Usually when people say scuba diving, the midwest is not the first thing that pops into their minds. The vision of warm clear Caribbean waters is quickly replaced by the mental image of muddy rivers farm ponds, and the next words you hear is “where do you dive around here?”
Needless to say, the widwest is not the South Pacific or the
Caribbean. However, there is a thriving community of divers
here in the area that get out and dive as much as they can in
the warm months, and the weather doesn’t stop some intrepid
souls with drysuits. The majority of dive locations you find here
in the central United States are limestone, gravel, or granite
rock quarries that have either hit natural springs and filled in,
or abandoned and naturally filled with rainwater. Most are
operated as commercial dive attractions, and object such as
school buses, helicopters, and even planes are sunk to give divers something new to look at. Most local training is done at these sites so divers can get certified locally before heading on larger trips.
Why do we dive in a quarry? Isn’t it dark and muddy and cold?
We dive quarries for several reasons. First, not everyone can
afford a weekly trip to the Keys or the Gulf. Being comfortable
with gear and with diving in general is what makes good divers,
and only diving once a year doesn’t give you the experience you
need to be a great diver. Diving in quarries allows us the chance
to dive much more often and in varied conditions. If you hone
your skills locally, it makes you that much more relaxed on
vacation. Second is the comfort factor. No; quarries are not the
crystal blue waters you normally see divers swimming in on
National Geographic. But depending on the season the visibility can be very good or very poor. Even diving in poor visibility can raise the comfort level of the diver. If your comfortable diving in a quarry, you’re more than comfortable diving in almost any other condition. Finally, quarries are interesting. Each quarry has a personality. Each site may have different species of fish, from schools of bass to giant catfish to the unique paddlefish. Learning to swim through sunken objects like buses and planes give very real world experience into the world of wreck diving, and larger regional or destination quarries provide opportunities to learn skills through the Advanced and Master Diver courses.
We have gathered information on most of the major local and regional dive destinations we visit each year. These can be day trips or weekend events, but each represents a unique dive site with different attractions. We hope everyone finds this list helpful and if you have a new dive site you’d like added, please let us know.