The lush green landscapes transform into dreamlike palettes of red and gold as the light of summer fades and the fall settles on the Adirondack Mountains. This wondrous outdoor paradise, located just a few hours north of New York City, features over 100 communities and charming villages, mountains, lakes, fertile valleys and steep cliffs. Like a patchwork quilt the Adirondacks are made up of twelve distinct regional destinations and spanning more than six million acres. The Adirondack Mountains, home to the largest protected natural area in the lower 48, promises endless canoeing and kayaking in the Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake regions, extensive hiking trails of the High Peaks Wilderness in the Lake Placid Region, wineries on the Adirondack Coast, and exploring the sunken shipwrecks from lake George and Lake Champlain to the Adirondack Seaway near the Canadian Border. The enchanting mountain peaks, warm and lively villages, farm-to-fork restaurants, and endless recreational opportunities welcome the eager visitors.
By Selene Muldowney
The Adirondacks are a gift to all who visit as they draw inspiration from the forest canopies to the enchanting mountain peaks and the exploration into the depths of nature and history. This wonderous and unique region, brimming with ferociously independent and quirky residents who endure long bitter winters, insects of biblical proportions, and rugged landscapes, is three times the size of Yellowstone. Pristine and expansive, the Adirondacks’ mountains and rivers have inspired generations to hike, paddle and play in nature.
Historians, leisurely vacationers, families, land lovers, environmentalists, explorers, outdoorsy folks, foodies, water enthusiasts, and the beer’advocate have a plethora of activities to partake from. Fly fishing in the Ausable River in the Whiteface Region, tour New York’s Adirondack Coast of Lake Champlain, or visit the Schroon Lake Region’s arts community nestled between two tracks of wilderness. The Adirondack Park is a natural wilderness unlike any other, created in 1892 by the State of New York, it is the largest publicly protected area in the contiguous United States and exploring it is no small task. Each one of the Adirondacks’ 46 High Peaks boasts an elevation over 4,000 feet—the tallest is Mount Marcy, which towers 5,343 feet above sea level. Mount Marcy is also home to Lake Tear of the Clouds, the highest lake in New York State at 4,292 feet, and the source of the Hudson River.
Families can visit the beautiful waterfalls at High Falls Gorge where kid-friendly trails take hikers to a 22 acre preserve. Explorers, both on land and underwater, can visit the shores of Lake Champlain, the Adirondack Coast is New York’s eastern treasure, home to geologic wonders, waterfront retreats, and civil history. Couples can cruise beautiful Lake George with the iconic Lake George Steamboat Company. An Adirondack icon since its establishment in 1817, the historic steamboat also offers special entertainment, moonlight cruises, and meals on the water. Foodies and beer’vocates can enjoy lunch, craft beer, and a tour at Davidson Brewing Company. Historians can visit Fort Ticonderoga and embark on behind-the-scenes specialty tours, including reenactments, an 18th-century weapons exhibition with the supervision and knowledge of Fort Ticonderoga’s staff. The Adirondack Experience in Blue Mountain Lake provides visitors with a complete history and immersive activities of the region, from learning about the wildlife and viewing Native American art to writing on a slate tablet in a one-room schoolhouse and feeding trout. And for those visitors who feel the need to delve into sci-fi while madly chatting online with friends about the latest Star Trek adventures or how amazing Captain Kirk was with the ladies, the Adirondacks are a destination for fans of this science fiction franchise. Complete recreations of the set of the original Star Trek series were painstakingly built in Ticonderoga by superfan James Cawley. Completely legit – you can find him on WIKI and see for yourself – or go and visit him in the Adirondacks.
