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Lake Needwood and its little neighbor, Lake Bernard Frank, offer a quiet respite from the busy, noisy metropolitan Washington DC landscape. The little lakes, Lake Needwood with 75 acres and Lake Frank with 54 acres, are both enclosed within Rock Creek Regional Park. Located just outside of Rockville Maryland, Lake Needwood in particular sees many thousands of visors over the summer months to fish, boat and enjoy the many trails. Both lakes were constructed along Rock Creek to aid in flood control and to trap sediments from storm water run-off. Lake Needwood was created in 1965 when an earth dam was built across the creek, with Lake Frank following two years later.
Rock Creek Regional Park offers 1800 acres, built around the lakes with recreational activities to accommodate the largest possible number of nature seekers just a short distance from home. Oddly, the very flood control intent of the original earth dam has caused evacuations due to fears that the dam would give way under excess rainfall. On one occasion, water levels rose 25 feet, spurring an emergency evacuation of many residents downstream. The dam has since been repaired and reinforced and is monitored carefully.
Lake Needwood sees more visitors than Lake Frank because of its location closer to the parking areas. Lake Frank cannot be reached without at least a quarter-mile walk along one of the trails. Although there is no swimming at either lake, Lake Needwood offers a boat rental concession which rents canoes, kayaks, paddle-boats and row boats, sells fishing bait and provides pontoon tours of the scenic little lake. No gasoline motors are allowed; battery-operated boats or paddle-operated craft are the rule. Private boats may be launched at Lake Needwood with a purchased permit. The general rule is to allow boats under 16 feet in length. Sailboats also face similar restrictions. Mooring permits may be purchased seasonally.
Both lakes are popular with fishermen; Lake Frank fishing must occur from the bank as boat launching is not allowed. The lakes support largemouth bass, catfish, bluegill, crappie, and trout; the trout are stocked yearly. Water fowl enjoy the lakes as well and are always a joy to observe.
Picnic grounds, a snack bar, playground, visitors center, archery range, golf course and several miles of hiking and biking trails in the park make this the perfect place for a family get-together, corporate outing or personal exercise for the city dweller escaping the city. The Rock Creek Hiker/Biker Trail begins at Lake Needwood and extends 20 miles into Washington, DC. One of the main features of Rock Creek Regional Park is the Meadowside Nature Center. Here, visitors can visit owls, hawks, and an American bald eagle in the raptor aviaries. Inside the center, the Legacy of the Land exhibit allows the curious to crawl through a cave or look at the world from a fish's point of view. The Curiosity Corner discovery room contains games, books, puzzles, and live animals for children to explore nature in a child-friendly environment. Everyone enjoys the opportunity to learn about the lives of the Maryland pioneers and Eastern Woodland Indians in the Legacy of the People exhibit. Organized natural history programs are offered for families, schools and youth groups.
A shallow reservoir, Lake Needwood is estimated to average about 8 feet. Once dredged on a regular basis, the dredging was halted in the 1990s due to budget limitations. In 2011, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and the Montgomery County Department of Parks drained the lake to dredge out the accumulated sediments and improve water depth for fishing and boating. The lake was closed to visitors but is expected to be open by summer 2012.
Lake Needwood and Lake Frank receive visitors not only from Washington DC but from nearby Rockville and Gaithersburg, Maryland. Located just east of the busy I-270 corridor between Frederick, MD and Washington, the area is rapidly growing and green, open spaces are becoming more rare and less accessible. Both Rockville and Gaithersburg are cities with a rich historical past and feature a number of period homes and buildings, along with historical societies and historical museums. Although there are no lodgings directly on either Lake Needwood or Lake Frank, the area has a large number of lodging choices for overnight or a long week-end. Washington DC is filled with attractions such as the Smithsonian Museum complex, the many government buildings open for tours, and any number of historical monuments and locations.
Many visitors to the Washington area, particularly those with young children in tow choose to rent hotel rooms outside of the city to save on hotel costs (Washington holds some of the country's most expensive lodgings). Either the Rockville or Gaithersburg areas are a logical choice, particularly with a lovely park such as Rock Creek Regional Park nearby where children can run off excess energy. Real estate is available in the area, although again, prices may be rather high. But a visit to Lake Needwood should definitely be on one's list of desirable activities when visiting the area. Come on over and bring a cane pole and some bait (the lake concessions sells both) and wet a line for a pleasant and quiet afternoon on lovely Lake Needwood. Wander the path around Lake Frank and learn about the area and its native creatures at the nature center. Lake Needwood and Lake Frank are the perfect place to restore your hectic mind and refresh your soul Come visit these lovely little lakes and rejuvenate!
*Statistics are for Lake Frank only as those are more complete. Actual statistics for Lake Needwood are unavailable.
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