SRL Supports Sustainable Jobs in Maryland

Mike recently spoke with Engage Mountain Maryland about the fallacy of jobs creation with natural gas development in western Maryland. We believe that Garrett County’s precious and beautiful natural resources should be preserved and utilized for sustainable tourism.

The Savage River watershed and Savage River State Forest are endangered by fracking proposals, and so is our quiet oasis at SRL. The current statewide moratorium on drilling expires in October. We oppose hydraulic natural gas fracking in Maryland and encourage you to voice your opinion with your local representatives if you agree.

Why would you want to endanger the sustainable business of tourism with the hope of having a short-term business that might get you some natural gas?

A transcript of Mike's interview appears below. 

As a former labor mediator, Mike Dreisbach, owner of Savage River Lodge explains the inflated promises of jobs from fracking. It's not as simple as industry bringing added economic benefit when the footprint it leaves displaces existing established businesses.

“When we moved here as a tourism-based business, the idea for us was to have really great natural resources. Probably about four to five years ago when the idea came up that they were going to look at fracking for natural gas in this region, I kind of scoffed at it because we’re such a small location that economically it’s really not going to be possible.

We absolutely are opposed to hydraulic fracking because what got us here 20 years ago, our deliberate move, is that we want to stay and be able to keep doing that.

We deliberately came to Garrett County because of a lot of things – four seasons and a great clean environment. We came here because of it being a destination. And we chose this area because of the ability to do a lot of outdoor tourism activities. A lot of our guests come because of the quietness and because of the ability to walk off the step of their cabin and go out and hike for six to eight hours, take the dog with them; that’s one of the big attractions.

I used to work as a labor mediator out west. And so I watched places in Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado pretty much get destroyed and then have to make a big shift. So they went away from tourism activities to industrial activity, and tourism began to lose a lot of clientele.

Those guys that travel from Oklahoma or Wyoming or Montana, they are a travelling road crew and they go from place to place to place. When they get here or someplace else, they work the job out, they leave, and what’s left is… well, good luck!

And if I sit here and look at the Four Mile Ridge wind turbine project – and I’m 100% pro-wind energy –  in the initial pieces of that, they were very successful in creating hundreds of jobs. And those 14 wind turbines created a lot of tax base for the county. But now if you go look at the Four Mile wind turbine project – which, it’s very similar to the natural gas industry – so, once we got the turbines up and running and things are happening, there’s now only three people to support the whole project.

And I do know for a fact from when I worked in Colorado and Wyoming the travelling road crews would have their $125,000 RVs and they would go to job site to job site and they’d be there for six months and they’d move on to the next job site, but when they really left the area there were no jobs left over. And these guys weren’t working eight hour days, they were working 12 and 14 and 16-hour days. And they were making double-time and making lots of money, and it was going in the bank and it was going right back home to where they really live.

And for me, that’s my biggest complaint – is that they’re going to destroy the renewable businesses that we have in Garrett County for the “oh, we’ll have more jobs.” We’re not going to have more jobs. Why would you want to endanger the sustainable business of tourism with the hope of having a short-term business that might get you some natural gas?”

─ Mike Dreisbach, owner of Savage River Lodge

A Fall Day on the GAP

Fall seemed late in coming this year, but it’s more than made up for it with a long string of surprisingly warm, sunny days. Without a true frost yet, the leaves have changed more slowly than usual, and it seems as though the kaleidoscope of color will keep turning forever.

In Appalachia you learn to savor every sunny day. On a perfect fall day last week, we headed up to the Great Allegheny Passage for a bike ride.

The closest trailhead to Savage River Lodge is only 13 miles and just over 20 minutes away at Deal, PA. A popular ride for our guests is from there to Cumberland — Mike will shuttle you there and back for a 23 mile ride, and most of that is downhill!

Not long after embarking, you cross the Eastern Continental Divide. Did you know that most of the waters in Garrett County are part of the Ohio River watershed, eventually flowing into the Gulf of Mexico? (The Savage River drains into the North Branch of the Potomac, then on to the Chesapeak Bay.) The Eastern Continental Divide is atop Savage Mountain and divides those waters along an east-west line, just like the Mason-Dixon Line is a prominent north-south demarcation.

a-fall-day-on-the-gap-elevation map.jpg

The Allegheny Mountains were a formidable barrier for early settlers. Savage Mountain is named after a surveyor who nearly succumbed to voluntary cannibalism during the winter of 1736. It’s hard to imagine how challenging these mountains must have been before Interstate 68 was built until you travel through a mountain. The Big Savage Tunnel is the longest along the GAP, over half a mile in length and opened in 1912. Railways were first laid in the area in 1842, so with this late addition it must have felt like a real shortcut.

The tracks were pulled up and the tunnel closed in 1975 but reopened in 2003 after an $11 million renovation to accommodate GAP travelers. Without this link, the trail would have taken a 17-mile detour! The tunnel is well-lit and the cool concrete is a wonderful respite from hot summer sun.