The Adirondacks boast over 3,000 lakes and ponds and more than 30,000 miles of streams feeding 6,000 miles of rivers, as well as 2,759 lakes and ponds. Blue Mountain Lake, whose sheer beauty is overwhelming, is one of the crown jewels of the Adirondacks. Take in the stunning landscapes as you drive into the hamlet for a day trip or vacation filled with culture, arts, and outdoor recreation. The hamlet is also home to Adirondack Experience, formerly called Adirondack museum, that engages visitors with exhibits that explore every aspect of Adirondack life, from mining and logging to railroads and recreation. The serene and majestic Lake Placid has a long and storied history and has long been one of the most majestic attractions in New York State. With its crystal clear water and surrounding forests, it’s a huge draw for the Adirondacks mountains. Lake George is a town in the protected Adirondack region of mountains and old-growth forest. The town sits on the lake of the same name. On the shore, the Fort William Henry Museum & Restoration, a restored British Fort built in 1755, awaits the curious visitor. The Lake Champlain Region is comprised of the historic towns of Keeseville, Willsboro, Essex, Lewis, Elizabethtown, Westport, Moriah, Port Henry, Crown Point, and Ticonderoga. These charming towns offer a variety of accommodations and restaurants, fun and historic attractions, and arts and culture. All of them boast endless scenic views of the Adirondacks, Lake Champlain, and the Green Mountains of Vermont. The Merrill Lake Conservation Area is a 114-acre site consisting of a forest cover of mixed conifers and hardwoods along a lake at the 1,550-foot elevation It is prime habitat for birds of prey, including osprey and bald eagles, home to waterfowl such as bufflehead, common goldeneye, and hooded merganser. Fly fishing is common as well as camping for outdoorsy folks.
Hundreds of shipwrecks and other submerged features exist scattered within New York’s Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River, Hudson River, and Long Island coastal waters, and in the State’s inland waterways such as the Finger Lakes, Lake George and Lake Champlain. Many of these wrecks and artifacts are sensitive, due to their historic, cultural, or archeological significance, or due to their physical fragility, and are carefully protected by the state of New York. New York State Underwater Blueway Trail (UBT) provides an areawide network of historical sites and recreational routes. The UBT offers an integrated ‘information highway’ with enriching educational markers and stops which serves to demonstrate the history of the area and the wrecks themselves. For example, the Lake George Underwater Preserve, home to “the oldest intact warship in North America” (1758), connects above water to the events and sites of the French and Indian War.
Naturally a visit to the Adirondacks requires a full examination of the underwater world, best dive sites to explore, and regions teeming with wildlife. There are many spots of interest to visit; listing all of them would require an extensive article of many pages, so we have boiled down the favorites from local dive shops and charters. The two dominant sites include Lake George and Lake Champlain. Other favorite locales and sites to see underwater include Lake Placid, Lake Sacandaga, Lake Champlain, Chazy Lake, Upper & Lower Cascades, Merrill Lake, Saranac Lake, Upper Saranac Lake, Colby Lake, and Blue Mountain Lake.
Lake George, widely known as the Queen of American Lakes for its crystal-clear waters, is a 32-mile-long, spring-fed lake that provides outstanding scuba diving opportunities. The lake played a significant role in American History during both the French and Indian War and the American Revolution leaving behind a wealth of incredibly historic dive sites. Divers from newly certified to advanced and technical can find a location suited for their experience. The historical wrecks found underwater are in incredible shape and the cleanliness of the lake make for incredible visibility. Before dipping fins into the waters, it is recommended visitors learn about the guidelines for diving on several of the wrecks protected by the Lake George’s Shipwreck Preserves, managed by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Divers interested in visiting any of the historic Lake George shipwreck preserve sites should know that each site is marked with a round mooring buoy, which provides access to the site, and a barrel-shaped navigation aid buoy. Be sure to review the guidelines prior to visiting any site. Historic dive sites include: The Sunken Fleet of 1758 – (Wiawaka Bateaux Cluster), The Land Tortoise Radeau, and The Forward Underwater Classroom. There are also safety guidelines to follow. For more in-depth information please visit the Department of Environmental Services website: www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7830.html.
