Scuba Diving

Isle Royale offers exciting scuba diving opportunities. Here the cold waters of Lake Superior maintain a variety of shipwrecks in outstanding condition for exploration and photography. These sunken vessels are protected by the National Park Service as cultural treasures to be enjoyed by you, the experienced scuba diver. In order to preserve fragile natural and cultural resources, areas such as the inland lakes, all land-associated underwater cultural sites, and the Passage Island small boat cove are closed to diving.

Weather

Lake Superior’s rough weather is well-known. Follow forecasts given regularly over marine radio and keep a least one person aboard your boat whenever divers are in the water.

 
Diver explores the bow of the shipwreck, America.
Diver explores the bow of the shipwreck, America.

Temperature

Water is cold at all times. At the surface, water temperature rarely reaches 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Below 50 feet, divers can expect 34-37 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures. Protect yourself; a full wet suit is necessary and a dry suit is recommended.

Air Tanks

There are no facilities for filling dive cylinders at Isle Royale. Personal compressor use is limited to designated locations and times. Once at Isle Royale, your dive permit lists regulations on compressor use.

Exploring Shipwrecks

Divers on shipwrecks can become lost in a maze of confined passages or entangled in debris, wire, and line. Darkness and silt found within wrecks can reduce visibility to zero. We recommend proper training and equipment for diving the wrecks found within the cold and often deep waters of Lake Superior.



 
Diver decompresses.
Diver decompresses.

Decompression

Cold, dark surroundings and excitement increase the possibility of a decompression problem. Do not push the standard sport or recreational dive tables. Divers at Isle Royale should dive within the “no-decompression” limits. Deep dives require specific equipment and experience. Divers not so equipped or experienced for depths below 100 feet should not attempt such dives.

Illness

Diving-related illnesses, especially those requiring a recompression chamber, pose a severe threat to the life of any diver. The closest recompression chamber is in Marquette, Michigan. Diving parties should be knowledgeable in CPR and emergency procedures for accidents. Carry an adequate first-aid kit including an oxygen delivery system and know how to use them.

 

Emergencies

Toll free: 1-800-433-1986
Via Satellite Phonefrom Canada: (440) 546-5945

At the first indication of a diving illness, contact a ranger on marine radio (channel 16) at Rock Harbor or Windigo, or in person. Do not wait to confirm that there is a problem. Isle Royale National Park maintains procedures for the treatment and evacuation of accident victims. An National Park Service diving team can be activated for search and rescue operations.

Invasive Species

Invasive species are considered to be one of the top threats to the ecological integrity of our national parks. Please take the time before and during your trip to do your part to repel the invasion.

Wash all dive gear in warm chlorinated tap water. Disinfect your wetsuit with a special-purpose shampoo. Dry all dive gear and wetsuit for seven days before island departure.

Read more about invasive species at Isle Royale National Park and what you can do to help stop the spread.

Help Us

Help us provide a safe, enjoyable visit for all divers. Report all scuba related accidents, near accidents, hazardous diving situations, or unusual observations to a park ranger as soon as possible. Your suggestions concerning the management of underwater cultural resources are encouraged.

Dive Charters

The following companies are licensed by the National Park Service to guide SCUBA trips at Isle Royale National Park. Please contact them directly for information on rates, reservations, accommodations, and schedules.

Isle Royale Charters
(855) 348-3472

Charts & Publications

Lake Chart #14976 and publications on Isle Royale shipwrecks are available from the Isle Royale & Keweenaw Parks Association through mail order and on the island.

 
Pitcher with the scattered remains of the shipwreck, Monarch.
Pitcher with the scattered remains of the shipwreck, Monarch.

Diving Regulations

Registration

Divers must register at the Rock Harbor, Windigo, or Houghton visitor centers before diving, and return your completed copy of the registration form to a visitor center or by mail. Your diving registration helps us manage underwater sites. Canadian vessels and divers must clear customs when they enter the park.

Artifacts

Occasionally you may discover artifacts of high quality and value. Report these to a park ranger as soon as possible. Please do not remove the artifacts.


 

Shipwreck Conservation

Shipwrecks are part of the park's cultural resources.Help us to preserve them. Federal law prohibits the removal, or disturbance in any manner of underwater cultural sites and associated artifacts. This includes shipwrecks or remains of ships, as well as other antiquities on the bottom lands of waters in Isle Royale National Park. Penalties include prison sentences and fines up to $10,000. Rewards up to $500 may be paid to anyone who furnishes information that leads to conviction of a criminal violation.

Dive Flag

Dive sites or boats must be marked with the standard diver down flag (red with white diagonal strip, minimum 12 inches by 12 inches) whenever divers are in the water. When at the surface divers must be within 100 feet of the flag. The flag must be illuminated when diver operations take place between sunset and sunrise.

 

Moorings

Nine shipwreck sites are buoyed to provide a safe mooring and protect the wrecks from anchor/ tie-off damage. These secure moorings are marked by a white buoy with a blue stripe. Mooring buoys are to be used only by registered divers during actual dive operations. No more than two dive boats may use a mooring at any given time. When a mooring is provided, do not tie off or anchor. When no mooring is provided, use a diver to tie-off to a stable piece of wreckage. Do not anchor in a wreck.

