Getting it right

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Debunking the biggest misconceptions of diving in the United States

by Jennifer Idol

As I completed my quest to become the first woman to dive all 50 states, I heard innumerable opinions on the places I was diving. Even I undertook the journey with a few of my own preconceptions. Most often questioned, “Can you even dive all 50 states?”  YES.  This seemingly obvious question reveals the biggest of misconceptions, that if you can actually dive all 50 states, it must be uninteresting, ugly, and difficult. Diving in the United States is full of adventure, wilderness, and beautiful landscapes.

Explore beautiful and adventuresome destinations

 

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Mt. Saint Helens is one of many landscapes worth seeing as part of your next dive trip.

 

We’re all familiar with a couple places renowned for diving, like Florida and California. But did you know Puget Sound in Washington is home to giant octopus, wolf eels, and plumose anemones? Take time to visit the natural wonders around these dive sites too. In Washington, I made sure to not only enjoy the museums in Seattle, but I also ventured to Mt. Saint Helens, an extraordinary live volcano that last erupted in 2008.

 

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Fresh water Sunfish hope for a snack in Kentucky.

 

Kentucky was probably home to the most beautiful of the quarries I dove, Pennyroyal Scuba Park Blue Springs Resort. Much inland water is green, teal, or even brown, but in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, the water shone a brilliant blue at sunset.

 

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Shelagh Cooley explores wrecks in the Lake Champlain Shipwreck Preserve in Vermont

 

Find adventure in wreck diving off the coasts of North Carolina or Michigan and from the shores of Vermont. In North Carolina, the U-352 was sunk by the Coast guard cutter Icarus in 1942 during WWII.

 

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John Mills explores the William H. Barnum in Michigan

 

Isn’t it difficult

Seeing the most beautiful of locations may require more than an entry level of diving certification. Dives in America can be challenging, but no more so than a Caribbean destination if we spend time learning our equipment and mastering our buoyancy. In fact, diving in American waters can be easier and less expensive than other international destinations. This means you can dive more often if you’re already in the United States.

 

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Homestead Crater in Utah boast 93º temperatures year-round

 

Many dives in America can be made as shore dives. You can often drive to the water’s edge and unload gear or walk right in. If a walk is longer than you like, bring a cart to make it easier. These locations are often quarries, lakes, or springs.

Admittedly, dives are often colder than Caribbean waters, requiring you wear thermal protection like a wet suit or dry suit. Most waters reach comfortable temperatures in the summer, including places like Alaska, home to our last true wilderness. Places like Homestead Crater are geothermically warmed year-round, and require only a swim suit.

 

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Tomtate school inside the Papoose in North Carolina

 

Prove it

Of all the places I’ve seen, Dutch Springs in Pennsylvania best breaks the myths of diving in the United States. Yes, it is a spring-fed quarry. I’ve heard divers say it’s where they go when they can’t get out to the wonderful wrecks on the Atlantic coast. It’s definitely not a mudhole, like some of the places I’ve been accused of diving. Dutch Springs is my favorite American destination.

 

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Ben Castro tries the Mark V diving helmet and suit in Dutch Springs.

 

Instructors make Dutch Springs their destination for a controlled environment that’s warm enough in the summer for beginning students. The depth is limited to 100 feet (33 meters) and filled with attractions like a Sikorsky H-37 helicopter. If it’s technical diving you seek, Becky Kagan Schott leads rebreather demos and classes in Dutch Springs.

Perhaps what intrigues me most about Dutch Springs is the events that are held. The Northeast Dive Equipment group meets twice a year to hold a hard hat rally. They donate their time to provide an opportunity for certified divers to experience historic equipment. Here, I was able to sport a Mark V diving helmet, walk under a Snead, and don a Russian Military Diving Suit. If you own and maintain historic dive equipment, I strongly encourage you to plan a visit.

A full-service dive facility, Dutch Springs can provide any equipment you might need to rent for your dives. It costs a little more than some of the nearby dive shops, but I pay extra to rent my cylinders for the convenience. When you’re done diving, you can hop over to one of their recreational water activities or their climbing walls. I see children enjoying the outdoor adventure every summer.

 

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Plumose anemone grow on pilings in Puget Sound.

 

An American diving adventure

Not only did I find adventure across the country with every kind of diving imaginable, but the landscapes in the National Parks exceeded my imagination. Underwater, I found wondrous animals, blue water, and warm water. Although Dutch Springs is perhaps my favorite location because of the diving community there, I experienced an abundance of good diving that I will elaborate on in future articles.

 

 

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February 12, 2016 |

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