The Sunken Fleet of 1758 – (Wiawaka Bateaux Cluster) is found in 25 to 50 feet of water approximately one mile north of Lake George Beach on the east side of the lake. Of the 260 bateaux (a type of warship with flat bottoms, flaring sides, propelled by oars and poles, and) submerged in Lake George during the French and Indian War, a group of eight existing 1758 bateaux are known as “The Sunken Fleet of 1758,” or as the “Wiawaka Bateaux Cluster.” Seven of the eight are the original vessels and the eighth is a replica. In 1992, the Sunken Fleet was listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. This intermediate dive is available on a first-come, first-served basis from Memorial Day into autumn. Dive boats and divers are required to tow the red-and-white dive flag.
The Land Tortoise Radeau, a 1758 Floating Gun Battery, is located in 105 feet of water in the south basin, nearly two miles north of Lake George Beach. One of two radeau, it was built as a floating gun battery by the British in 1758 to remove the French from Lake George and Lake Champlain during the French and Indian War. This 52-foot-long, seven-gun, 26-oar gunboat is North America’s oldest intact warship – it has been on the bottom of Lake George for more than 200 years. For more than two centuries, the ship, named the Land Tortoise because it resembled one, has been preserved by the cold water at the bottom of the lake. It was deliberately sunk in l00 feet of water in Lake George by British forces on October 22, 1758 to protect it over the winter from French raiders. This shipwreck is considered to be one of the nation’s most historic sites This deep, cold-water dive is an advanced dive open from the second Saturday of June through Labor Day. Divers must sign in and be assigned a time slot at the DEC office at Lake George Beach. A maximum of eight divers in a single party is permitted on site at any one time. There is a two-hour time slot allowed per dive followed by a one-hour site rest to allow bottom silt to settle. A redundant air source is required and a safety/decompression stop is recommended. The water temperature at this site ranges from 35 to 45 degrees F.
The Forward Underwater Classroom is found in 25 to 45 feet of
water and approximately 1,500 feet east of Diamond Island in the South Basin of
the lake. Built of wood, the Forward is 45 feet long, just under 8
feet wide and just over 4 feet high. The open cockpit often was covered with a
canopy when the vessel was in use. Two gasoline engines are visible amidships.
The Forward lies upright on a very soft sediment slope with her bow in deeper water. The vessel provides a glimpse of an earlier, perhaps more grandiose, time in the history of Lake George. The Forward was listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places in 2008. This is an intermediate dive available on a first-come, first-served basis from Memorial Day into autumn.
The bottom of Lake Champlain is home to approximately 300 shipwrecks. Divers can explore many of these in person thanks to New York’s and Vermont’s Lake Champlain Historic Preserve System. In addition to visiting the underwater shipwrecks, a visit to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum is suggested. An excursion boat will transport you to the site of a shipwreck. Once there, you can watch a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) which projects images directly to an onboard monitor. At its northern end, Lake George drains into Lake Champlain via the La Chute River. The LaChute has a vertical drop equivalent to Niagara Falls, approximately 220 feet. All the underwater historic sites are held in public trust to the people of the respective states in whose water they lie. The lake Champlain Underwater Historic Preserve is designated to protect these historic wrecks and artifacts. The system allows divers to explore the wrecks without damaging them.
The Preserve wrecks include: Horse Ferry, Diamond Island “Stone Boat”, Lake Schooner Water Witch, Sloop Island Canal Boat, Standard Canal Boat A.R. Noyes, Sailing Canal Boat General Butler, Sailing Canal Boat O.J. Walker, Steamboat Champlain II, Steamboat Phoenix, Tugboat U.S. La Vallee.
The six-foot long by 23-foot-wide fragile horse-powered ferry in Burlington Bay is the only archaeologically studied example of a turntable “team-boat,” a once common North American vessel type. In 1894 animal powered vessels were introduced to North America; however, were not popularized until the middle of the 19th century. The horizontal flywheel and gear shaft are visible amidship, although the two paddle wheels are perhaps her most spectacular feature. This 50-foot-deep site requires Intermediate diving experience.