 
Algoma at dock
Algoma at dock.

Major Shipwreck Sites

Algoma
(Passenger Steamer)
Background Data: 262 feet in length; built in 1813; sunk in 1885. Location: Southeast shore of Mott Island. Depth of Stern: Minimum 10 feet; maximum 100+ feet. Features: The ship broke in half, and parts of the stern are all that remain. Wreckage is widely scattered with no major sections intact. Bow section not yet located. Buoy on a sinker in 50 feet.

 
Divers swim over wreckage from the shipwreck, Cumberland
Divers swim over wreckage from the Cumberland.

Cumberland
(Passenger Steamer)
Background Data: 204 feet in length; built in 1871; sunk in 1877. Location: Near Rock of Ages Light. Depth: Minimum 20 feet; maximum 80 feet. Features: Large sections of wooden hull, side-wheel and boiler remain. Wreckage is intermingled with wooden remains of Chisholm hull. Buoy on a sinker in 35 feet.

 
Diver explores the Glenlyon.
Diver explores the Glenlyon.

Glenlyon
(Bulk Freighter)
Background Data: 328 feet in length; built in 1893; sunk in 1924. Location: Glenlyon Shoals off Menagerie Island in Siskiwit Bay. Depth: Minimum 15 feet; maximum 60 feet. Features: The wreck is scattered over the reef with a few large sections still intact. The drive shaft, propeller, engine, boilers, and some cabin wreckage offer easy exploring. Buoy attached to a piece of wreckage at 40 feet.

 
The wreck of the America.
The wreck of the America.

America
(Package Freighter)
Background data: 183 feet in length; built in 1898; sunk in 1928. Location: North Gap of Washington Harbor. Depth: Minimum 2 feet; maximum 80 feet. Features: The forward part of the superstructure has been removed by ice, wave action, and a past salvage operation. The midship and stern are intact, including engine room, galley, and numerous cabins. Watch out for silt entanglement, and visibility problems inside the America. Two point mooring with a buoy on a sinker in 20 feet and a marker buoy on the bow in 2 feet. The shipwreck America is closed for diving between 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. EDT,
to allow ferry passengers to view the wreck.

 
A diver inside the pilot house of the Chester Congdon.
A diver inside the pilot house of the Chester Congdon.

Chester Congdon
(Bulk Freighter)
Background Data: 532 feet in length; built in 1907; sunk in 1918. Location: Congdon Shoals on northeast end of Isle Royale. Depth: 60-200 feet on stern, 50-120- feet on bow, minimum 10 feet on reef. Features: Wreckage consists of intact pilot house and bow section on south side of reef and an intact stern on north side. Much scattered wreckage is found on the reef between these major sections. Buoy on bow, attached at stern in 65 feet.

 
A diver exploring the shipwreck, Emperor.
A diver exploring the Emperor.

Emperor
(Bulk Freighter)
Background Data: 525 feet in length; built in 1910; sunk in 1947. Location: North side of Canoe Rocks, on the northeast end of Isle Royale. Depth: Minimum 25 feet; maximum 175 feet. Features: The wreck is basically intact, with the bow area showing most damage. Stern area features an intact mast rudder/prop, engine room, and numerous cabins. Buoy on bow attached at stern in 25 feet; buoy on stern attached on deck at 100 feet.

 
A diver explores the prop of the shipwreck, George M. Cox.
A diver explores the prop of the George M. Cox.

George M. Cox
(Passenger Steamer)
Background Data: 259 feet in length; built in 1901; sunk in 1933. Location: Near Rock of Ages Light. Depth: Minimum 10 feet; maximum 100 feet. Features: Scattered wreckage, twisted steel plating, and exposed machinery and prop. Buoy attached to boiler in 45 feet.

 
A diver explores wreckage from the shipwreck, Henry Chisholm.
A diver explores wreckage from the Henry Chisholm.

Henry Chisholm
(Bulk Freighter)
Background Data: 265 feet in length; built in 1880; sunk in 1898. Location: Near Rock of Ages Lighthouse. Depth: Minimum 125 feet; maximum 150+ feet. Features: A large intact steam engine with drive shaft and prop dominate the scene. Buoy attached to engine at 125 feet. Large sections of wooden hull are scattered amongst the remains of Cumberland.

 
Remote operated vehicle photograph of the helm of the shipwreck, Kamloops.
Remote operated vehicle photograph of the helm of the Kamloops.

Kamloops
(Package Freighter)
Background Data: 250 feet in length; built in 1924; sunk in 1927. Location: Kamloops Point. Depth: Minimum 175 feet; maximum 260 feet. Features: Intact and undisturbed. Diving not advised because of extreme depth. Not buoyed.

 
Diver poses with bathtub from the shipwreck, Monarch.
Diver poses with bathtub from the Monarch.

Monarch
(Package Freighter)
Background Data: 240 feet long; built in 1890; sunk in 1906. Location: Palisade area on the north side of Blake Point. Depth: Minimum 10 feet; maximum 80+ feet. Features: Large sections of wooden wreckage scattered on the bottom. Noted for heavy construction. Buoy on a sinker in 65 feet.

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

800 East Lakeshore Drive
Houghton, MI 49931

Phone:

(906) 482-0984

Contact Us