‘One of the most special places on Earth’: Raystown Lake celebrates 40 years with weekend events

Vice President Gerald Ford leads the topping off ceremony of Raystown Lake in 1974.
Vice President Gerald Ford leads the topping off ceremony of Raystown Lake in 1974. Photo provided

This weekend, Huntingdon County will celebrate four decades of life on the water as Raystown Lake hits the big four-zero. The Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau has an array of activities and entertainment planned all weekend to celebrate the popular recreation destination. Featuring behind-the-scenes tours of the dam, a Battle of the Bands, various demonstrations, cruises and fireworks, it is all but guaranteed that this will be one birthday bash that will not be soon forgotten.

“June 6 marks the 40th anniversary of the day Vice President Gerald Ford dedicated the dam that forms Raystown Lake in 1974,” said Matt Price, the executive director of the HCVB. “The lake’s history goes back more than 60 years, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers first proposed constructing a high-level dam in the valley of the Raystown Branch of the Juniata River in the late 1940s.”

The largest lake entirely set within the commonwealth, the sheer size of Raystown is impressive and is more than capable of accommodating everything the HCVB has in store for the weekend.

“Only 2 percent of our shoreline is developed, so, of course, when you flip that around, 98 percent of our shoreline is going to be pristine wilderness with great Pennsylvania scenery to enjoy,” said Ed Stoddard, the HCVB’s marketing director. “When we have people come to the visitors center and we show them the map of the lake and start to talk about its scope, their eyes get real wide because they haven’t realized that they have come to such a large lake or that they have discovered this gem of a lake here in central Pennsylvania. It’s such a cool feeling to see visitors realize just how big Raystown Lake is.”

In addition to programs at the Seven Points Amphitheater, standup paddleboard demonstrations and discounted camping all month long, there also will be a few forgotten traditions unfolding at the lake that haven’t taken place in quite some time.

“There are going to be fireworks presented by the Seven Points Marina, and they haven’t put off fireworks here at Raystown for a number of years,” Stoddard said. “They also haven’t done the dam tours for a number of years and I am interested in taking a look inside of the dam and getting an up-close chance of seeing how it works.”

Even without these activities, Raystown Lake is still a marvel that every Pennsylvanian should take the time to cherish and enjoy all throughout the year.

“There are a lot of things that you can do here, and I think that’s one of the most unique factors about the lake and definitely one of the things that I absolutely love about it,” Stoddard said. “On a moonlit night, out there on the lake, this is one of the most special places on Earth.”