Youghiogheny River Reservoir
4899 Old Morgantown Road West, Friendsville, MD, 21531 301-334-8218 (MD Department of Natural Resources – Fishing and Boating Services)
The Youghiogheny River Reservoir (aka Youghiogheny River Lake) straddles the Pennsylvania – Maryland border, starting just north of Friendsville, MD in western Garrett County. The entire reservoir covers approximately 2800 acres, spanning 16 miles with 38 miles of shoreline. The reservoir was created in 1944 by damming the northward-flowing Youghiogheny River for the purpose of flood control and hydroelectric power; the dam itself is located in Confluence, PA. The dam, reservoir, and the immediate shoreline are owned by the US Army Corps of Engineers; fishing and other recreation are managed jointly by the states of Pennsylvania and Maryland with the Army Corps.
Habitats include shallow and deep waters; deciduous and coniferous woodlots along the shores; rocky embankments on the shores; sunken trees and snags; and shallow vegetated flats that provide excellent habitat. Water level fluctuations, depending on annual rainfall, are extreme, especially in fall, when the water levels are often drawn down. Water flowing through the dam is managed to provide electric power as well as to provide white water rafting and other recreational opportunities downstream of the dam and to maintain optimal water temperatures for fish spawning in the river.
There are numerous access points for birding the reservoir from the shore. The most productive access is at the end of Old Morgantown Road West. Note that Old Morgantown Road has a “West” portion and an “East” portion, located on opposite sides of the reservoir. The road was bisected when the dam was built and the river valley was flooded. The recommended birding spot is at the east end of Old Morgantown Road West, where it stops at the western shore of the reservoir. Here, at a bend in the river valley, there is a wide expanse of mudflats, some vegetated with large shrubs and small trees and some just bare mud. There are also scattered patches of grassy areas. The habitat supports a wide range of waterfowl, waders, and songbirds, with some shorebirds when mudflat conditions are optimal. An unmarked but obvious foot-trail winds along the wooded shoreline in both directions.
Another useful access point is at the Friendsville Community Park, where there are restrooms and a soft launch for canoes and kayaks. Technically, the park is on the Youghiogheny River and not on the lake itself. There is a short foot-trail that circumnavigates the park, running parallel to the river shore for part of the way, and another riverside foot-trail heads east from the southeast corner of the park along the former Old River Road right of way.
An additional access point is at the Mill Run Recreation Area on the east side of the reservoir, just south of the Pennsylvania line. Mill Run offers seasonal camping, a boat launch, a playground, and restrooms, but there are no trails, so this spot is best for a quick look at the most northerly part of the lake in Maryland, or to launch a boat.
There are several eBird hotspots covering the Youghiogheny River Reservoir. The Old Morgantown Road hotspot (https://ebird.org/hotspot/L501895) is by far the most productive, with 197 species reported. Other hotspots on the Maryland portion of the reservoir include
• Youghiogheny River Lake (Maryland) overall: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L477266 (63 species)
• Youghiogheny Res.–Mill Run: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L501896 (92 species)
• Youghiogheny Res.–Buffalo Run: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L501898 (74 species)
• Youghiogheny Res.–South Selbysport Access: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L1634379 (84 species)
The water views at Old Morgantown Road have yielded 23 species of waterfowl, including species that are hard to find in Western Maryland, such as Snow Goose and Tundra Swan. Both Pied-billed and Horned Grebe can be found here, as well as Common Loon and Double-crested Cormorant.
Old Morgantown Road is a prized site for shorebirds, which can be difficult to find in Western Maryland. They occur here during the warmer months, especially when low water levels expose mudflats. Reports of 20 species include American Golden-Plover; Semipalmated Plover; Killdeer; Sanderling; Stilt, Baird’s, Least, White-rumped, Buff-breasted, Pectoral, Semipalmated, and Western Sandpipers; Short-billed Dowitcher; American Woodcock; Wilson’s Snipe; Red-necked Phalarope; Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers; and Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs.
Gulls and terns can also be hard to find in Western Maryland, and this site has yielded Ring-billed Gull, Caspian Tern, Black Tern, and Forster’s Tern. Waders include Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, and Green Heron.
Both Ospreys and Bald Eagles breed here; Golden Eagles have been spotted rarely. Other raptors include Northern Harrier; Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks; Red-shouldered, Red-tailed and Broad-winged Hawks (the latter three breed in the area). American Kestrel is another local breeder, and Merlin and Peregrine Falcon are occasionally seen. Eastern Screech-Owls, Barred Owls, and Great Horned Owls also occur.
Belted Kingfishers are common from March through October. Both Ruffed Grouse and Wild Turkey are regularly seen and both Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoos occur during breeding season. Purple Martins and Northern Rough-winged, Tree, Bank, Barn and Cliff Swallows are often seen over the water.
The regular set of woodpeckers includes Red-bellied; Downy; Hairy; Pileated; and Northern Flicker. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers overwinter, and Red-headed Woodpeckers are sporadic. The usual Maryland flycatchers (Acadian Flycatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Eastern Phoebe, Great Crested Flycatcher and Eastern Kingbird) are present in the warm months, and Least Flycatcher is a notable local breeder.
Among vireos, the expected species are White-eyed, Yellow-throated, and Red-eyed; and special local breeders include Warbling and Blue-headed. Philadelphia Vireo is occasionally seen on migration. Winter Wrens may occasionally be found during breeding season, although nesting here has not been confirmed.
