Guest Post, Diving Adventures in Illinois by Rick Shaw

Sometimes it is fun to have a guest blogger share an adventure.  In this case, Rick Shaw, who runs the Antique Iron Mafia antique tractor facebook page shares adventures in diving in Illinois and beyond.  While I have been to a dive site, I have never tried diving so I found this interesting, especially his advice on Black Water!  Read all about Rick’s adventures and comment if you have had some awesome diving experiences of your own!

Diving Adventures in Illinois

By Rick Shaw

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. There are actually certified SCUBA divers that live in Illinois! Some of them amazingly even dive right here in the Midwest. Most all of the divers I’m friends with have visited exotic warm water locals at some point, but there are a few, like me, that have explored the intriguing dark water right here, literally in our own backyards.

To become a certified diver takes a little effort. There are training facilities in most of our major Illinois cities. My basic diving certification was achieved from a dive training center in Springfield. There are many levels beyond the basic training that teach a more advanced skill set, but depending on one’s desire may not be a totally necessary route of learning.

I personally pursued to a level of Master Diver, but there are even higher training levels beyond that give license to guide and even teach the skills needed to be a diver. I will warn anyone considering trying this adventure, SCUBA can be very addictive. Once you realize how incredible the sport is you have a hard time not thinking about it.

It’s a very family oriented activity for any age level. My late mother started diving when she was in her fifties. She logged many dives totaling around 275 before she stopped due to her failing health dealing with cancer. She was also one of the explorers of what a lot term the “black water” of the Midwest.

I will put to bed the myth that you can’t see anything in dark water. The visibility is limited at times, but I have actually been in visibility as good as 50 feet around here.

My first salt water dive in the Bahamas was deemed that poor years ago. Since I have many dark water dives of lesser visibility logged, what was a limitation for others didn’t bother me. “Black water” divers are recognized as skillfully trained at warm water resorts. Resort guides enjoy giving experienced divers tours, knowing that buoyancy and visibility won’t be catastrophes during the tour.

The other myth isn’t as hard to disprove. Yes the water can be cold. Heavy thick wet suits can be cumbersome to get into. Individuals stay warm diving that way or a dry suit certification can be achieved. Depending on weather, time of year, and personal comfort levels the cold can be overcome.

So what can be seen? A whole new world! To me it is the opportunity to overcome my fears and explore a hostile alien environment. Seeing fish and water life in their own world is inspiring. I’ve actually pretended the weightlessness achieved is similar to being in outer space. Fish are enjoyable to study in their own neck of the woods, rather than fighting them into succumbing our side of the surface, which is a hostile environment for them. It may seem obvious I view fishing differently.

I’ve explored several local lakes. Many of the diver friendly lakes I’ve visited have created sites to visit such as sunken boats, airplanes, helicopters, busses, trucks, you think of something it’s probably under water somewhere.

Strode lake in Canton, Illinois has a Allis Chalmers combine sunk at a depth of 35 feet! These objects, not only give divers something to view, attract fish and create safe protected areas to spawn. It can be looked at as the Midwest version of artificial reefs.

I have shared a general glamorized view of land locked SCUBA. I’m sure there are even those that carry certification cards that think the cold dark water isn’t as relaxing as a Caribbean adventure. I’ve dove both locals and I love both.