Finding Lakes to Dive

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Dubious

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Location
Wisconsin
Greetings All,

My wife and I have almost been diving weekly since our certification in May of this year (2019). We have quickly learned to just set the time to go diving. To make a long story short, we decided to check out a lake about 10 minutes from our home that was 47' at its deepest and had an easy shore entry via a public beach. We knew the visibility was not going to be the best, but we were surprised by how bad it was. 20' feet down I had to use my light to see my compass. Now I must admit, we have had a lot of rain so we will have to check it out again.

Here are my questions. What is the best way to find local lakes to dive? We know of lakes that are listed on various website and via our LDS, but if we want to find lakes closer to home or when we are traveling, is there anything specific we should look for besides depth. Does bottom contents and Hydrologic Lake Type play a big factor?

In Wisconsin, our department of Natural resources has a lot of great info regarding our lakes including contour maps. The lake we dove last night (07/25/19) lists the following.

"Wolf Lake is a 75 acre lake located in Fond du Lac County. It has a maximum depth of 47 feet. Visitors have access to the lake from a public boat landing. Fish include Panfish, Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike and Walleye. The lake's water clarity is low."​

Facts & Figures
Name
Wolf Lake
Waterbody ID (WBIC) 60800
Area 75 ACRES
Maximum Depth 47 feet
Mean Depth 19 FEET
Bottom 25% sand, 25% gravel, 0% rock, 50% muck
Waterbody Type lake
Hydrologic Lake Type DRAINAGE
County Fond du Lac
Region NE
Latitude, Longitude 43.86440770, -88.20813620​

Our first clue on visibility should have been the "clarity is low", but we just wanted to go get wet. That said, it doesn't seem like all of the lake profiles mention clarity.

Two weeks ago we dove Elkhart Lake which had great visibility with the following profile.

Elkhart Lake is a 292 acre lake located in Sheboygan County. It has a maximum depth of 119 feet. Visitors have access to the lake from a public boat landing. Fish include Musky, Panfish, Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Northern Pike, Trout and Walleye. The lake's water is moderately clear.

Facts & Figures
Name
Elkhart Lake
Waterbody ID (WBIC) 59300
Area 292 ACRES
Maximum Depth 119 feet
Mean Depth 46 FEET
Bottom 42% sand, 43% gravel, 0% rock, 15% muck
Waterbody Type lake
Hydrologic Lake Type SPRING
County Sheboygan
Region SE
Latitude, Longitude 43.82623130, -88.02509430​

Your experience and expertise are greatly appreciated.

Dubious
 

2airishuman

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My wife and I have almost been diving weekly since our certification in May of this year (2019). We have quickly learned to just set the time to go diving. To make a long story short, we decided to check out a lake about 10 minutes from our home that was 47' at its deepest and had an easy shore entry via a public beach. We knew the visibility was not going to be the best, but we were surprised by how bad it was. 20' feet down I had to use my light to see my compass. Now I must admit, we have had a lot of rain so we will have to check it out again.

Good diving in natural lakes usually means 10-15' visibility. Adjust expectations accordingly. In general, lake visibility is at its best at ice out, and deteriorates progressively over the summer. This is one of the reasons people like ice dives. Boat traffic, the presence of divers stirring things up, and wave action all cause the viz to deteriorate temporarily, as well as rain.

Therefore, keep in mind that some divable lakes may not be divable all the time.

Here are my questions. What is the best way to find local lakes to dive?

A good divable lake has these properties:

* Lawful access with few restrictions (e.g. permit requirements, fees, limited hours)
* Sufficient parking at the access
* Easy to get gear from the parking area to the lake
* Easy transition from beachy area to depth without any steep dropoffs or excessive vegetation
* Consistent, good visibility, at least some times of the year
* Minimal or no boat traffic, particularly power boat traffic
* Free of underwater hazards such as dams, water intakes, unstable timber or wreckage
* Interesting aquatic life, or topographic or cultural features
* Sufficient depth to support the diving activity being contemplated.

One way to find them is through other divers.