Among thrushes, the local breeders include Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, and Wood Thrush. Hermit Thrush is sporadic from June through January, and nesting is possible but not confirmed. Veery also may be found from April through June, but again, is not a confirmed breeding species here. Swainson’s and Grey-cheeked Thrushes come through during spring migration.
Common Ravens are frequent throughout most of the year. Both Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets are winter residents, as are Brown Creepers. Horned Larks may be found in grassy areas or on mud from February-March, and American Pipits occur in March and again in September-October. Common Nighthawks migrate through in late summer.
Purple Finch is sporadic from April through December, and Pine Siskin sometimes show up in March. Breeding sparrows include Chipping, Field, Song, Swamp, and Eastern Towhee. Less frequently seen, but possible breeders in the region include Vesper, Savannah, and Grasshopper Sparrows. Dark-eyed Junco, White-throated Sparrows are present in the winter, and Fox, White-crowned, and Lincoln’s Sparrows come through during migration.
Breeding icterids include Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, Orchard Oriole, Baltimore Oriole, Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, and Common Grackle; Rusty Blackbirds migrate through in spring. Other local breeders are Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Indigo Bunting.
The area supports a rich set of warblers, with 32 species reported. Local breeders include Louisiana Waterthrush, Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Northern Parula, and Worm-eating, Golden-winged, Black-throated Green, Kentucky, Black-and-white, Hooded, Cerulean, Yellow, and Chestnut-sided Warblers. Yellow-throated Warblers are not known to breed in Garrett County but are regularly found here from April through September. Prothonotary Warbler is likewise not a confirmed breeder in Garrett County, but is also found here from April through September. The 2nd Atlas of Breeding Birds of Maryland and the District of Columbia shows Mourning Warbler as a possible breeder, but in fact it is seldom recorded in the area. Ditto Canada Warbler, which is found only sporadically from May through September. Migrant warblers at the Youghiogheny Reservoir include Northern Waterthrush and Blue-winged, Magnolia, Black-throated Blue, Tennessee, Nashville, Palm, Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, Cape May, Connecticut, Blackburnian, Pine, and Prairie. Yellow-rumped Warblers over winter and can be found from late September through May.
Small paved pull-off near the end of Old Morgantown Road West; be careful not to block other vehicles. Paved parking at the Friendsville Park and at the Mill Run Recreation Area.
Pets must be leashed. Owners must clean up pet waste.
The trails and viewing along the reservoir are not wheelchair-accessible.
The Youghiogheny River Reservoir lies immediately to the north of the Youghiogheny Valley Important Bird Area, as designated by the National Audubon Society; see https://www.audubon.org/important-bird-areas/youghiogheny-valley-iba for more information. ◾A boat launch, restrooms and seasonal camping are available at the Mill Run Recreation Area on the east side of the Reservoir just south of the Pennsylvania line. A soft-launch (non-motorized boats only) and restrooms are available at the Friendsville Community Town Park. Shoreline fishing (with freshwater fishing permit) is available all along the reservoir. ◾ The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Allegany & Garrett Counties Bird Club, which offers field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public.
To the Old Morgantown Road West access: From I-68 near Friendsville, take Exit 4 for MD Route 42. Where the exit ramp ends at Maple Street, make a left, and then an immediate right onto Blain Frantz Road. Stay on Blain Frantz Road for 1 mile, heading northward to a T-intersection. Turn right here to go east on Old Morgantown Road West. The road will end at the Reservoir in about 2.5 miles.
To Friendsville Community Park access: From I-68 near Friendsville, take Exit 4 for MD Route 42. Where the exit ramp ends at Maple Street, make a right and continue straight ahead, going east on Maple Street for 0.4 miles. Make a left onto Second Avenue and go 0.2 miles; note that Second Avenue becomes Friendsville-Addison Road after crossing a creek. Turn left onto Old River Road; the park will be on your left in just 700 feet.
To Mill Run Recreation Area: From I-68 near Friendsville, take Exit 4 for MD Route 42. Where the exit ramp ends at Maple Street, make a right and continue straight ahead, going east on Maple Street for 0.4 miles. Make a left onto Second Avenue and follow the street north and then east; note that Second Avenue becomes Friendsville-Addison Road after crossing a creek. Follow Friendsville-Addison Road northeasterly. In approximately 4.5 miles, turn left to go west on Mill Run Road. The campground and boat launch will be straight ahead, with Mill Run Road taking you directly into Mill Run Recreation Area.
Nearby Sites: Broadford Lake, Carey Run MOS Sanctuary, Cunningham Swamp Wildlife Management Area, Finzel Swamp Preserve, Herrington Manor State Park, Loch Lynn Heights Wetland Trail, Mt. Nebo Wildlife Management Area, Swallow Falls State Park, Piney Reservoir.
Bottomland DeciduousConifersUpland Deciduous Garden or ArboretumLawn, Ballfields, Golf Course Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainFreshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Rivers & Streams
Ball Fields or Other SportsBoat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchCampingFishingFree - No Entry FeeHiking/Walking TrailsParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaPlaygroundRestroomsWater View
Audubon Important Bird AreasCommunity and Urban ParksPonds, Lakes, and ReservoirsUS Army Corp or BLM