Once known as the Dead Sea of Elk County, East Branch Lake is having a resurgence of life.
From the 1940s through the early 1960s, the lake endured the toxic effects of acid drainage in its water shed from heavy coal and clay mining. During that time, the average pH levels in the outflow were between 4.0 and 5.0. This decline in water quality reduced the plankton, which is an essential aquatic organism and primary food chain element. At these levels, fish are not able to survive in this environment.
In 1969, the former Department of Environmental Resources, Bureau of Mine Reclamation initiated a program called "Operation Scarlift." A lime treatment plant was established at Swamp Creek and was viewed as a short-term solution to the problem. It was thought that with the closure of the old deep mines and reclamation of high walls the discharge would be eliminated. This was not the case.
Continuous operation of the lime treatment is essential to the lake's water quality and fishery. Since shortly after the treatment with lime began, pH levels at the outflow average between 5.6 and 6.7. Now, according to Pennsylvania Great Outdoors, East Branch Lake is referred to as "Pennsylvania's Best Kept Secret".