Wednesday, September 08, 2010

SCUBA Diving Haigh Quarry -- Caribbean of the Midwest?

The Great Midwest is hardly thought of as a SCUBA diver's Mecca. And yet hundreds of miles from the nearest saltwater and bone-chllingly cooler than the bathwater temps of the tropics, there are still plenty of opportunities for diving here in the hinterlands. And what we lack in colorful wildlife, we more than make up for in challenge and uniqueness.

The Great Lakes contain thousands of shipwrecks dating back hundreds of years perfectly preserved in their cold freshwater graves while sites like the Bonne Terre Mine in Missouri offer year-round diving billed as one of America's top 10 greatest adventures by National Geographic.

So when my buddy Sarge and I had our plans for a recent Lake Michigan wreck dive capsized by gale force winds and the furious pounding of Thor's hammer, we did what any geared-up Chicagoland aquanauts would do and headed away from the storm front down to The Quarry. Haigh Quarry in Kankakee to be exact -- longtime home base for PADI instructors who enjoy the controlled conditions, (relatively) clear water, and various submerged features for the open water training portion of their students' course requirements.

Avoiding the floundering schools of newbie acolytes in the beginner platform area, Sarge and I plotted a course for the deeper side of the site to practice our underwater navigation skills. Nothing hones your compass work like traversing hundreds of yards underwater in 20-foot visibility and the occasional silt-out to make you bulletproof on that next deep water wreck or night dive. Like seasoned pros, we hit a series of submerged artifacts (including an old military Mule truck and a LARC landing craft) with pinpoint accuracy. We then headed for the back wall for the closest thing to a shear ledge experience this side of the Bahamas' Great Wall.

Yes, minus the wide array of polychromatic fish -- dutifully replaced by schools of curious and fearless bluegills. Carribean of the Midwest? Not even close. But a fun way to spend a couple of hours without spending a fortune. And as we like to say, a crappy day underwater is better than a great day at the office.


Dan from Madison said...


Alderman Jon said...

I second Dan. I grew up 10 minutes from this place.

Jonathan said...