or near the lake (including freshly caught fish). Deer Park is also home to The Flying Scot Sailboat Company (www.flyingscot.com) and Deer Park Natural Spring Water (www.deerparkwater.com).

Visiting boaters may also enjoy the options at 2,840-acre Youghiogheny River Lake (eight launch areas), 350-acre Savage River Reservoir (three boat launches, with boating limited to kayaks, canoes, and fishing boats), 952-acre Jennings Randolph Lake (two boat ramps). These all provide additional exploration options to those trailering their boats to the area.

Special annual and one-time events draw many Deep Creek Lake visitors. The possibilities (check with the county’s Chamber of Commerce for dates) include: the 47th Annual Garrett County Fishing Contest; Art in the Park; Deep Creek Lake Art and Wine Festival; Garrett Lakes Arts Festival; Little Yough Summer Music Festival; 20th Annual McHenry Highland Festival; Music at Penn Alps; Music on the Mountain; Largness Wakeboard Contest; Amish Quilt shows; the 40th Annual Autumn Glory Festival; and several other fishing tournaments and rodeos. In addition, the lake is a great lake for boaters to enjoy July 4th fireworks!

Contact the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce at 15 Visitors Center Drive, McHenry, MD 21541, or call 301-387-4FUN (4386). There are several great internet resources for boating and general travel information. These include: www.boatdeepcreeklake.com; www.visitdeepcreek.com; and www.garrettchamber.com.