Q1: Is it true that Maryland does not have any natural lakes?
A1: Yes, there are no natural lakes in Maryland. All of Maryland’s lakes are manmade by damming rivers. Some have been named lakes (e.g., Lake Habeeb in Allegany County and Deep Creek Lake in Garrett County), but most have been named reservoirs (e.g., Loch Raven Reservoir in Baltimore County).
Q2: Did Maryland ever have any natural lakes in the past?
A2: Yes. We know of at least one, and there could be more. The one clearly documented case is Buckel’s Bog, which was a 160-acre, shallow periglacial lake (actually a glade) that occupied the headwater region of the North Branch of the Casselman River in Garrett County during the late Pleistocene (19,000-14,000 years ago). [Reference: Maxwell, J.A. and Davis, M. B., 1972, Pollen evidence of Pleistocene and Holocene vegetation of the Allegheny Plateau, Maryland: Quaternary Research, 2(4): 506-530.]
Q3: Why are there no natural lakes in Maryland?
A3: There are about a dozen major types of lakes, meaning there are about a dozen ways lakes form. None of those is found in Maryland. Some 74% of all lakes are glacial in origin, but glaciers never entered Maryland during the last Great Ice Age. Glacial lakes may form in bedrock depressions gouged out by glaciers or in areas where detached blocks of stagnant or retreating ice sheets are surrounded by other glacial deposits, such as sand and gravel outwash. When the blocks of ice melt away, the remaining depression, known as a kettle, may fill with water to form a “kettle lake.” Other major types of natural lakes include those that result from faulting, volcanic activity, and landslides blocking a river.
Q4: Why are some manmade lakes called lakes while others are called reservoirs?
A4: There are no hard and fast rules about naming. However, in general, the primary use of the manmade lake/reservoir determines what the body of water is called. If the primary use is recreation, the body is often called a lake (e.g., Deep Creek Lake, Greenbrier Lake, and Lake Linganore). If the primary use is water supply, hydroelectric power, and/or flood control, the body is more likely called a reservoir (e.g., Prettyboy Reservoir, Loch Raven Reservoir, and Triadelphia Reservoir).
Q5: What are some characteristics of the larger reservoirs or lakes in Maryland?
A5: The following table summarizes some of the main characteristics of those reservoirs in Maryland that have a surface area greater than one square mile. They are listed in the order of decreasing surface area.
|Name||County||River affected||Primary Purpose||Surface Area (acres) 1||Max. Capacity (acre ft.) 2|
|Conowingo Reservoir||Harford & Cecil Counties + Pa.||Susquehanna||Hydroelectric||8,563||310,000|
|Deep Creek Lake||Garrett County||Deep Creek (a tributary of the Youghiogheny R.)||Hydroelectric & recreational||3,900||103,350|
|Liberty Reservoir||Baltimore & Carroll Counties||North Branch Patapsco River||Baltimore City water supply||3,106||177,000|
|Youghiogheny River Reservoir||Garrett County + Pa. (mostly in Pa.)||Youghiogheny R.||Flood control & hydroelectric||2,800||151,200|
|Loch Raven Reservoir||Baltimore County||Gunpowder River||Baltimore City water supply||2,400||91,900|
|Prettyboy Reservoir||Baltimore County||Gunpowder Falls||Baltimore City water supply||1,500||90,100|
|Jennings Randolph Lake||Garrett County||North Branch||Potomac River Flood control||952-965||130,900|
|Triadelphia Reservoir (Brighton Dam)||Montgomery County||Patuxent River||Hydroelectric||800||32,300|
|Rocky Gorge||Montgomery County||Patuxent River||Washington area water supply||773||22,000|
Other MGS online resources about Maryland's lakes and reservoirs
Prepared by Jim Reger
Compiled by the Maryland Geological Survey, 2300 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, MD 21218
This electronic version of "FactSheet No.15" was prepared by R.D. Conkwright, Division of Coastal and Estuarine Geology, Maryland Geological Survey. Please send comments on this page to Dale Shelton (firstname.lastname@example.org)