Blue Marsh Lake
Located in Berks County Pa., just to the west of Reading is my newest boating hang-out. Blue Marsh Lake is a man-made lake which was constructed as part a system of flood control projects which were authorized by congress in the late 1950's, and constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers in the mid 70's. This lake is relatively new, having been open to the public only since 1979. See map for general area logistics.
Blue Marsh Lake is about 8 miles long, with a depth of about 50 feet near the dam. It is fed by 3 main and two smaller creeks and also sports one island. This facility has become home to a variety of recreational activities, both summer and winter. There is a large picnic and swimming area, and there are multitudes of multi-use trails around the lake. Of course, my principle interest is in boating.
About 2/3 of the lake is in the form of a fairly open pool, while the remainder extends back up the feeder creeks. At the point where the main pool splits into three distinct creeks, the lake becomes a no-wake area. While this limits the practical use of much of the lake, I suspect that this was done due to the relatively narrow and somewhat winding nature of the tributary creeks. However, the main tributary, the Tulpehocken Creek, is at least as wide as my old hangout, the Schuylkill River at least up to the Church Road bridge. So they should, IMO, consider rolling the no wake zone back to there just to give some more useable space for people to enjoy at a speed over that of a slow crawl.
The Army Corps operates 2 boat launching facilities, Dry Brooks and State Hill, which charges a nominal fee to use. The ramps are excellent, with adjacent finger docks and the parking facilities are good as well. These facilities are normally crowded (packed to the gills is more accurate) on the weekends. The Pa. Fish & Boat Commission also operates a ramp facility much further upstream toward Bernville. There is no charge to use this ramp. The downside though is that it dumps you into the no-wake part of the lake and you can count on about a 30 - 40 minute trip (each way), at no-wake speed, before reaching the main lake area.
A picture of the Fish Commission facility is shown here:
Pros: Since moving in 1999, this is now my closest decent sized body of water. It's a nice lake for tubing and skiing, and the shoreline is virtually undeveloped lending to a scenic natural setting.
Cons: Probably every boater in Berks County, and other areas, must call this place home since it can become very crowded on summer weekends. I usually opt for a weekday visit to avoid the crowds.