Perhaps because we were travelling through on an October day, the imagination ran wild – the huge gates on either end of the tunnel make you think that you’re entering the Wall on “Game of Thrones” or a passageway to Mordor. It’s a highlight for many long-distance riders, in a triad with the continental divide and Mason-Dixon Line.

You emerge from the tunnel, partially blinded by the sudden sun, to a wide panorama of the hills and valleys of Somerset County, Pennsylvania. A line of picnic benches make for one of the best places to eat with a view we can think of!


From here, the trail continues another 5 miles to Frostburg and 14 more to Cumberland — all downhill from here.

It’s a real ride through history, particularly if you make the entire 335-mile trek from Pittsburgh to Georgetown, DC. In Cumberland, the rail trail meets with the C&O Canal Trail towpath which hugs to Potomac River all the way to tidewater. The canal was initially planned to extend to Lake Erie, but by the time canal construction made it to Cumberland in 1850, the railroads had already been forged and quickly overtook the canal as the preferred mode of travel for both cost and time. Though unused for over 100 years in some places, remnants of the past remain in telegraph lines, historic rail stations, lock houses, viaducts, and more tunnels. Portions of the trail parallel still-active CSX lines, as well as the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad which runs excursion trains between Cumberland and Frostburg.

The Big Savage Tunnel closes each winter from approximately December 15th to April 15th.

Learn more about SRL’s bike packages and read about one woman’s ‘Surprisingly Luxe‘ trip in an October 2015 article of the Wall Street Journal. We highly recommend “wine”-ing down from your ride with an in-cabin massage like she did!

Unlimited Trout

In the last week, Maryland Department of Natural Resources completed fall trout stocking in Garrett and Allegany Counties, notably along the Youghiogheny River and Bear Creek. Just today 500 rainbow trout were stocked into the Casselman. Fall fishing can be less predictable than the spring with lower flows and fish that have had all summer to get smart to a line, but the additional solitude this time of year makes it a real treat for the serious angler.

The following essay was printed in TROUTTrout Unlimited‘s quarterly magazine. We are proud to be a TU endorsed business, and loved reading this essay of a simple walk down an unnamed stream not far from here, in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania. Chuck Sams wrote it in response to a TU contest for its 10 Special Places that are endangered. Three of those ten are in our area; one is quite literally in our backyard. The Savage River Watershed is on this list because it is under threat by natural gas extraction, with Maryland’s temporary ban on fracking due to expire in October 2017. 

Learn about our fishing packages and call us to book your escape to the river, a special place in any season.

I get a whiff of honeysuckle and it mixes with the sweet smell of the river. He was having a good day when he made this place.


Tributary Youghiogheny

by Chuck Sams
TROUT, Summer 2016

The water bubbles out from the limestone shale between two trees and falls away down the mountain, a true spring creek. In the summer, when it’s hot, you can ride to the top of the mountain and drink the cool, clear water right at its source. The water’s cold when it comes out of the ground and the shade of the thick hardwoods help keep it that way, all the way down the mountain. I imagine there are some brookies up this high but the water is narrow and too tight for the fly rod. It doesn’t matter. It will get wide enough at some point. I can tell this place, these Laurel Mountains, are trouty.

You can see it in the layers of the yellow limestone. There is a constant dampness, like a creek or river is always waiting to bust out and flow downhill toward the Youghiogheny River. And indeed there is at least a small trickle in every hollow. If you get enough of them together at the bottom of the mountain you’ve got a river.

You can’t see the stream from the road or the driveway even though it’s right in front of the house. It takes being halfway up the mountain and on the way down to notice it. It makes a hairpin bend and flows through a giant culvert to the other side of the road. It’s still tight but more than fishable even with its tree-lined banks. I smile a fisherman’s smirk knowing that there is a river in the front yard and my fly rod is but a skip away.

I walk the edges, flipping over pieces of limestone that were probably there when George Washington rode in and put down the Whiskey Rebellion. The nymphs are there, and where there is food and cold water there are bound to be trout. I study the bushes and the tops of the trees but there’s no hatch here. It’s getting too hot too quick this time of year and a beaded pheasant tail will have to do.

Cover is sparse. The grade rushes the water past and scours the bottom leaving only rocky hides for the fish. There are deeper holes, color lines, current seams, bubble lines, and boulders to fish. I try my best but today the luck is on their side and the trout gods have ignored my plight.

I can see the mountain rising straight up behind the house as I crest the bank. Downstream, the hills and mountains keep rolling away. I get a whiff of honeysuckle and it mixes with the sweet smell of the river. He was having a good day when he made this place.

I catch a taunting, splashy rise out of the corner of my eye and smile. They have eluded me today but I’ll be back to this place with its old mountains and cold creeks, this place that was made for trout and those who pursue them.

Chuck Sams was the winner of Trout Unlimited’s 10 Special Places essay contest. He is a writer and an engineer living within a day’s ride of all the great Michigan rivers. Sams attends trout camp in the spring, fishes anywhere all summer, attends salmon camp in the fall and hits the ice in the winter.