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Places To Go Winter Scuba Diving In The U.S.
If you think that the season for Scuba ends in August in the United States you are wrong. There are a number of good places to scuba dive in winter across the country. There are hundreds of good dive locations for cold water, dry - suit diving but many divers are are unaware of places where no dry suit is needed in winter. Here are some of the top winter diving locations where a wetsuit, hood and gloves are all you need.
At the top of the list for winter scuba diving is the Florida Keys. With reasonable airfare from most of the country and direct flights now into Key West from major airports it is comparable in price to a trip to Cozumel without the need for a passport. Most of the scuba diving locations in the Florida Keys have a water temperature of around 73 degrees Fahrenheit in winter, compared to around 85 degrees in summer. A five to six millimeter wetsuit and hoodie is enough for most divers there. Acres of protected coral reef, such as in the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park off of Key Largo, provide divers with plenty of color and fish to see. Visibility is variable along the Keys, depending on cold fronts, shore runoff and other factors, but is generally good to fair in winter.
There are a number of good wreck dives along the Florida Keys including the wreck of the Duane, which was a World War II convoy escort. It lies at depths of between 50 and 120 feet off of Key Largo. The Christ Of The Deep stature, which sits at a depth of about 25 feet, is one of the most visited and photographed dive spots in Keys.
Florida Fresh Water Springs
Florida boasts dozens of freshwater springs that are perfect for winter scuba diving. Winter water temperature in Florida's freshwater springs are not much different from summer temperatures. Spots such as Manatee Springs offer divers a chance to see the amazing aquifer system and the ecosystem that it supports. American Pro Dive center at 1800-291-DIVE offers inexpensive guided scuba diving tours of Manatee springs. Blue Grotto is a nice clear spring near Williston Florida that reaches a depth of one hundred feet. You can reach the owners at 352-528-5770 to inquire about prices and when diving is allowed.
Bonne Terre Mine, Missouri
The abandoned Bonne Terre lead mine in Missouri is now a top year round scuba diving destination. Although the mine once produced lead there is no contamination and no danger to divers. Water temperatures remain constant, at 59 degrees Fahrenheit all year round. The Bonne Terre mine features excellent, 100 foot plus visibility year round. There are numerous scuba trails and abandoned machinery around every turn along with miner's artifacts along the walls.
You can contact West End Diving Centers at 314-209-7200.
Here is a You Tube video of diving in the Bonne Terre Mine:
Aquarena Springs, San Marcos Texas
Another great winter scuba diving location is Aquarena Springs in San Marcos Texas. Located just off of IH-35, Aquarena Springs was formerly a popular tourist destination that featured "mermaids" and "Ralph The Swimming Pig". An underwater theater was open to the public up until the 1990's. Now the springs, which disgorge thousands of gallons of water a day from the Edwards aquifer, are used for research purposes only. There is the opportunity for scuba divers to participate through the "Dive For Science" project. Divers must attend a "Scientific Diver" course. Once certified as a scientific diver they are welcome to participate in research projects in the springs, including archeological excavations and biological experiments. Water temperature remains a constant 72 degrees year round. A number of ancient native American artifacts have been found in the springs and it is home to eight endangered aquatic species, including the fountain darter, (seen above) and three species of blind salamander. You can contact Texas State University, which administers the springs and diving programs at 512-245-7570
Desert Scuba Diving In Balmorhea Springs state Park
If your trip through Texas takes you through the western part of the state, along IH-10, and you want to try a unique desert dive, stop in an Balmorhea State park. A real desert oasis is created by San Solomon springs, which flows at a rate of 25 million gallons a day. A 77,000 square foot swimming area is the focal point of the park. The pool and park were created by the CCC or Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression of the 1930's. Lodging is available as are RV hookups. A full service dive shop is on site and offers air fills and gear rental. Maximum depth of the spring is only 25 feet, but there is an abundance of freshwater fish, crayfish and great visibility. The park is located 4 miles southwest of Balmorhea on State Highway 17, in Toyahvale. Contact the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at (800) 792-1112 to reserve lodging.
There are numerous other winter scuba diving opportunities across the United States. Inquire with local dive shops about winter diving locations near where you live or where you plan to travel.
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