Cecil M. Harden Lake

Louisville District
Published Jan. 10, 2024
Aerial view of the Dam at Cecil M. Harden Lake in Rockville, Indiana.

Aerial view of the Dam at Cecil M. Harden Lake in Rockville, Indiana.

Aerial view of the Dam at Cecil M. Harden Lake in Rockville, Indiana.

3391 S. Dam Rd.
Rockville, IN 47872
Office hours: M-F, 6:30 am - 4:00 pm (may vary, call ahead)

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Cecil M. Harden Lake (also known as Raccoon Lake), located in west central Indiana, lies predominantly in Parke County and extends into Putnam County.  The dam is on Big Raccoon Creek 33 miles upstream of its juncture with the Wabash River.  It is approximately 25 miles northeast of Terre Haute, 50 miles west of Indianapolis, and 15 miles north of Brazil.

Cecil M. Harden Lake exists as a cooperative management effort between the Corps of Engineers and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.  The lake, formerly “Mansfield Lake,” is also referred to as Raccoon Lake.  The 2,110 acre lake provides flood reduction downstream from the dam, primarily in the Big Raccoon Creek and Lower Wabash River watersheds.  The lake has 216 square miles of drainage area, beginning in Boone County, Indiana.  Cecil M. Harden Lake also offers water-related recreation and the enhancement of fish and wildlife.


The lake was authorized by the Flood Control Act approved June 28, 1938.  Construction began in October 1956, and the project became operation in July 1960.  The lake reached the seasonal recreational pool (661 msl.) on April 27, 1961.  The cost of the completed project was $6,987,807 of which $6,260,134 was the Federal cost.  The project has prevented over $146 million in flood damages.  In addition to flood protection and recreation, Corps lakes provide immeasurable benefits to the local economy.


The lake was renamed from Mansfield Lake by a bill signed into Law on Dec. 14, 1974, by President Gerald R. Ford, in recognition of Mrs. Cecil Murray Harden for her role in obtaining funds for the project.  Mrs. Harden has long been recognized as one of the most active members of the community, serving in positions on the local, state, and national levels.  Mrs. Harden was the U.S. Congressional Representative for five terms beginning in 1949.

Cecil M. Harden Lake is located on Big Raccoon Creek in the rolling farmland in Parke County. Named for Benjamin Parke, the first judge of the U.S. District Court in Indiana, Parke County was officially organized on Jan. 9, 1821.  As with most of southern Indiana, Parke County was inhabited by several Native American tribes, primarily the Delaware, Shawnee, and Miami.  The Native Americans lost the area following the signing of the “10 O’clock Treaty” in 1809 and the Treaty of St. Mary’s in 1818. By 1840, the settlement of Parke County was complete.

The Native Americans gave the name of “Pun-go-so-co-nee” to the largest stream in Parke County, meaning “Stream of Many Sugar Trees.”  Early settlers translated that as Sugar Creek and followed the Native Americans in collecting sugar water from the trees each spring.  They boiled the water down to syrup or granulated sugar for use as a sweetener during the rest of the year.  Today, several active sugar camps still operate in the hard maple groves along Sugar Creek.  Equipment has been modernized, but the technique and spirit is the same as that of the pioneers more than 150 years ago.

Parke County is very similar to much of southern Indiana with its rich rolling farmland, mineral reserves, coal, natural gas, and valuable forests of oak, walnut, maple, and hickory.  However, residents treasure a unique link to the past as the “Covered Bridge Capital of America.”  A total of 37 covered bridges dot the countryside of Parke County, which is more than any other county in the United States.  Because of their regional popularity, two master covered bridge builders, J.J. Daniels and J.A. Brittin, lived in Rockville, the county seat of Parke County.  35 bridges were built between 1865 and 1921.  The two oldest bridges are still carrying traffic.  An annual festival is held in mid-October to coincide with the fall color change and to view the covered bridges.  Vendors display local arts and crafts.  The visitation during this ten-day affair exceeds more than one million visitors.

Shoreline Management Plan Update

The Cecil M. Harden Lake projects allows shoreline uses through permits and licenses in accordance with their lake’s Shoreline Management Plan.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District is in the process of updating the Shoreline Management Plan for Cecil M. Harden Lake located in Rockville, Indiana.

The Cecil M. Harden Shoreline Management Plan is being updated due to USACE assuming sole responsibility of the program. The purpose of the USACE Shoreline Management Program is to protect and manage shorelines of all Civil Works water resource development projects under USACE jurisdiction in a manner that promotes the safe and healthful use by the public while maintaining environmental safeguards to ensure a quality resource for use by the public. The objective of all management actions is to achieve balance between permitted private uses and resource protection for public use.

For a draft copy of the Shoreline Management Plan please reach out to the Louisville District's Public Affairs office at

The comment period closed April 16, 2023, but any additional questions can be submitted by email to or call (765) 344-1570.


Frequently Asked Questions

Permits - Permits are issued to authorize private use on project lands or waters such as boat docks, vegetation control, and erosion control structures.

Licenses - Licenses are issued to authorize non-exclusive use of the shoreline, to include private utility lines, improved pathways, special access for mobility impairment, private drives and roadways, boat ramps, turnarounds, and parking areas.

Consents to Easement - In addition to property the Government acquired in fee for project construction, all of our lakes have specific areas over which flowage easement rights were acquired. The Government may issue a Consent to Easement for non-habitable structures that do not jeopardize the Government’s right to flood the property and do not present an environmental or hazardous threat to the project.

Special Events - Activities for which special event permits may be required include, but are not limited to, water carnivals, boat regattas, music festivals, and dramatic presentations. Please contact the Park Manager for the specific Lake or Locks/Dams location directly for questions about Special Events/Activities or Facilities uses.

Regulatory Permits - Some permits are required for work even if it is on your own property. The Corps evaluates permit applications for essentially all construction activities that occur in the nation’s waters, including wetlands. Corps permits are also necessary for any work, including construction and dredging, in the nation’s navigable waters. 


Louisville District Public Affairs
Cecil M. Harden Lake