The most well-frequented and famous dive sites around the world are typically marine dive sites located in tropical or subtropical regions. This description does not fit Lake Michigan, but this North American lake is extremely popular among scuba divers who dare to venture outside the tropics. If you are interested in wreck diving, you should definitely not miss Lake Michigan, since it is filled with an abundance of fascinating shipwrecks from various periods.
Lake Michigan is located in the United States, and is the only one of the five Great Lakes that does not border to Canada. Lake Michigan diving can take place in four different states: Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.
Lake Michigan diving is popular among novices as well as advanced scuba divers, since the lake offers a wide range of different opportunities. You can enjoy amazingly well kept wrecks during Lake Michigan diving, since the cold water environment is very different from that of the tropics. A wreck that would have been severely altered by the ravaging tropical flora and fauna can still be in almost prime condition in Lake Michigan. The fact that the wrecks that you encounter during Lake Michigan diving have been resting in freshwater instead of saltwater is also a contributing factor to their good condition. Even wooden parts of century old wrecks will still be more or less intact. This naturally makes many scuba divers tempted to collect artefacts during their Lake Michigan diving, but you should keep in mind that US federal law makes it illegal to collect artefacts from wrecks older than 50 years. Even if encounter younger wrecks during your Lake Michigan diving, you should refrain from damaging them and instead leave them for future scuba divers to enjoy. Take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but bubbles during Lake Michigan diving!
During Lake Michigan diving, you can for instance pay a visit to a wreck near Evanston that can be reached by a short swim from the beach. Since the wreck is located no more than 300 yards (274 meters) off shore, there is not need to rent a dive boat for the wreck diving training. Remember that you should never penetrate a wreck when you are a novice scuba diver. Lake Michigan diving inside wrecks can be perilous and should only be carried out by experienced divers with special wreck diving training. Novice divers can however check out the various wrecks from the outside and also enjoy the fascinating marine life that surrounds them. The wreck located near Evanston in Illinois is a wood-hull freighter named George Morley. It has been resting in Lake Michigan since 1892 but is still in very good shape. If you are interested in becoming a wreck diver, George Morley is a good place to start. Several dive centres arrange Lake Michigan diving courses for prospecting wreck divers that include dives inside this wreck, since it is located no further down than 15 feet (4.6 meters).
Since Lake Michigan is found in a temperate region, the water temperature will vary greatly from season to season. During the winter, the water temperature can drop down to slightly above the freezing point and a drysuit will be necessary. If the southern subregion of the lake experiences a severe winter, more than 50 percent of the lake's surface area can be covered in ice. During unusually severe winters, the lake can become almost entirely covered in ice and Lake Michigan diving will then require not only drysuit experience, but ice dive knowledge as well. During the summer, Lake Michigan diving is much easier since the water temperature is more pleasant. During late summer and fall, even the water temperatures below the thermocline will have increased to 45º-60º F (7º-15.5º C). Lake Michigan diving from late July and throughout September will rarely require more than a 7 mm wetsuit.
It is hard to predict the underwater visibility for a Lake Michigan diving trip, since the conditions can change significantly from day to day. A visibility of 30 feet (9 meters) is common, but if you’re lucky you can experience a visibility greater than 60 feet (18 meters). Lake Michigan diving right after a storm is not recommended, since storms can cause the visibility to drop below 5 feet (1.5 meters). The winter months will typically offer a greater visibility than the warmer season.
During Lake Michigan diving, you should be aware that currents may be present in this lake. The weather conditions can also change very rapidly, and you should therefore always contact the National Weather Service before you embark on your dive. If you contact the Oceanic and Atmospheric Association's (NOAA) National Data Buoy Center (NDBC), you can find out more about the surface conditions in Lake Michigan. We recommend you to check out the following websites: http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov and http://www.nws.fsu.edu/buoy/wgtlk.html .