Pinchot Lake, Pennsylvania, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Mid-Atlantic - Pennsylvania - Pennsylvania Dutch Country -

Also known as:  Pinchot Reservoir, Gifford Pinchot State Park, Old Conewago Lake

Only 20 miles south of Harrisburg, in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, 340-acre Pinchot Lake forms a recreational oasis. The reservoir was built in 1959 to provide a recreational lake for area residents to enjoy. The reservoir was constructed by damming Beaver Creek, and the water soon formed a long, narrow lake with many coves, inlets and bays. Fish habitat structures were added to encourage fish reproduction, and it was not long before Pinchot Lake was noted for its excellent bass fishing. However, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources had bigger plans for the new lake, and soon surrounded it with 2,338-acre Gifford Pinchot State Park. Aptly named for the former Pennsylvania Governor noted for his conservation efforts, the park provides all sorts of recreational access to over 600,000 visitors every year.

Two day-use parks, one on each side of the reservoir, offer a variety of recreational opportunities. Conewago Day Use Area on the east side of the lake and Quaker Race Area on the west bank provide swimming beaches, picnic tables, charcoal grills, parking lots, drinking water, modern restrooms and horseshoe pits. Four picnic pavilions, two of which are ADA-accessible, may be reserved up to eleven months in advance for group outings. The Conewago Day Use Area has a softball field, while the Quaker Race Area has a volleyball court. Disk golf is also available. Eighteen miles of trails are located around the lake and throughout the park. Some are strictly for hiking, while others are available for mountain biking. Another area north of the lake is set aside for horseback riding with wide mowed grassy trails set among a variety of landscapes. Bird watching is popular here, and the natural setting attracts a variety of native animals. In winter, the trails are open to cross-country skiing,

Boating is ever-popular at Pinchot Lake. No gasoline motors are allowed, but plenty of electric trolling motors are seen on fishing boats plying the waters. Boat mooring and canoe rack spaces may be rented from April 1st to November 1st and accommodate regular visitors to the park. Sailboats and catamarans utilize the larger spaces, while the smaller spaces are suitable for canoes, kayaks and small sailboats. Boats, trolling motors, canoes and kayaks may be rented at the park during the summer months. The non-profit Susquehanna Rowing Association has its headquarters at Pinchot Lake, and rowing teams are often seen practicing and competing on the lake. The Atlantic Sprints League Regatta has become an annual event on the four-mile-long lake. Nine colleges bring crews to race in the Mid-Atlantic Division III Rowing Championships, a women’s NCAA event held in late April. All boats on the lake must be properly registered.

Pinchot Lake is an excellent warm-water fishery and is designated a Big Bass lake with some real whoppers being caught. Largemouth bass, hybrid striped bass, muskellunge, catfish, carp, walleye, crappie and sunfish are all hooked in the lake, and tournaments are held here regularly. Three boat ramps around the lake can accommodate everything up to large bass boat size. With an average depth of less than eight feet, anglers can choose the best area for the type of fish they are targeting. Some areas of the reservoir are rocky, while others support an underwater carpet of grass. The fishing forums are full of advice on how to fish Pinchot Lake, depending on the angler’s favorite fish and the season of the year. In winter, the lake often ices over, allowing for ice fishing. A solid ice cover also allows for ice skating and ice boating. All Pennsylvania fishing regulations are in effect, and fishermen must be properly licensed.

Campground areas are located at the south end of the lake. This park provides one of the largest state park campgrounds in the Commonwealth. The campground can accommodate nearly every type of camping set-up and provides electricity, showers, rest rooms and most amenities. Rustic camping cottages, yurts and modern cabins can all be rented. The park is an excellent choice for a camping vacation. Park staff provide pontoon boat tours of the lake spring through fall, and an interpretive center in the Conewago Day Use Area is open weekends during the summer. About 1,780 acres are open to hunting, trapping and the training of dogs from fall archery season through the end of the winter season.

If campers should actually feel the need for more activities during their stay, tons of historical and entertainment venues can be found within 30 miles. The Pennsylvania capital city of Harrisburg is only 20 miles away. The Harrisburg Capitol Building area has tours available, and several of the oldest mansions of the city’s founders are preserved for tours. The Historical Society of Dauphin County arranges tours of several properties, including the John Harris-Simon Cameron Mansion Museum. Other museums in Harrisburg include the Doll House Museum, Fire Museum of Greater Harrisburg, and the National Civil War Museum. Visitors can even take a riverboat cruise on the Susquehanna River.

The city of Hershey is only 30 miles from Pinchot Lake. The famous ‘chocolate city’ has a number of candy-themed attractions that will please the young and the young-at-heart. The Hershey Museum tells the story of the famous candy bars with themed exhibits, and Hershey Gardens greet children at the Childrens Garden with ‘Kisses’-shaped spray fountains. The Butterfly House is especially popular. Adults will come to Hershey to attend Hershey Theater, the performing arts center presenting touring Broadway shows, classical music and dance attractions, and world-famous entertainers.

Pinchot Lake is sometimes called Conewago Lake as it is near the small town of Conewago. It should not be confused with Conewago Lake in Lebanon County, a separate lake. As the park is all Commonwealth land, there are no private homes or lodgings on Pinchot Lake. Plenty of lodgings can be found in the surrounding area, including quaint bed-and-breakfasts and a few guest cottage resorts. Large hotel chains have facilities at nearly every exit along nearby Interstate 83, and a number of small motel-restaurant combinations provide weekly lodgings to area visitors. Real estate can be found nearby but not on the lake itself. So, bring the kids and the fishing tackle. Pinchot Lake and Gifford Pinchot State Park await your visit.

Things to do at Pinchot Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Ice Skating
  • Biking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Birding
  • State Park
  • Museum

Fish species found at Pinchot Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Carp
  • Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Muskellunge
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Striped Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Walleye

Pinchot Lake Photo Gallery

  • Pinchot Lake, PA 10/22/2012

  • Pinchot Lake Boat Ramp, 10/22/2012

  • Shimmering Pinchot Lake, PA 10/22/2012

  • Pinchot Lake Shore Fishing, 10/22/2012

Pinchot Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Pennsylvania Dept of Conservation and Natural Resources

Surface Area: 340 acres

Shoreline Length: 8 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 470 feet

Average Depth: 8 feet

Maximum Depth: 25 feet

Completion Year: 1959

Trophic State: Hyper-eutrophic

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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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