Diamond Island “Stone Boat”
The 93-foot-long by 14 foot wide Diamond Island “Stone Boat” was one of hundreds of wooden canal boats that transported cargo throughout the Lake and Champlain Canal. The Stone Boat is a flat-bottomed, vertically-sided vessel which appears to have no onboard propulsion system so is assumed to have been towed or tugged by another vessel. Her last voyage was hauling quarry stones filling the length of her deck. Those stone blocks still lie stacked upon frames while the hull’s frame timbers and keelson are visible between the stone blocks. This site is rated for beginner divers, although, the currents can get strong making the dive quickly turn into advanced.
Lake Schooner Water Witch
The 83-foot-long by 18 foot wide Water Witch was constructed as a steamboat at the mouth of Otter Creek in 1832. Still visible is her 12 foot long tiller bar and the foremost draped over the hull. The site required very experienced diving skills as surface and bottom currents can be significant. Lights are required for this site.
Sloop Island Canal Boat (Wreck Z)
The Sloop Island Canal Boat is a standard canal boat from the last generation of canal boats on Lake Champlain. At 97 feet long and 17.5 feet wide, the Sloop Island Canal Boat was built after the 1873 canal expansion. This advanced rated dive site is located in 90 feet of water with potentially strong currents. The vessel appeared to have been transporting a family with household goods including silverware and glassware. The bow still contains a windlass, anchor and deck lights and the cable is still wrapped around the port side cleats.
Standard Canal Boat A.R. Noyes
The 90-foot-long by 14-foot-wide A.R. Noyes represents perhaps the most common type of commercial vessel that operated on Lake Champlain and its related canal systems. Standard canal boats had no independent means of propulsion. On lakes and rivers, they had to be towed by steam vessels and on canals they were moved by horse and mule. These vessels were often homes to the canallers who lived on the water and transported goods for a living. This advanced diving site requires lights and controlled buoyancy. The rudder and rudder post are visible on the stern, facing up the slope towards Proctor Shoal. In the cargo area, there are remnants of a mule towing apparatus crushed and partially buried by the impact of the shifting cargo of coal.
Sailing Canal Boat General Butler
The 88-foot-long by 14 foot wide General Butler was built in 1862 in Essex, New York. This beginner dive is located in 40 feet of water with masts, irons pins, five hatches on the decks, and windlass and cleats are all visible.
Sailing Canal Boat O.J. Walker
The 86-foot-long by 14 foot wide O.J. Walker was built in 1862 in Burlington, Vermont, and was named after one of the region’s leading merchants, Obadiah Johnson Walker. The ship’s wheel and aft cabin hatch cover are in place and are extremely fragile and masts, boom, anchors, and most rigging parts can be seen around the vessel. Many bricks and tiles still lie on deck and scattered off the port side along with the hand carts for moving them. This intermediate to experienced dive lies in 65 feet of water.
Steamboat Champlain II
The 163-foot-long (what remains from the massive original 244 foot long) by 34 foot wide Champlain II was originally named the Oakes Ames when it was launched in Burlington in 1868. It was built to ferry railroad cars from Burlington to Plattsburgh. This beginner dive is lies at 15-35 feet and covered in zebra mussels.
The 146-foot-long by 27 foot wide Phoenix, built by the Lake Champlain Steamboat Company and launched in 1815, was the second commercial steamboat on Lake Champlain. Information about the wreck of the Phoenix is exhibited at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s Basin Harbor facility. This advanced dive is extremely deep – 60 feet at the bow to 110 feet at the stern. Divers are cautioned to check their air and watch their time and depth closely. Due to the depth and location on the open lake, this site requires serious dive planning The anchor pad to the preserve buoy rests at approximately 50 foot depth. The iron rods that held the engines and boilers are visible as is the fire-charred framing ends and massive hull.
