Located in the waters of Lake Michigan and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the Manitou Passage Underwater Preserve offers a variety of submerged cultural resources for divers to explore, ranging from historic dock ruins to fascinating shipwrecks from the past two centuries. Access to some of the best diving is from South Manitou Island, which can be accessed by private boat or by passenger ferry service. Diving among wrecks is a fascinating way to explore the Great Lakes and their past.
The underwater preserve’s most popular dive site is also the most recently discovered. The Three Brothers, a steam barge that hauled lumber on the Great Lakes, grounded on South Manitou Island in 1911, and was exposed in 1996. Snorkelers can easily observe the wreck in the relatively clear water. Another wreck popular with divers is the Francisco Morazan, a package freighter that ran aground during December 1960. The Morazan, a 246-foot ship, is easily accessible in only 15 feet of water, so it is a great start for beginning shipwreck divers. However, the large portion of the Morazan that is above water should be avoided, because it is a nesting area for cormorants and gulls.
In addition to shipwrecks, divers can enjoy the dock ruins that can be found throughout the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Massive pilings were driven into the Lake Michigan’s sandy bottom to create docks and wharves for loading lumber, fruits, grain, and other products onto schooners and steamers. These pilings now attract schools of fish and contain shipwreck remains.
As submerged cultural resources, it is important to leave all the property you see in the Manitou Passage Underwater Preserve undisturbed. Both state and federal laws have stiff penalties for violators of this rule, so please: "enjoy, do not destroy." To learn more about submerged cultural resources, visit the links below.