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Environmental and Recreational Issues - River


River Fisheries

High water temperatures occurring in the river mainstem during summer may significantly limit trout habitat. However, Maryland DNR has found that during these periods of high temperature and low flow, trout seek refuge in areas affected by cooler water discharges from the Deep Creek Station, as well as in small tributary streams. Fish habitat is also affected by water flow; during dry periods, natural river flow may be too low for optimal habitat.

Youghiogheny River
Youghiogheny River near Sang Run

More than 100 species of fish have been documented in the Youghiogheny River drainage or are thought to have occurred there. Historically, the Youghiogheny River in Maryland supported excellent fisheries for brook trout and smallmouth bass. Due to their relative abundance, brown trout are currently the most important gamefish in the Youghiogheny River from the Deep Creek Station tailrace to Friendsville, MD. Optimal brown trout habitat is characterized by cool to cold water, rocky substrates providing sufficient cover, and riffle-run habitat in combination with areas of slow, deep water. Extreme water temperatures are probably the most important limiting factor to brown trout. The upper limiting temperature to brown trout is 26-27C.

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water temp in Youghiogheny
Summer Afternoon Water Temperature Pattern in Youghiogheny River without a release from Deep Creek Station

River Water Quality

Historical DO levels in Deep Creek
Historical Dissolved Oxygen levels in Deep Creek Station Tailrace

Another important river issue involves water quality. During plant shutdown periods, a discharge of about 9 cubic feet per second is released at the Deep Creek Station. This flow comes from leakage through the turbines. Water enters the power tunnel from the deepest part of the lake, which is naturally lower in dissolved oxygen (DO) in late summer due to thermal stratification. Since the power tunnel may be full of this low DO water at startup, the discharge at the start of generation resembles the water quality at the bottom of the lake. DO levels in the tailrace dropped immediately after startup and historically during these times may have remained below state water quality standards of 5 parts per million (ppm), depending on DO levels in the lake.

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Kayaker in the Youghiogheny River

River Recreation

The Youghiogheny River is an exceptional whitewater recreation resource. A major issue with boaters is the timing and dependability of releases from the project for advance trip planning. The river draws a wide variety of people mostly from the mid-Atlantic region. Novice boaters take advantage of many rafting outfitters who take customers down the river. More experienced users run the river in their own watercraft, primarily in kayaks. While whitewater boating is probably the most well-know activity, the river corridor is also popular for fishing and supports several land-based activities such as hiking. The "Upper Yough", which runs from Sang Run to Friendsville, is the key section of the river with respect to the Deep Creek Project. Releases from the project make whitewater boating feasible when natural flows are insufficient. During dry periods, the Upper Yough may be the only whitewater resource in the area available to boaters. Whitewater boating increased dramatically from less than 50 commercial rafters in 1980 to over 3,000 in 1988; numbers since that time have remained relatively stable at about 3,000 rafters per year.

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This page was updated on October 15, 2013 .