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Diving the Great Lakes of North America

With so many incredible tropical dive locations out there, why in the world would anyone opt for a dive in the Great Lakes? After all, the lakes are cold, the visibility isn’t always spectacular, and the fish aren’t nearly as bright. And let’s not forget the lack of coral. Without all the exoticism, you may as well skip it, right?

Not so fast!

The Great Lakes may not seem very epic at first glance, but there’s actually more to them than meets the eye. Since the lakes are used mostly for recreational purposes these days, it can be easy to forget that they were once a major commerce venue. There are decades of sunken watercraft down there, and plenty of interesting vessels yet to be discovered!

Before you discount scuba diving in the Great Lakes, read on to learn why they should make your scuba bucket list. You may discover some new favorite dive locations along the way!

About the Historic wrecks

There are an estimated 6,000 wrecks in the Great Lakes! While many accessible wrecks in the ocean are scuttled or at least empty, the wrecks in the Great Lakes are historic treasures often filled with preserved cargo. These are arguably the greatest wreck dives in the world!

Take the Gunilda, a 200-foot yacht from 1911. It’s very well preserved in 270 feet of water near Rossport, Ontario. Or, look at Kamloops. This boat sank in 1927 off Isle Royale. Peek in the windows—you can still see some cargo, including packages of candy!

Most excitingly, the deepest wreck dive in the world, the Edmund Fitzgerald, is in Lake Superior. Some say this is the deepest dive in the world, period! This wreck is not for the faint of heart. Not only is it located 530 feet down, but it still has the preserved corpses of its unfortunate crew members.

Best Dive Sites

If you’re a beginner, it’s a good idea to start with something shallow. One fascinating wreck for beginners is the Bermuda, a 40-foot schooner in Lake Superior. It’s only about four meters underwater, but it offers the full wreck-dive experience.

A slightly deeper wreck site is the Sport, a steel-hulled tugboat in Lake Huron. It’s about 10 meters underwater. This dive is awesome for the cargo you can find when you search around the boat. What can you discover?

A tougher dive is found in the Straits of Mackinac Shipwreck Preserve. This area has a ton of sunken boats, including the Eber Ward. Be sure to check out this boat when you dive here—you’ll find awesome artifacts like the anchor and plenty of nooks to explore. You can even go inside this ship! This wreck is only for advanced divers, so let that give you motivation for practice and planning.

Are you convinced yet? Although you won’t see colorful marine life in the Great Lakes, you’ll get something you can’t find in the ocean—endless, massive wrecks to explore. If you love to see historic boats resting beneath the waves, then you’ll love everything that the Great Lakes have to offer! What are you waiting for? Michigan is calling!


Breana Johnson is a freelance writer, former Caribbean expat, and masters student at the University of London. She'd rather be under the sea in the Leeward Islands, but for now she's appreciating beach days at Lake Erie.

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