Scuba Diving in Chicago/Midwest

I earned my PADI Open Water Certification in April of 1995. I'll never forget that it was April. I was doing the four dives that are required to receive the certification. In the spring, Midwest diving has a chill to it. I tell divers today it's only 'slightly brisk'. I can admit, diving in forty-two degree water was a bit of a challenge. A 7mm wetsuit is almost not enough. It can be that 'brisk'. Now, fortunately this is not the norm for diving in Chicago and the Midwest. It is sad to say most people think it is, along with the low visibility underwater. I may be the first to tell you this... There have been times that when I was scuba diving in Chicago the water temperatures were in the upper seventies!! That's almost the same water temperature in the Caribbean. I have also been scuba diving when visibility was exceeding 150 feet. I was on a shipwreck in Lake Michigan called Straits of Mackinaw. It is an old car and passenger fairy that was bought and sold many times in her history. Local divers from Chicago had it sunk as an artificial reef. I will talk more on that in another topic. This ship is about 200' long. On this particular dive I was descending down on the bow of the ship. While making my approach, and within several feet of the bow, I was able to see the stern of the shipwreck. There was a haze from a thermocline and a fog of sand, dirt, etc., however I was still able to make out the stern. Again, this is not the norm for scuba diving in Chicago and the Midwest. There are exceptions to every rule just like anything else. Typically, in the heart of 'scuba diving season', in Chicago and the Midwest, water temperatures are the least of a diver’s worries. With proper exposure and training you do it without thinking. In my recent dive in June 2010, I was actually really warm diving. There was nothing cold about it. As far as visibility goes, there are good days and bad days. Most of the time it is definitely clear enough to see something amazing. It will keep you coming back for more. Scuba diving in Chicago and the Midwest has a small variety of diving. You have local quarries and lakes. If they allow scuba divers to go scuba diving most of the time it's treated with care to keep the excitement up. Here is a small list of Midwest scuba spots to name a few (there are more): Illinois: Haigh Quarry, Mermet Springs and Pearl Lake. Indiana: France Park and Blue Springs Wisconsin: Racine Quarry, Devils Lake State Park and Lake Wazee Recreational Area. Ohio: Gilboa Quarry and White Star Quarry Iowa: Pleasant Creek Recreation and Big Blue. Missouri: Bonne Terre Mine and Table Rock. Michigan: Higgins Lake and Mackinaw Island Lake Michigan: The history this lake brings is unbelievable. Shipwrecks preserve differently in freshwater than saltwater. There is even a debris site from the Chicago fire. That's history in and of itself. The gravesites of some of these ships and how they sunk can be truly amazing. You can view some of these shipwrecks at Again, these sites are only to name a few. I have gone scuba diving at a good portion of the ones listed above. My intentions are to inform you of the endless possibilities of scuba diving in Chicago and the Midwest. Most people will claim they earned their certification so they can scuba dive on vacation. I get that. I've been to several wonderful scuba diving spots throughout the world. Some of you are in a position to continue to go. I believe most scuba divers who get certified, go on vacation to scuba dive once in a blue moon. We totally forget the fact we can dive locally or are naive. There is no reason you should have to wait, nor is it safe, to dive once every two to five years. Scuba diving in Chicago and the Midwest are great during the 'diving seasons'. Enjoy your passion and explore the possibilities that are around you. You never know, you could actually enjoy what's beneath the surface of the Midwest. Butch Zemar

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