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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.

3391 S. Dam Rd.
Rockville, IN 47872
765-344-1570

Office hours: M-F, 6:30 am - 4:00 pm (may vary, call ahead)

Lake Levels   

Lake Temperatures

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Location

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.

Authorization

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.

History

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 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District has updated the Shoreline Management Plan for Cecil M. Harden Lake. The Cecil M. Harden Shoreline Management Plan has been updated due to USACE assuming sole responsibility of the program, which was previously managed in coordination with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. 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 final copy of the 2024 Shoreline Management Plan can be viewed here.

For those impacted, the new shoreline management plan implementation process will be prioritized in the following way:

  1. Work with Current Community Dock Owners: USACE will first transition current lake dock owners from the previous Indiana Department of Natural Resources permit to the new USACE permit. USACE personnel will contact existing dock managers to initiate the new permit application process.
  2. Process Change of Owner Actions: USACE personnel will process all change of owner actions that have occurred since the moratorium was put in place. Individuals that have purchased property after March 16, 2023, will need to contact the project office to apply for associated permits and licenses. 
  3. Accept Requests: USACE will accept requests for Vegetation Modification Permits and Hazardous Tree Permits. A description of these activities can be found in Section 18 of the Shoreline Management Plan. 
  4. New Applications: USACE will issue new seawall licenses and community dock permits based on the new requirements described in the updated shoreline management plan. These requirements can be found in Sections 10 and 16 of the updated plan. All Indiana Department of Natural Resources bank ties/mooring permits will be honored through 2025. Beginning Jan. 1, 2026, all bank ties/mooring permits will no longer be valid, and boats will need to be moored to a seawall or community dock after this date. 

All lake visitors will still need to purchase the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Lake Permit that is required to launch a boat on Cecil M. Harden Lake.

For specific questions regarding the new shoreline management plan or implementation process, please contact the USACE Cecil M. Harden Lake project office at (765) 344-1570.

Shoreline Management Resources

 

The 2024 Shoreline Management Plan can be viewed at the following link: https://usace.contentdm.oclc.org/utils/getfile/collection/p16021coll7/id/26108

 

 

Fee Chart: 

Improved Pedestrian Access and Seawalls are covered by a Minor Shoreline License (MSL) issued by the Louisville District Real Estate Division. The fees charged for these facilities includes an Administrative Fee which funds the work required to issue this license for a 5 year term. There is also a Fair Market Value which is the appraised value of the land occupied by the facility.

These fees are as follows:

Administrative Fee - $500
*Fair Market Value:
           Improved Pedestrian Access $300
           Seawall $450

Individuals with more than one MSL typically only pay one Administrative Fee.
 
*In-Kind Consideration for MSLs – In kind consideration can be made for the Fair Market Value portion of MSLs. Erosion protection placed in conjunction with a Seawall may be used to cover a portion or all of the Fair Market Value for Seawall Licenses.
 

 

 

Zoning Maps can be found below. Hard copies may be available at the USACE Cecil M. Harden Lake project office. To obtain a copy, please call (765) 344-1570.

2024 Cecil M. Harden Lake Shoreline Management Zoning Map 1
2024 Cecil M. Harden Lake Shoreline Management Zoning Map - portrait with white background
2024 Cecil M. Harden Lake Shoreline Management Zoning Map 1
2024 Cecil M. Harden Lake Shoreline Management Zoning Map 1
2024 Cecil M. Harden Lake Shoreline Management Zoning Map - portrait with white background
Photo By: USACE
VIRIN: 240708-A-A1409-1002

2024 Cecil M. Harden Lake Shoreline Management Zoning Map 2 - portrait with green background
2024 Cecil M. Harden Lake Shoreline Management Zoning Map - portrait with green background
2024 Cecil M. Harden Lake Shoreline Management Zoning Map 2 - portrait with green background
2024 Cecil M. Harden Lake Shoreline Management Zoning Map 2
2024 Cecil M. Harden Lake Shoreline Management Zoning Map - portrait with green background
Photo By: USACE
VIRIN: 240708-A-A1409-1003

2024 Cecil M. Harden Lake Shoreline Management Zoning Map 3  - landscape with green background
2024 Cecil M. Harden Lake Shoreline Management Zoning Map - landscape with green background
2024 Cecil M. Harden Lake Shoreline Management Zoning Map 3  - landscape with green background
2024 Cecil M. Harden Lake Shoreline Management Zoning Map 3
2024 Cecil M. Harden Lake Shoreline Management Zoning Map - landscape with green background
Photo By: USACE
VIRIN: 240708-A-A1409-1004

 

 

Public Comments – Cecil M. Harden Shoreline Management Plan

The Cecil M. Harden Draft Shoreline Management plan received 26 comments from members of the public. Most of these comments could be grouped into common categories. Individual responses were provided to each comment. A summary of comments and responses is provided below.

Seawalls
Comment: It was noticed by a member of the public that the access requirements for seawalls did not match with boat docks.
Response: This was updated in the Shoreline Management Plan.
Comment: A member of the public inquired about the timeframe for existing seawalls to have new licenses issued by Real Estate Division.
Response: The Real Estate office will mail notifications to existing seawall owners to place each seawall under a license. It is anticipated that this notification will take place no later than 2026.
Comment: There were questions from the public regarding ladders and steps on seawalls. The plan prohibits permanently installed ladders and steps on seawalls.
Response: There are an assortment of commercially manufactured removable alternatives to fixed steps. Any alternative must first be approved by the Project Manager. It should also be noted that a IDNR regulation, 312 IAC 8-2-9 , prohibits swimming from a seawall or any portion of the shoreline at Cecil M. Harden Lake.

Boat Docks
Comment: Several questions about boat docks requested clarification about regulations or asked specific questions about the requestor’s permits or permit eligibility.
Response: In these situations, the regulation was clarified, or they were referred to the Cecil M. Harden Project Office for answers to their specific questions.
Comment: A question was asked concerning whether existing Boat Dock Associations would qualify as Legal Entities for boat dock permits in the future.
Response: These Dock Associations will qualify as Legal Entities for the purposes of obtaining a boat dock permit.

Bank Ties
Comment: Questions were received regarding the bank tie program.
Response: No new bank tie permits are being issued by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and the bank tie permits are not included in the proposed Shoreline Management Plan. The practice of long-term mooring of boats along the shoreline without improvements like a seawall or boat dock are not in keeping with conservation best management practices. Current bank ties will be grandfathered for a maximum of two years before they either need to be removed or replaced with a licensed seawall.

Other
Comment: There were questions about the availability of permits to remove driftwood.
Response: This is included in the plan through a specified acts permit.

 

Contact
Louisville District Public Affairs
lrl-pao@usace.army.mil
or
Cecil M. Harden Lake
lrl-pagemaster-MWH@usace.army.mil