Otherwise you have to use a combination of resources. Faced with a new lake, I ordinarily visit it on foot a day or two before I'm contemplating diving to see firsthand what it's like and what access problems there might be.

Navionics has depth contours for most lakes:

Navionics ChartViewer

Satellite images can be used for a preliminary assessment of visibility:

Google Maps

When underwater features such as beaches and sandbars are visible via satellite, the viz is pretty good, e.g.:

Google Maps


Two weeks ago we dove Elkhart Lake which had great visibility with the following profile.

Elkhart Lake is a 292 acre lake located in Sheboygan County. It has a maximum depth of 119 feet. Visitors have access to the lake from a public boat landing. Fish include Musky, Panfish, Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Northern Pike, Trout and Walleye. The lake's water is moderately clear.

Facts & Figures
Name
Elkhart Lake
Waterbody ID (WBIC) 59300
Area 292 ACRES
Maximum Depth 119 feet
Mean Depth 46 FEET
Bottom 42% sand, 43% gravel, 0% rock, 15% muck
Waterbody Type lake
Hydrologic Lake Type SPRING
County Sheboygan
Region SE
Latitude, Longitude 43.82623130, -88.02509430​

Your experience and expertise are greatly appreciated.

Dubious

Spring feed lakes with sand/gravel bottoms are usually good.

Again the satellite view shows underwater topography, which is a good sign:

Google Maps

=====

I find that I dive a combination of lakes at different times for different reasons. This late in the year I go to Lake Superior and the deeper minepits in the northern part of the state because that's the only place where the viz is good. I dive the mud puddles in the spring and also have lakes in mind that are divable but also support good non-diving activities when family or friends want that.
 
OP
Dubious

Dubious

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My wife and I were at Wazee Lake last weekend (07/19 - 07/21). The visibility was amazing, but storms limited some of the diving. Much better than the other locations we have dived. We can't wait to go back there but it is 3 hours away. With young kids at home, that sort of trip requires more than a babysitter. This was from our second dive on Saturday between the two storms. This was recorded by our instructor while doing our "wreck" dive for AOW.

 
OP
Dubious

Dubious

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Good diving in natural lakes usually means 10-15' visibility. Adjust expectations accordingly. In general, lake visibility is at its best at ice out, and deteriorates progressively over the summer. This is one of the reasons people like ice dives. Boat traffic, the presence of divers stirring things up, and wave action all cause the viz to deteriorate temporarily, as well as rain.

Therefore, keep in mind that some divable lakes may not be divable all the time.

Thank you very much for this detailed post. We will keep this all in mind. We are thinking about bringing our gear with us when we go to visit my sister near St. Croix Falls.
 

Marie13

Great Lakes Mermaid
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I’d do some research with the locals before jumping into a lake. Maybe it’s got good viz, but there’s a lot of fishing mine.

Facebook is great for this kind of stuff. Find a group for divers in your state/region. Also, have you checked the Great Lakes Diving Guide? It does mention some smaller inland dive sites.
 

matt86

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Looks like you're near where I am. For inland lakes Elkhart and Crystal are the best if you can get shore access or have a boat. Horseshoe lake in manitowoc county is one of my favorites, but the visibility varies a lot there. I've had 20 feet and I've had days where I didn't even dive because it was so murky.
 
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Dubious

Dubious

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For inland lakes Elkhart and Crystal are the best if you can get shore access or have a boat.

Thank you. We enjoyed Elkhart Lake especially with no motors on Sundays. We dove from the boat launch. Still trying to figure if we need to pay the boat launch fee even if we are not launching a boat.

When we were diving Elkhart, a kayaker who is on the Sheboygan Dive team suggested we check out crystal Lake. We also have our eyes on Lake Ellen. We will have to check out horseshoe.
 
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If you get the chance, we have some pretty solid visibility up here on Superior in the U.P.
Plenty of wrecks off Grand Island Near Munising (seen here, with fantastic vis ), and some nice hidden gems over in Marquette all within shore distance.
 

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