2016 marks the US National Park Service’s 100th birthday! The national organization is marking the occasion with a series of multi-faceted efforts to promote, educate and help people discover National Parks all across the country. Scuba divers can celebrate by simply planning a visit.
There are more than 30 National Parks that cater to divers and which are scattered all across the country from the great massive lakes in the Midwest to the miles of offshore waters along the Carolinas. And divers may be surprised to find that there are typically a handful of fresh diving destinations that are just a day’s drive or less away.
Not sure where to start? The National Park service’s website at https://www.nps.gov/ has detailed information on all of their parks from visiting hours to camping to access fees and divers can get inspired by an exploration by checking out this quick list of top, and lesser-known, destinations.
Located off the western coast of Key West, the Dry Tortugas National Park comprises of roughly 67,000 acres of sea grass beds and corals reefs that you can find at the intersection of the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.
The ensuing Florida Current is rich in sea life including big critters that make for impressive encounters. There are also countless dive resorts and liveaboards frequent the area for the convenience of divers who want to explore every inch.
Check out popular sites like the Windjammer, an iron-hulled 1875 sailing ship that you can access, as well as Texas Rock, where you can find a brilliant mound of coral.
Straddling the borders of Canada and the US, this expansive park that opened in 1910 before the National Park Service even existed has surprisingly moderate temperatures in the summertime months despite its northern locale.
Two lakes are prime sites for scuba diving, Saint Mary Lake, and Lake McDonald. Both sites feature excellent concessions like picnic areas and visitors centers.
Lake McDonald boasts visibility that can extend to 50’ ft. or more. Divers will also want to check out Upper Waterton Lake on the Canadian side of the park where the massive 100’ ft. long Gertrude, a stern paddle-wheeler, rests in about 20-60’ feet of water.
There’s a reason why they call the waters off of North Carolina the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” A popular route for centuries, these treacherous waters are also where the Labrador Current and Gulf Stream meet, resulting in a shifting array of sandbars under the surface that has caused countless vessels to wreck.
Combined with massive U-Boat action in both World Wars, this offshore area of water is home to hundreds of both discovered, and undiscovered, shipwrecks. Head to the USS Monitor, one of the most famed dive sites in the massive region, or check out the Civil War-era Salvo 18 miles off Oregon Inlet, which is relatively easy to find.
A dive guide will be instrumental in both navigating the waters, and sharing the often unbelievable stories behind some of the region’s most famous and historic wrecks.
There’s a lot more to discover, and we’ll continue to point out other cool scuba diving destinations of interest that may be in your backyard as the NPS Centennial continues its year-long celebration.
Need more information on traveling to these sites ideas? Check out our travel section. If you live in the Dallas area, swing by our shop in Carrollton, and we’ll be happy to chat with you about scuba!