Scuba Diving Isle Royale National Park
Lake Superior is notorious for its wildly unpredictable weather and severe storms. Hundreds of ships have sunk here and thousands lost their lives. The precise number of shipwrecks is unknown, with sources citing as low as 350 and others more than 500. Within the waters of Isle Royale National Park, there are 10 major shipwreck sites.
Due to the dangerous dive conditions the deep and frigid waters present, only adequately certified and experienced divers with the proper gear are permitted to dive here. If you’re unsure whether you’re qualified, call one of the local charter companies to discuss their requirements and your experience.
For experienced divers, here’s what you need to know about scuba diving the shipwrecks of Isle Royale National Park.
Best Time To Visit
Realistically, summer is the only time to plan a dive trip to Lake Superior. Even at the height of summer, surface temperatures barely reach 55 degrees, while it plunges to the mid-30s at just 50′ deep. Some of the more obscure features of the island’s wrecks require divers to descend to depths of 100′ or more.
What To Bring
Proper gear is not just recommended, it’s required by the local dive charters. Both a dry suit and a 6-7mm wetsuit are recommended, although some divers go wet with additional protection for shallower wrecks.
You will likely need to bring or rent the following additional gear (Of course, check with your dive company for a full list of required gear!)
- 1-2 tanks with current VIP sticker
- Regulators for cold water with alternate air and primary second stage
- Dive computer (recommended)
- Submersible tank pressure and depth gauge
- Bottom timer or watch
- Power inflator buoyancy compensator
- Basic dive equipment: fins, mask, snorkel, compass, whistle, knife, dive lights, weight belt, weights
Also note, there is nowhere to fill dive cylinders on the island; however, your charter may offer air, nitrox and argon fills on multi-day trips for an additional charge.
If you are planning a multi-day charter excursion, space and resources will be limited. Be sure to ask for a checklist of items to bring and weight requirements, and plan ahead to ensure a smooth trip.
What To See
Divers who come here generally plan to be in the water for several days, sleeping on the charter boat or docked at one of the lakeside campgrounds by night, and moored over wreckage sites by day.
The 10 shipwreck sites around the island are vast and varied; you may spend an entire day moored over one site, or you may be able to see multiple sites in a day. Research the sites and plan ahead to choose what you want to see in order to maximize your time in the water.
You can reference Lake Chart #14976 from the Isle Royale & Keweenaw Parks Association for more information on the following shipwreck sites:
- Algoma, passenger steamer, 262′ long, sunk in 1885
- Cumberland, passenger steamer, 204′ long, sunk in 1877
- Glenlyon, bulk freighter, 328′ long, sunk in 1924
- America, package freighter, 183′ long, sunk in 1928
- Chester Congdon, bulk freighter, 532′ long, sunk in 1918
- Emperor, bulk freighter, 525′ long, sunk in 1947
- George M. Cox, passenger steamer, 259′ long, sunk in 1933
- Henry Chisholm, bulk freighter, 265′ long, sunk in 1898
- Kamloops, package freighter, 250′ long, sunk in 1927
- Monarch, package freighter, 240′ long, sunk in 1906
Start Your Scuba Diving Adventure Via Seaplane
The remote nature of the island makes it only accessible via ferry or seaplane, making hauling your scuba gear difficult unless you’re on a private boat. However, the park partners with local diving charter companies from the mainland who you can rent all of your gear from. After you schedule your excursion, the charter will come to the island and pick you up, fully-equipped and ready for your diving adventure!