Tugboat U.S. La Vallee
The 56 foot long tugboat U.S. La Vallee was reportedly sunk in 1931 and later found by a survey crew exploring three vessels within proximity to each other.. The importance of this wreck cannot be overemphasized. U.S. La Vallee is one of very few steamboat wrecks in Lake Champlain that still have an engine and other machinery on board. This deep dive at 100 feet is notably cold year-round and requires advanced diving certification. Lights are absolutely necessary, and divers are strongly encouraged to closely monitor air, depth, and time. Remnants of the broken upper wheelhouse are visible scattered on deck as is the ships’ wheel and the steam engine behind a door.
Here is what locals have to say about the region and share their favorite dive spots:
David Boguzski, owner of Aqua Hut Divers, located in Scotia, New York, is just a short 40-45-minute drive from Lake George. The shop offers gear rentals, salvage and recovery, and tank fills. The shop will begin a charter service in the near future to add to their repertoire. Boguzski most often travels to Lake George because of its proximity.
“There are three wrecks we most often visit offering from beginner to experienced dives. The water can get very cold and I suggest wearing at the very least a 7mm suit. There is shallow wreck diving available as well as shelf diving, so it makes it accessible to almost everyone. Interestingly, there are a number of milk bottles from the 1800s still visible on the bottom of the lake. Because the area is protected – both wrecks and artifacts – it makes it a great historical site and a wonderful way to preserve our local history.”
Boguzski wants to encourage divers to get out and dive and has created a scavenger hunt he plans to implement next year, “Next year we will be starting a riddle scavenger hunt in several of the lakes – ranging from beginning open water to advanced. We will be offering all sorts of prizes from gear to cash in hopes of getting people excited about diving while having fun.”
Jason Ryder, with Watertown Chamber, located in what is commonly referred to as Northern New York (NNY) or the North Country, shares some of the local history, adventures to be discovered, and flavors to experience.
Ryder expands on their region explaining further what NNY or North Country really means to locals,” What is meant by these terms varies within the state from region to region, but the most widely accepted definition covers a vast and diverse swath of the state from as far south as Syracuse all the way north to the Canadian border and all the way east across the Adirondack Mountains Wilderness Preserve to the Vermont and Massachusetts borders. Our specific location is the northwestern edge of that range in the St. Lawrence Seaway.”
The area is replete with adventures for the whole family and easy to access.
“The St. Lawrence River is the longest river in North America and creates New York State’s northwestern border with Canada. The geology of the area was created during the last ice age and as the glaciers retreated they carved a plethora of valleys and gorges and created hundreds of lakes and rivers. The tourism hub of the seaway region are The Thousand Islands (Yes, the salad dressing originated here). The Thousand Islands are renowned for boating and water activities of all types.
On any given day in the summer you can see virtually any type of vessel out on the water including kayaks, pontoon boats, fishing boats, cabin cruisers, yachts, cruise ships, and international freighters. The Thousand Islands community is generally regarded as Sacketts Harbor which has many fine restaurants and boutiques. In the South, where Lake Ontario becomes the St. Lawrence, farther north and about center of the American side of the river are Clayton home the Antique Boat Museum and Alexandria Bay which is home to the Thousand Islands Bridge to Canada. The gateway to this region to travelers from the south is the City of Watertown, which also has a host of restaurants and all the shopping outlets, both national and local, that one could wish for. Each of these cities, villages, and towns have their own distinct character and host an array of festivals and events throughout the year.
In addition to the various types of boating aforementioned, the area is also replete with golf courses and its rural nature allows for ample opportunities for camping, hiking, swimming, and fishing. In the past decade a vibrant wine industry has bloomed and now dozens of wineries in the area sell their unique creations both at their vineyards and in retail locations across the state with the more famous being Thousand Islands Winery and Coyote Moon Vineyards, giving rise to what’s been dubbed the Thousand Islands Seaway Wine Trail.”
