The History of Little Seneca Lake


We associate this Upcounty favorite with summer outdoor fun–but that’s not what the lake’s creators had in mind when it was built. 

Families picnicking, children cavorting on the playgrounds, teens paddling around the lake in kayaks and fishermen dropping their lures hoping for a bite, summer is here at Black Regional Hill Park. Black Hill and Little Seneca Lake, forming the northern border of Germantown, is a well-used recreational area, especially on these hot summer days. But the lake was not created only for having fun. It is an emergency water supply for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, the Washington Aqueduct, and the Fairfax County Water Authority in Virginia.

Little Seneca Lake is fed by the flow from Little Seneca Creek and its two main tributaries, Ten Mile Creek and Cabin Branch (“branch” being another word for stream). Native Americans used these waterways for fishing and had hunting camps in the surrounding hills. The first European settlers set up many mills along the fast-flowing streams. Farms were built and the little village of Ten Mile Creek had a school and Pyles grist and saw mill. After the train came through in 1873 people would come up from Washington in the summer to vacation in the country at several hotels in the area. One hotel on Ten Mile Creek that was not affected by the creation of the lake because of being situated on high ground is the 22-room High View Hotel, now a county historic site.

The story of the park and the lake goes way back to the 1960s when the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) started buying up land around streams in Montgomery County to protect the watersheds and manage the resources of the county. Beginning in 1968, with the help of the Soil Conservation Service, the county surveyed the creeks and streams and developed a plan. The Seneca Creek watershed, and especially Ten Mile Creek were identified as particularly sensitive areas. A 1974 study of Ten Mile Creek showed that its species diversity was one of the highest of small steams in the county with three threatened species of fish: cutlips minnow, comely shiner and rosyside dace.

A Master Plan was developed for the Seneca Creek watershed in 1977, which included a multi-purpose reservoir. This coincided with a major water shortage in the Washington, DC-metropolitan area in the mid-1970s. So, in 1978 the county got together with the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) and agreed to enlarge this lake and have it as an emergency water supply for the WSSC Potomac River intake. A steering committee was formed of engineers, environmental consultants, geo-technical consultants and government representatives to plan the park and lake.

After a plan was made it was presented to the public at a public hearing. After approval approximately 1,680 acres of land were acquired and the construction of the dam was begun. Twenty-one families were displaced, four dairy farms lost, Rt. 121 had to be redirected and a new bridge built over the forming lake. Of historic sites, one prehistoric site, a one-room schoolhouse and a log slave cabin were lost to the slowly inundating waters, as well as the home and farm of James Boyd, for whom the town of Boyds is named.

As to the benefits, besides an emergency water supply, Little Seneca Lake provides a recreational area, a warm water fishery, flood control, the reduction of sediment, and a new tax base of homes built near the lake to take advantage of the recreation and environment. In addition, the dam, completed in 1984, includes a cold-water release structure that allows water from several levels of the lake to be discharged into the spillway. Consequently, the temperature of the water can be regulated. Cold water coming from the bottom of the deep lake is released during the summer, allowing trout, seeded in the spring, to survive and grow. Wildlife abounds in the 2,000-acre park with beaver, deer, eagles, and many other kinds of birds and waterfowl.

The surface area of the lake is 505 acres and it can be as deep as 68 feet and it holds about 4.5 billion gallons of water. The lake is stocked for recreational fishing. Fish species found in the lake include largemouth bass, tiger muskie, channel catfish, sunfish, and crappie.

The emergency water supply has only been used once since the Lake was created. That was in the summer during the drought of 1999. Hopefully, it will not be needed again in the near future. The Lake and Park provide a wonderful place to escape the summer heat and have a good time, and this will last well into the future.

 

Recent Stories

Article written by Ben Shlesinger Somewhat surprisingly, for just $35 you can buy an autographed copy of Katie Ledecky’s upcoming book (the price has since been increased to $49.99), “Just…

MCPS High School Sports Scores for Apr 18, 2024 (powered by www.MoCoAI.com):

Montgomery Parks will launch a new street festival this spring on Sligo Creek Parkway between Dennis Avenue and University Boulevard called the Sligo Creek Fest. It will take place on Saturday, May…

The Maryland Attorney General’s Office issued the following news release on Thursday, April 18:

17th Annual Kensington Day of the Book Festival

Now in its 17th year, the Kensington Day of the Book Festival is a family-friendly street festival featuring 150+ renowned authors, poets, and literary organizations. Enjoy live music on five stages, special guest speakers, military veteran writers and comedians, poetry readings, cookbook demos, children's program, and much more.

Admission is free, and attendees will also be able to explore a marketplace of books and food offerings from local vendors.

Not your average book festival! This festival offers something for everyone!

17th Annual Kensington Day of the Book Festival

Sunday, April 21, 2024, 11am-4pm (held rain or shine!)

Howard Avenue, Kensington, MD 20895

www.dayofthebook.com

Instagram: @kensingtonbookfestival

Contact: Elisenda Sola-Sole, Festival Director

[email protected]

301-949-9416 (text preferred)

FEST OF SPRING Caribbean Wine Food & Music Festival

Get ready to experience the vibrant colors, tantalizing flavors, and infectious rhythms of the Caribbean at the FEST OF SPRING Caribbean Wine Food & Music Festival! Hosted by RHU LLC, this exciting festival is set to take place on May 18, 2024, at the picturesque 16700 Barnesville Rd in Boyds, MD.

Step into a world where the Caribbean spirit comes alive! From 12:00 PM onwards, immerse yourself in a sensory journey that celebrates the unique culture, cuisine, and music of the Caribbean. Whether you're an African American, a Reggae or Soca music enthusiast, a wine lover, or part of the vibrant Caribbean diaspora, this festival promises to delight and captivate you in every way.

Let the enticing aromas of mouthwatering Caribbean dishes tantalize your taste buds. Feast on traditional delicacies prepared by expert chefs, showcasing the rich and diverse culinary heritage of the Caribbean. Indulge in flavorful jerk chicken, succulent seafood, and delectable plantain dishes that will transport you straight to the islands.

Accompanying the culinary extravaganza is a carefully curated selection of premium wines, ensuring the perfect pairing for your palate. Sip on fine wines from renowned vineyards, each sip a reflection of the Caribbean's vibrant spirit. Discover new flavors, expand your wine knowledge, and savor unforgettable moments with every glass.

As the sun sets, get ready to groove to the infectious rhythms of Caribbean music. Feel the pulsating beats of reggae, soca, dancehall, and calypso, moving your body to the lively melodies. Live performances by talented musicians and performers will keep the energy high, ensuring a night of unforgettable entertainment.

Don't miss this opportunity to embrace the Caribbean spirit and celebrate the arrival of spring in style! Tickets are available on AllEvents, so secure your spot today. Join us at the FEST OF SPRING Caribbean Wine Food & Music Festival, where cultures collide and unforgettable memories are made.

LIVE PERFORMANCES By: CULTURE Feat. Kenyatta Hill, EXCO LEVI, IMAGE BAND, RAS LIDJ REGG'GO with Special Guest SUGAR BEAR FROM E.U. & MORE! & MORE!

MUSIC By: DJ ABLAZE, DJ SMALLY & NAJ SUPREME

2 NIGHT Camping packages available: RV/CAMPER $200 | TENTS $150 Starting on Friday May 17 @ 5pm | 30 RV SPACES | 30+ TENT SPACES

KIDS 12 & UNDER FREE!!!

×

Subscribe to our mailing list