If you walk around metro-area lakes in springtime, you may notice something interesting: Before the water temps begin to rise, the clarity of the lakes is amazing. Cloudy visibility, which we see throughout the summer, is credited to algal blooms, and other kinds of growth that plague Minnesota bodies of water as the weather warms up and more fertilizer enters into lakes by way of runoff.
Despite the bad visibility, we love getting out and enjoying water-time when the weather warms up, whether boating, stand-up paddle boarding, lounging on the beach or strolling along the shore. Some are even adventurous enough to suit up in scuba gear and go beneath the surface!
With all this water around us, it’s no surprise that scuba shops abound in the Twin Cities, and throughout the state: In the metro area, there are usually around six dive shops in operation, as well as shops in other major cities including Duluth, Rochester, Alexandria, Bemidji, and more. These shops regularly offer beginning to advanced dive certification classes through various internationally-recognized certifying organizations (PADI, NAUI, etc.).
As I’ve mentioned before, I spent some time in Thailand working as a Divemaster, an idyllic location for this type of work. But I started diving in Minnesota, and still contend that it’s a great place to learn and practice. Minnesota may not be the first place you think of when you plan to dive, but there are plenty of fun underwater adventures to be had right here at home!
Back when Sea Life Aquarium at MOA was called Underwater Adventures, I worked part-time feeding fish, cleaning tanks and working with the Swim with the Sharks program. Despite new ownership, the program, which grants scuba-certified divers access to the tanks (accompanied by trained divemasters/instructors and safety divers), has continued. Not convinced? The program was named "The World's Best Shark Encounter" by Discovery's travelchannel.com and "the best shark exhibit on the planet" by Animal Planet, and is an experience you’ll never forget! Visit www.visitsealife.com/minnesota for more information.
We have lots and lots of lakes in Minnesota, though not all are created equal for diving. Those with the best viz (that’s diver-speak for visibility) include Perch Lake near Hudson, Wisconsin, Square Lake in Stillwater, and Lake Wazee in Black River Falls, Wisconsin. (Lake Superior has great viz, but because of the cold water, may require a dry suit to dive comfortably and is beyond the scope of novice divers.) Despite less-than-great viz, most local lakes are good for an underwater outing, and all the local dive shops organize group diving events throughout the summer and into the fall. Search online for a dive shop near you and check their schedule—especially useful if, like me, you don’t have a trusty dive buddy to accompany you.
Completing an advanced open water certification requires a deep dive—one to a depth greater than 90’. There are only a handful of places in Minnesota where this can be done, and most happen to be flooded mines on the iron range (Lake Wazee, mentioned earlier, is also a possibility). I’ve done a few dives in the mines, and it’s like nothing else you’ve experienced. The water is an interesting hue of bluish-green, or amber-colored; there are sometimes roads that wind down into the mine, and trees still standing upright along the way. Plus, they’re deep! With most Minnesota lakes bottoming out between 40 and 50 feet, diving a mine is truly unique.
Learn more about mine history: Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area, and Minnesota Mines: An Unexpected Treasury of Dive Sites
When I talk about diving in Minnesota, people often ask what I see, or wonder why I would bother, having dived in so many beautiful places. If you’re a diver, though, you understand that what draws you in (or under, as it were), is not what you see, but rather the sensation of being underwater. Sure, diving in Minnesota requires a thicker skin than say, somewhere in the BVI, but it’s just another way of showing how much we Minnesotans love the land we live in!
Angela Anderson, 612-396-3654
Licensed Associate Working with Sharlene Hensrud of RE/MAX Results, and HomesMSP — Sharlene, John, Angela