Great Lakes Diving equals great wreck diving
It’s been estimated that there are more than 10,000 shipwrecks carpeting the bottom of the Great Lakes, and this region offers some of the most exciting wreck diving in the world. The lakes form a huge chain between Canada and the USA with only Lake Michigan completely inside the States, and we connected with three of our SDI TDI training facilities in one corner of the region to get some suggestions of what to dive and what to expect.
Dan Johnson operates Loves Park Scuba, out of Loves Park, Illinois, and runs a charter service off the western shore of nearby Lake Michigan in the Milwaukee / Racine area.
Captain Dan says “our local dives are wonderful, no need to head south at all!”
Dan has been diving these waters since the 1970s and discovered the Kate Kelly (a two masted schooner) and Lumberman (a three masted schooner). These two are his favorite sport-level dives and two of several wrecks he takes his customers to in his custom six-pack dive boat.
Other options for wreck divers visiting Dan include Dredge 906, The Norland, The Prins Willem V, The Wisconsin and the Car Ferry Milwaukee. Depth ranges from 50 feet to 130 so advanced certs are required for most of the really top-level dives. Water temperatures at depth are in the low forties or high thirties with a strong thermocline in summer at safety stop depth where temperatures ‘soar’ to the mid-sixties. The local season runs through the fall, according to Dan.
One sidebar to the diving opportunities at Loves Park Scuba is their 1500 square foot dive museum which features vintage gear and restored artifacts from many Great Lakes wrecks.
Although Keith Cormican at Wazee Sports Center does not run his own boat, he does organize several stellar cold-water wreck dive trips out of his shop in Black River Falls, Wisconsin each year. This season’s line-up includes a multi-dive trip to the Straits of Mackinac. This streach of water between Lakes Huron and Michigan boast some fantastic wreck sites. These include the Eber Ward, Cedarville and Sandusky, three of the most popular advanced dives in the area. But if those wrecks don’t appeal, there are plenty more. The Straits of Mackinac Underwater Preserve has 20 discovered shipwrecks and within the Straits area there are about 20 others. It’s also thought that there are at least three dozen more waiting to be discovered. “And that’s happening on a regular basis,” says Keith Cormican.
Wazee also caters to the technical divers looking for quality coldwater diving. This year Keith is taking a group to Isle Royale, which is about as far west as you can go and still be in the Great Lakes. Trips to dive the wrecks off Isle Royale are always in high demand and this year’s is full, “but contact me for next year!” Keith joked. Wrecks in that area include the Kamloops (a 250 foot long canaler sitting in more than 200 feet of water), the America (at sport depths) and the Emperor (a bulk freighter about 175 feet deep), which Keith says is his favorite.
At Adventures in Diving, owner Peggy Kurpinski makes the boldest claim of all. “We have so many wrecks within easy reach that you could spend a two-week vacation diving with us and never see the same wreck twice!”
Peggy, who’s dive operation is located near Holland, Michigan, points out that there are 12 underwater preserves in the Great Lakes Basin, some with perfectly preserved wrecks at depths to 300 feet, but adds that there are a lot of dives suitable for advanced sport divers.
“We have several shallower wrecks that are interesting dives just off shore in the Southwest Michigan Underwater Preserve,” she says. “One really unusual dive though, and one I’d recommend for the simple visual impact is in the preserve but it’s not a wreck.” The dive she says is called the Clay Banks and is a deposit of fine, pottery quality clay. “Sounds odd promoting a “mud dive” in an reas with some many wonderful wrecks,” she says. “But it is like swimming through the Grand Canyon and it’s shallow enough for just about any level of diver!”
There are literally scores of dive operators running Scuba Diving International™ and Technical Diving International™ courses and fun dives in the Great Lakes Basin from Brockville in the Thousand Islands bordering New York and the Canadian Province of Ontario west to Duluth, Minnesota. Visit https://www.tdisdi.com to find one for you.