Thursday, October 16, 2003

United States filled with great diving spots

While there are many places to dive around the world, some of the best are in the United States. Dive Training magazine ( recommends these spots.

Lake Tenkiller, Okla.: Depths to 165 feet, visibility 8-35 feet. Swim with black, white and striped bass, crappie, catfish, bream and walleye. Also has campsites, cottages and cabins. Near Arkansas border. (918) 489-5641

Pearl Lake, Ill.: At the Wisconsin border. Underwater attractions include a school bus, airplane, cabin cruiser and 33-foot yellow submarine. Depths to 85 feet, visibility 10-40 feet. Campground only. (815) 389-1479

Mount Storm Lake, W.Va.: Depths to 128 feet. Created in 1962 by Virginia Electric and Power Co. to cool water for the area's power station. Best for spring-fall diving. In winter, water temperature drops to 60 degrees. Only for experienced divers. Allegheny Mountain location. (301) 387-8035 (Nearest scuba shop, Breathe Deep Scuba).

Madison Aquatic Park, Ala.: Depths to 50 feet, visibility 20-40 feet. Underwater treasures include a space station mockup, fighter jet and a 40-foot Minuteman missile. Freshwater jellyfish are plentiful, but they don't bite. Paintball field and campsites available. Outside Huntsville. (256) 464-9445.

Sand Harbor State Park, Nev.: Average depth is 30 feet, visibility 50-60 feet. Usual diving season is late May to mid-September; water gets down to 42 degrees in winter. Includes a challenging slope for experienced divers with vertical cliffs and sunken trees. Just outside Reno in Sierra Nevada Mountains. (775) 831-0494.

Rodale's Scuba Diving magazine polls its subscribers annually for their top picks of places to splash.

For beginners:

Islamorada and Tavernier, Florida Keys

Key Largo, Florida Keys

Key West, Florida Keys

Channel Islands, Calif.

Washington state

Their two top dive destinations are British Columbia and the Galapagos Islands. See the whole list at and click on Travel.


Want to dive? Start by taking a how-to course at one of the local scuba shops. Some have on-site facilities; others have agreements with area pools. Either way, make sure the instructor is PADI-certified (Professional Association of Dive Instructors).

The length of the course varies. Some are structured and length varies from two to seven weeks. Other programs allow students to take classes at their own speed in private or group settings.

The tuition for the Cincinnati Diving Center Open Water and Learn To Dive Course is $150-$175.

A textbook and materials packet is required. Cost: $60-80. Each student also must purchase a PSG (personal scuba gear) package: a mask, fins, snorkel (boots and gloves are optional) for the class. Cost: $200-$250.

Some stores include the tank and other necessary equipment; some require separate rental. Shop around and ask questions before you plunk down cash.

For example, the Scuba Shack in Florence offers a package that includes study materials and the equipment for $399. The PSG is separate.

The final cost rises according to your involvement. There are computers and buoyancy vests and high-tech goggles and garments that may enhance your experience but shrink your wallet. Wet and dry scuba suits look great, but are needed only if you're not diving in warm water, says Mark Young of Dive Training magazine.

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