CDR Mel Frechette, USN(Ret) and USAF Veteran, and his wife Wanda, co-owners and operators of A+ Pro Divers, located in Plattsburgh, New York, keep a busy schedule by offering charters on Lake Champlain, liveaboard adventures, and camping opportunities. Frechette, a PADI Master Instructor, produces 50-75 PADI certifications of all levels throughout the year. They operate Bottomtime Dive Charters on Lake Champlain.
“We take divers to the 19th Century Wreck sites on Lake Champlain; these wrecks are intact with anchors, wheel and masts still up; fantastic sights for sure! We also conduct ‘Boat n Dive’ liveaboard adventures on Lake Champlain where the divers sleep on the boat overnight and we also conduct ‘Camp n Dive’ adventures on Lake Champlain where divers sleep at a camp during dive days on Lake Champlain. We take divers to the St. Lawrence River for ‘Dive n Weekend’ trips throughout the season and take divers to the St. Lawrence River for ‘Dive n Weekend’ trips throughout the season.”
CDR Frechette enjoys the history of the region, “Lake Champlain is an Adventure every time we dive her; 500 plus years of commerce on this lake has left her bottom littered with things to find. For example, two major military engagements were fought on Lake Champlain; October 1776 Benedict Arnold defeated the British Advance to Fort Ticonderoga at Valcour Island and on Sept 1814 CMDR McDonough defeated a greatly superior British Navy at Plattsburgh Bay; if this had failed, this area would all be Canada today!”
He shares another example,” Various Native American Tribes lived and travelled upon Lake Champlain for hundreds of years before Samuel Champlain ‘founded’ the lake in 1555. These tribes dropped many things into the lake that are still being found to this day. Lake Champlain was the only viable way to transport goods and people to/from the Hudson River to various ports along its shores and into Canada during the 18th & 19th Centuries. Imagine the ships that sunk with their cargo still aboard!”
Steve Goodrich, owner of Terrapin Diving Services, located in Wilmington NY, originally started his diving career in Plattsburg with Pleasure Divers, “I was a biologist and after 20 years became an instructor and started working at the shop. Sadly, the owner passed away and since the job obviously ended I started a new business. After years of working, I retired and now have more time to dive!”
Goodrich’s primary diving location is Lake Champlain although he
has other favorites as well, “I like to dive in Lake Champlain because of the
vast amount of things to find and look for. The lakes in the mountains are dark
and cold and really tough to dive – there isn’t a whole lot in them. Lake
Placid is also another favorite. Merrill Lake is in Lake Placid, not a deep
dive but the water is clear. Placid has antique bottles – dairy bottles from
the old lake dairy company. Another location is Saranac Lake although it is
always cold – perhaps one of the coldest places in the nation. Lower Saranac is
a descent size lake with nooks and crannies.
Old cans line the lakes – unfortunately the lake was used as a garbage dump in the late 40s and 50s so you never know what you can find. Lake Colby is fun – that’s where what we call ‘the old ice wagon’ because it looks like one. It is really an old bed truck laying at the bottom. Blue mountain Lake is also great. There you find the Adirondack Museum. Blue Mountain is a haven for outdoor recreation – that’s where one of three of the lost coal cars is sunk. The Coal Barge (believed to be the A.R. Noyes) sits in 65 feet to 80 feet of water near Shelburne Bay. In addition to its cargo, the wreck sports several shovels and a harness for one of the mules that towed the barge through the canal.
Dan Carpenter, owner of Champlain Dive Shop, located in Saranac, New York, offers sales and service of scuba equipment, including air fills. His full-service dive shop has been working with the local fire departments and public since 1982.
“We have what people need and we work closely with this community. We are located a short 15 miles from Lake Champlain.”
