Overview & History
Blue Marsh Lake is located northwest of Reading in Berks County, Pennsylvania. This is a multi-purpose project built and maintained by the Philadelphia District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The dam was authorized by Congress for flood control, water supply, water quality and recreation. Construction began in 1974 and was completed in 1979. The dam is located on the Tulpehocken Creek and the project's water control practices benefit the downstream communities of Reading, Birdsboro, Pottstown, Conshohocken and sections of Philadelphia.
While the main purpose of Blue Marsh was to provide flood control to part of the Schuylkill River Valley, over the years the lake has become a recreational hotspot. With over 36 miles of trails, 5,000 acres of land, 1,147 acres of water, picnic areas, a small beach and boat launches the lake can accommodate all kinds of outdoor enthusiasts. The dam is an earthfill dam that that is 1,775 feet long, 98 feet high and can hold upwards of 16.28 billion gallons of water. During the summer months, the water level is maintained at 290 feet above sea level. In the winter the lake is drawn down five feet to provide for additional flood water storage.
The grasp of Blue Marsh does not stop there. Over the years, the park staff has increased outreach efforts and organizes volunteers for events that happen all year round. Three of the larger programs include Take Pride in Blue Marsh (April), Get Outdoors Day (June), and National Public Lands Day (September). Tours and programs for school and civic groups emphasize the Corps missions, water safety and outdoor recreation. Contact Blue Marsh Lake to find out more about these and other programs we offer.
Blue Marsh Lake’s facilities offer something for everyone. The developed recreation areas are open at 8 a.m. every day and close around dusk accordingly during each season. The Visitor Center overlooks the tower and dam offering a spectacular view of the lake. It is a great place to start your visit. You will find information about the lake, other Corps projects, and learn more about dam operations.
The Dry Brooks Day Use Area attracts a large percentage of visitors to the project. Located within this site is a swim beach, but be alert as there are no life guards on duty and it is swim at your own risk. There are numerous first-come, first-serve picnic tables and grills that surround the swim beach. In addition to a concession stand and public restrooms, you can reserve one of our three pavilions by contacting the project office.
Blue Marsh Lake has three boat launches: Dry Brooks and State Hill Boat Launches (operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers), and Sheidy Boat Launch (operated by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission). Please take note that any boat launched at Sheidy requires the proper state permits.
The Stilling Basin is where the water is released from the dam and has become a popular fishing location with a universally accessible fishing platform. The downstream tail waters are considered one of the best trout fisheries in southeastern Pennsylvania, and are managed as a Delayed Harvest Artificial Lure area.
There are three fee areas at Blue Marsh Lake. They are the Dry Brooks Day Use Area, Dry Brooks Boat Launch, and State Hill Boat Launch. The daily fee is $3.00 per vehicle, and is charged May 1 to September 30. An annual pass can be purchased for $30.
There are trails for every type of activity at Blue Marsh. The multi-use loop trail encircles the lake and is recognized as a National Recreation Trail. You can hike, bike or ride a horse. Skinners Loop and Foxtrot Hiking Trail are connected to the multi-use trail, and will bring you closer to the water’s edge. The Squirrel Run Nature Trail is near the State Hill Boat Ramp. There also is a universally accessible Eyes of the Eagle Sensory Trail and the Great Oak Nature Trail located within the Day Use Area. The Union Canal Connector Trail provides visitors with a path to the Schuylkill River Trail and the Berks County Parks and Recreation Department trail system (horses are prohibited on this trail).
The Tulpehocken Creek Valley Geo Trail, which opened September 29, 2012, developed in partnership with the Berks County Parks Department. It is a geocaching interpretive trail consisting of 20-caches along the scenic Tulpehocken Creek and around Blue Marsh Lake. Users will travel through Berks County Parks and Heritage Sites and visit points of interest around Blue Marsh.