Little Seneca Lake, Maryland, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Mid-Atlantic - Maryland - Capital -

Little Seneca Lake, located near Boyds, Maryland, is the focal point of the Black Hill Regional Park and covers nearly 1/3 of its acreage. It lies in the Piedmont ecoregion, which is located between the Appalachian Mountains and the Atlantic Coastal Plain. Black Hill Regional Park is under the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC), which created Little Seneca Lake in 1985 after a drought struck the Washington, D.C. area. The lake is jointly owned by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC), the Washington Aquaduct, and the Fairfax County Water Authority.

Inflow to Little Seneca Lake comes from three major river channels: Tenmile Creek, Cabin Branch Creek, and Little Seneca Creek. The Little Seneca Creek watershed is a large sub-basin of the Great Seneca watershed and drains a significant portion of the western part of Montgomery County in Maryland. The stream system originates slightly south of Damascus and drains into Great Seneca Creek. The lake serves as an emergency water supply source for Metropolitan Washington D.C., yet the watershed has a mixed character of land uses, from rural areas to agricultural reserves and even commercial uses. Though the lake serves many environmental purposes, it is most well known for its boating, fishing and birding opportunities.

Little Seneca Lake is a angler’s paradise. It is stocked with Tiger Muskie, Largemouth Bass, Bluegill, and Channel Catfish. Little Seneca Creek, upstream of the lake, has been designated “recreational trout waters” by the state, due to water conditions which make it suitable for an adult trout “put-and-take” population. Downstream of the Little Seneca Lake Dam, cold water discharges from the deeper part of the lake enable a “natural trout waters” designation at the confluence with the Bucklodge Branch of the lake. Rainbow and Brown Trout are found in this section, as well as a diverse cold-water community.

As far as wildlife goes, there is much to see around Little Seneca Lake. The lake is known by locals as a premiere spot to view and photograph winter waterfowl. The Ten Mile Creek watershed has a much more diverse community of macroinvertebrates than you’re likely to find elsewhere, boasting many varieties of stoneflies and mayflies. In late February, if the temperatures are not too cold, winter stoneflies can be found in large numbers, flying against the banks of snow. Areas below the lake contain beaver in large quantites. Their dams can sometimes be seen reaching a height of 5 to 6 feet. Bear are a usual occurrence within the park, specifically in the Field Crest Spur Trail area. Although the wintertime highs at Little Seneca Lake are typically in the 30s, with lows in the 20s overnight, the lake is nearly as popular in winter as it is in summer.

If you’re into hiking, the Little Seneca Lake area has both paved and unpaved trails and a rich history to explore. All trails are open to hikers, horseback riders and mountain cyclists. Inside the park boundaries are the sites of an old gold mine and Waters Mill. The gold mine is located near the park offices, and though it didn’t produce much gold, it was used from the 1850s to the 1950s. Waters Mill dates back to 1810 and is located just off the Black Mill Trail near Little Seneca Creek, just above the lake. Other popular trails include Paw Paw Passage and Cabin Branch.

Portions of Upper Little Seneca Creek and Ten Mile Creek have been shaped by geological forces unique to this part of the County, which make it a remarkable hiking experience. A fault line runs through these creeks and the adjacent Little Bennett watershed, which has dramatically influenced the geology of the area. Summertime highs at Little Seneca Lake reach into the 80s and cool down to the 60s, extremely comfortable weather for outdoor activities. Camping is not allowed in Black Hill Regional Park; however, a short five-mile drive will take you to Little Bennett Regional Park campground, where you can enjoy a peaceful camping experience in a wooded setting.

With more than 1,800 acres to enjoy, Black Hill Regional Park and Little Seneca Lake offer such a wide variety of outdoor activities that it’s impossible to experience it all in a single visit. The park hosts a variety of special events and programs throughout the year, such as twilight concerts, summer programs, canoe and kayak classes and other special events. With the region’s mild summer weather and winter wildlife, the possibility of year-round enjoyment makes Little Seneca Lake an unbelievable experience for the lake lover!

Things to do at Little Seneca Lake

  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding

Fish species found at Little Seneca Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Brown Trout
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Muskellunge
  • Pike
  • Sunfish
  • Tiger Muskellunge
  • Trout

Little Seneca Lake Photo Gallery

  • ViviLnk

Little Seneca Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission

Surface Area: 505 acres

Shoreline Length: 16 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 320 feet

Average Depth: 25 feet

Maximum Depth: 68 feet

Water Volume: 13,402 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1985

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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