Located just north of Wilkes-Barre, in Luzerne County Pa., in a town by the same name, Harvey's Lake proudly sports a sign in which it claims to be the "largest natural lake in Pa.". One then has to wonder how this relatively small lake, which ironically is shaped like a small letter "h", could be the largest natural lake in Pa. The explanation for this apparent contradiction is that the designation refers to total volume of water. Harvey's Lake, while not that large in surface area, is evidently fairly deep in most places. According to local experts, the lake depth can reach close to 100' in spots. Check here for a map of the area. Click here for a colorful look at the history of the area.
Unlike Lake Wallenpaupack, which is man made and subject to fluctuations in water level, Harvey's Lake's water level remains fairly constant. This has allowed the lake front residents to build permanent docks and some elaborate boat houses. Most of the lake front properties are on the "affluent" side as well, and their boat houses rival some people's primary residences in sheer size and sophistication. It's not uncommon for there to be a satellite dish (or 2) gracing the roofs of a few of the larger boathouses. I can't say that I blame them. With the spectacular lake view, and the ability to escape from the routines of the family home, hanging out at the boat house would be my ideal vacation without actually having to go anywhere.
The depth of the lake, on average, is fairly deep with the only really shallow area being, ironically, at the same place as the only public launch ramp. This public ramp is located at the bottom of the long leg of the "h", and is maintained by the Pa. Fish and Boat Commission. The ramp is concrete and the parking lot is large and well marked. There are even lavatory facilities on site. There is also a creek which feeds into the lake at that point, and I suspect that this creek is responsible for much of the shoaling which goes on there. There is a narrow dredged channel which leads away from the dock at the end of the ramp, but it can be tough to stay in the fairly narrow channel, especially during crowded weekend conditions. The combination of the narrow channel, some occasional wind, and a horde of boats all vying for the same spot, makes launching and retrieving your boat a bit interesting on weekends.
The main road through the "town", also runs around the perimeter of the lake and gives the landlubber a scenic view of the water. At the "knee" of the "h", is Grotto Pizza, a great place to tie up the boat and have lunch, although larger hi profile boats may not be able to pass under the RT 415 bridge to get to the dock. Also, during Memorial Day weekend, in the small lagoon where people normally tie up to partake in the "Legendary Taste" of Grotto's pizza, the locals host a classic boat show featuring wooden Chris-Crafts, Century's, and other runabouts from many years ago.
At the opposite side of the lake from the Grotto, is Hanson's campground (which as of 2008 appears to be closed). The campground is about all that's left of an earlier amusement park, and is the place where we usually go for a long weekend trip. Click here for more information on the history of this old amusement park. Hanson's also sponsors the Bud Light amphitheatre which rose up, much like the Phoenix, from the ashes of the old amusement park and has been home to a few rock and country music concerts. This late 80's picture of Hanson's was taken when the last remnants of the old amusement park's roller coaster were still evident. A few years later the rest of the old wooden coaster was knocked down in preparation for the construction of the Bud Light amphitheatre:
Since the lake is relatively small in size, it's no surprise that the traffic can get heavy on the weekend and it generates a good bit of short duration chop as a result. The times when I've usually been there have been either early or late in the season, when the lake water temperature is too cold for my tastes. Consequently, I've never tubed or skied there. But on days other than a busy weekend, it's a good lake for both of those activities.
Here's a view from the "knee" of the "h", looking back toward the long side:
Here are couple of shots showcasing some examples of the nicer homes along the lake:
The next one was rumored to have been (And may still be) owned by a producer of porn movies:
This is the lake side view of the Marina Cafe. Another place to tie up and slam down a few shots, a couple of beers, or maybe eat a cheese steak or two:
Here is a picture of the "River Rats", hanging out on Harvey's Lake:
Pros: A nice freshwater lake in a more "laid-back" rural setting. It is the perfect size for water skiing and other water sports.
Cons: It's fairly small, so a cruiser will get bored fairly quickly. It's also too far away from me for a simple day trip. Lake traffic can be a bit heavy on the weekend.