Scuba Diving – Sleeping Bear Dunes
There are a number of Lake Michigan attractions at the underwater preserve, from fascinating shipwrecks to a historic dock.
The preserve’s most popular site for diving is the most recently discovered one. There was a steam barge called the Three Brothers, and it hauled lumber onto the Great Lakes, and it was ground on South Manitou Island in the early part of the 1900s after it went out onto the water. It’s a great shore dive, and it’s positioned about 150 feet of the shore with the bow in seven feet of water, and the stern is in over 45 feet of water. Boaters and snorkelers can observe the wreck easily in the water that is relatively clear.
The Francisco Morazan wreck, which was a package freighter, ran aground in 1960, when there was a snowstorm, and it’s just a couple of hundred yards offshore from the southern tip of South Manitou Island. The Morazan is accessible easily in just about 15 feet of water. Those are the factorsthat make it a wonderful dive site for people who are just learning about shipwreck diving. Divers who like exploring the hull of the ship will find it is a good beginning ship. There are some machinery remains still left in the engine room. A lot of the Morazan is above the water, and divers should try to look into the superstructure. This is a nesting site for gulls and cormorants.
A couple of hundred yards to the south of the Francisco Morazan, there is the wreck of Walter L Frost, which was a wooden steamer that went aground in 1905. The Frost is divided up because the Morazan basically ran over the wreck in the 1960 disaster.
Divers like the Frost because a lot of the vessel remains. Big sections of the hull, related artifacts, boilers, and machinery give ample exploration opportunities for divers who have all kinds of skill levels. The Frost is in about 12 feet of water.
Another one of the most popular sites for diving in the Manitou Passage Underwater Preserve is one of the most recently discovered too. The Alva Bradley wreck was spotted between South and North Manitou Islands in 1990. A lot of small artifacts are connected with the schooner wreck. A protion of its cargo of steel billets can be seen near the vessel’s bow. A bout 200 years to the northeast of the primary wreck, divers will see rigging, as well as other, artifacts from the shipwreck.
Beyond the shipwrecks, divers will like the dock ruins, and they can be discovered throughout the lakeshore area. Huge pilings were driven down into the sandy bottom to make wharves and docks for loading other products, grain, fruits, and lumber onto steamers and schooners that moved good sout onto Lake Michigan.
These kinds of dock ruins attracted schools of fish and lots of other artifacts, including pieces of shipwreck and anchors, and they can been along the pilings.
There is a great interactive map that shows the description and location of more than 45 shipwrecks in the area on the Traverse City Convention and the website of the Visitor’s Bureau
No person can recover, destroy, or alter property who in, or over the bottomland, of the preserve. There are big penalties for violators. The rule is to enjoy, and not take stuff.
Planning Your Visit
Access to some of the main diving is from South Manitou Island, and it can be accessed by passenger ferry service or a private boat. You can find more information on scuba diving from their website. There is also information from local scuba shops in the area. The ferry service operates from Leland, MI, and they have been working with the people of the islands for several generations, and the company is right now running it as a family business too.