Carpenter has a number of dive sites he enjoys visiting including Lake Champlain and expounds on not only the rich history but also the conditions of the lake itself, “Lake Champlain contains significant history – there is so much to see, and visibility is wonderful although can vary especially when the algae blooms. There is a variety of fish to see, especially bass. Fishing is allowed but spearfishing is absolutely forbidden. Lake Champlain always has something to offer – the bottom composition is made up of reefs, sand, muck, it really varies. The wrecks in the lake are fragile and once you have registered to dive in the preserve – the American history is amazing to see. On the New York side there are marked wrecks and on the Vermont side there are access points that require registration to dive.”
He further explains the current mussel population, “The zebra mussels entered the lake around 1993 and have proliferated smothering native mussel species, coating water intake pipes, and slicing the feet of unsuspecting swimmers. The reefs unfortunately are encapsulated by the mussels. Fresh water clams are in lower waters – sadly they are starving because of the mussels. Although, while the zebra mussels have disrupted the food chain they have cleaned up the lake. The calcium levels in the lake are low so the mussel shells are softer so sheepshead, yellow perch and pumpkinseed have been feeding on them and growing in numbers.”
Carpenter’s favorite dive sites include, “We dive Ferris Rock, lots of variety in marine life and it is well marked. We also travel to Garden Island Reef on the south end next to Garden Island. Valcour Island boasts a historic lighthouse as well as incredible sites underwater. On land there is as much to see as underwater; camping, views of the water, and a boom of craft beers in the area.”
Valcour Island, about two miles long and one mile wide, lies by the western shore of Lake Champlain, forming one side of a narrow strait against the New York mainland. Its shores are alternately rocky, craggy outcroppings and sandy beaches. Several protected bays provide anchorages. The Bluff Point Light stands on the western shore. It guided boats through the narrow strait from 1871 until 1930 when it was replaced by a steel tower. It is the fourth-largest island in Lake Champlain.
“Lake Placid is another wonderful place. Chazy Lake is another great site to access and the water is clear and there are no mussels. Funny story -found a flintlock pistol when my wife and I went on an anniversary dive. 20 years later it was discovered to be a replica and all these years we thought we had this terrific find and had planned to donate it…”
Carpenter’s final advice, “Come visit us!”
Kurt Riley, owner of Waterhorse Adventures, located in Glensfalls, New York, has been in business since January 2018 although has been in the industry for a number of years.
“We are a full-service dive shop which includes nitrox and
airfills, travel, instruction, and equipment rentals. We find that Lake George
is popular. It dumps into Lake Champlain and is appealing because the water is
crystal clear with 30-40-foot visibility. The surface is warm and has the
oldest preserved warship in United States history.
One of my favorites is The Land Tortoise Shipwreck. It sits at 107 feet and has been there since French and Indian war perfectly preserved. It is not a traditional hull boat – it was built with a unique shape to protect the people inside. Technical divers only but they cannot penetrate it – the top is open- flat bottom. The vessel never saw a battle – this particular one drifted and sank. These vessels are protected by the Underwater Blueways Trails. The lake has perch, sunfish, large and small mouth bass, black crappy, bullheads, crayfish and more. There are plenty of shallow dive sites at Lake George. The Forward is also a great place to dive – there are so many signs and markers – it is almost like a classroom or tour – hence the name. The lake is maintained by the local dive shops and charters.”
Jonathan Eddy, co-owner and manager of Waterfront Diving Center, located in Burlington, Vermont loves the area. The dive shop was founded in May of 1988 and has been in continuous operation since located on Lake Champlain. The shop offers scuba training at the local universities for college credit and runs dive charters from June to October. In the winter months the shop does four to six trips to the Caribbean or Pacific.
