New Germany State Park is a public recreation area located on Catoctin Mountain in Frederick County, Maryland. The state park’s main feature is the 48-acre (19ha) New Germany Lake and its dam which was constructed during the Great Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps. It is surrounded by forested mountains with views of the Cumberland Narrows and Snowy Mountains to the west. The park offers camping facilities. A portion of the Appalachian Trail runs through the park grounds. The park is managed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
The park features hiking and mountain bike trails, picnicking areas, cabins, campsites for tents, trailer sites, yurts, and RVs, and equestrian staging areas. There are 50 miles (80km) of trail open to hikers, bicyclists, horseback riders, and cross-country skiers, plus 10 miles (16km) specifically designed for horses. The 32 miles (51km) of trail within the park all connect with each other and form loops off the Main Line and Pine Hill roads. Other popular routes include Sunrise Ridge Road and portions of the C&O Canal towpath. The park has four designated wilderness areas (DWA): North Cove, Rock Run, Hemlock Ravine, and Black Forest. These contain even more rugged terrain than the rest of the park and require special permits. The most notable feature of the park is its dam across New Germany Creek. Built during the Great Depression by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps, it stands nearly 80 feet (24m) high and 3,300 feet (1,000m) long. The dam provides hydroelectric power and cooling water for the nearby New Germany Hydroelectric Generating Station. The original generators were replaced in 1996 by three new units.
The park is operated by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, but jointly administered with the neighboring St. Mary’s County Public Safety Department. The park receives funding from the Federal Highway Administration’s Recreational Trails Program. On November 12, 2016, a large sinkhole formation near the dam caused damage to two vehicles and forced emergency crews to evacuate the drivers. No one was injured when the cars fell into the 20 foot deep hole. Officials said the incident occurred because of unusually heavy rains combined with erosion from previous storms. The park was closed to visitors for five days while crews removed debris left by the fallen trees, cleaned up soil exposed by the collapse, and restored access to the roadway and utilities.
As of March 2017, further work needs to be done to fully restore service at the park, with excavation continuing around the damaged area to remove additional tree stumps in order to prevent future incidents. New Germany State Park officially opened to the public on December 2, 2018, following completion of the restoration works. The park is accessible by car on Route 40 Alternate and on SR 168. Access by boat is available on New Germany Lake. Parking fees are in effect between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day. Fees are $8 per vehicle per day for single-day or $4 for residents with an MD license plate or DC plates. Fees are waived for honorably discharged veterans and their spouses and children. Passes good for three days or a week are also available; annual passes good at the park or at any state park charging fees are offered at a cost of $75 for out-of-state visitors or $60 for Marylanders.
In May 1776, Captain John Smith led an expedition from Fort Cumberland through what is now New Germany State Park into the Shenandoah Valley and the Susquehanna River. His men built shelters along the lake and began hunting wild food. Later that summer they fought at Germantown, then moved out to Valley Falls where they spent the winter before returning home. This marked the beginning of the American Revolutionary War. Over the next several years, other troops were sent into the region to build fortifications against the British. One such fort, called Point Lookout, stood guard over the river until the end of the war when it was surrendered to the British after the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. After the conclusion of the Revolution, the need for guards diminished; however, the federal government continued to maintain Point Lookout as part of the U.S. Army’s District of Columbia garrison until 1881 when it became a Coast Guard station.
That year the facility was transferred to the Interior Department and renamed Fort Albion. It served as the nation’s first national park police until 1949 when it was deeded to the National Park Service and reorganized as the present-day New Germany State Park. During World War II, Fort Albion again saw active duty when it became the site of Camp David I in 1942. President Dwight D. Eisenhower used the facility to house official guests and to give outdoor speeches to the press. He also hosted parties there for high ranking military officers and civilian leaders like Harry Truman, Winston Churchill, and Charles de Gaulle. The last visit by any head of state or president was made by Richard Nixon in June 1970 just prior to his resignation. Following this visit, the camp remained closed until 1974 when it was reopened under the name of Camp David II. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan both visited the campground together in 1980 and 1981 respectively.
- mountain biking
- horseback riding
- cross country skiing