“We run dive charters to ten wrecks on the lake, four of the wrecks are within a mile of the shop. The wrecks range from 20 to 110 feet. There are literally hundreds of wrecks in the lake and 10 in the preserve. The wrecks are marked with buoys and travel lines set up – it is easy to follow and find the wrecks. All underwater historic sites in Lake Champlain belong in public trust to the people of the respective states in whose water they lie. The Lake Champlain Underwater Historic Preserve provides public access for divers to some of the Lake’s historic shipwrecks. The system is designed to protect these irreplaceable historic resources both from anchor damage and artifact collecting.
“Cold, fresh water has preserved the ships and the artifacts. There is a clear understanding with the community to preserve the wrecks. OJ Walker is one of my favorites, in fact, we can see the buoy for it from our shop. It is in 60 feet of water, built in 1862 and sank 1895, and the mast is still on it. It was a wheel steered canal schooner and would have been a boat the captain would have lived on. Vis is 15-20 average, but you can get 4 or less in poor conditions or 30 plus in the fall. In recent years it has been very clear in the fall months. Another dive site we recommend is the Water Witch and is a very complete boat in the preserve as well. Very experienced divers only.”
He also dives in Lake Champlain at Ferris Rock and Thompson’s Point. Ferris Rock rises off the bottom of the lake to about three feet then goes back into the depths. Thompsons Point is one of the deepest points of the lake and boasts vertical walls.
“Lots on non-diving adventures for folks to experience including hiking in Adirondacks and green mountains,” says Eddy. “Burlington, in particular, is a young vibrant town with outdoorsy people and lots of arts. There are plenty of restaurants and festivals – very fun place to visit. Dive, hike, and explore Burlington.”
Eddy is also considering taking on a greater task, possibly sinking a vessel in the region in the future. Lake Champlain Ferries has been bringing people and cars between Vermont and New York since 1826. Now, it is considering retiring one of its vessels. Early stages. Instead of scrapping the vessel explore the idea of sinking the boat. There are a lot of factors to consider, including environmental concerns. Most people appear favorable however there is much discussion and a large permitting process to overcome: a lengthy process.
Captain Frank Hartley owns Halfmoon Marine Services in Lake George, New York. This is the ninth year they have been on the lake providing charters with their 28-foot hardtop boat. They specialize in Inland Waterway Transport in the northeast as well as upstate New York throughout the Block Island/Long Island Sounds, the Hudson/Mohawk River Valleys (including the Champlain Canal and Erie Canal) connecting to Lake Champlain, the Finger Lakes, the St. Lawrence River, and the Great Lakes through to Chicago. He tends to focus his charters on the southern basin but will go further north if asked.
Hartley describes his favorite dives:
“We most often dive the Land Tortoise Radeau which is a phenomenal ship. Designated as the ‘oldest intact warship in North America’ by the Smithsonian Institution, this dive is a deep and cold dive and requires an Advanced Certification with either double tanks or a redundant air source. The depth is 105 feet and water temperatures at the Radeau ranges between 35-45 degrees F. A safety stop is required. Another area of interest to our divers includes Diamond Island and Diamond Point – so named from the quartz crystals found there in the 1700s.
“The western and southern sides of the island have walls in the 40-to-60-foot depths. There is also a deep canyon between the ‘classroom’ and the island where you can reach depths to 90 feet. The east side of the island is very shallow but known for geodes that are called ‘Lake George diamonds’. It is rare to find a crystal today, but an occasional crystal can still be found. Another wreck we visit is the Classroom located near Diamond Island on the southern end of the lake, this site offers shallow depths and glacial formations. This dive is perfect for a newly certified diver.”
When diving with Captain Hartley, you can expect more than just the average dive but a wonderful experience in history.
“We visit Rogers Rock so named after Robert Rogers. This site has walls that drop from 20 feet to 150 feet. Red Rock Bay, another site we dive, is a two-tiered wall dive with depths up to 65 feet. The first wall is at about 20 feet deep with a narrow ledge about 20-foot-wide. The second wall drops off to depths that range from 45 to 65 feet We will also visit the Northern Lakes sites upon special request. French Point is a shallow bay dive along a shallow ridge. Remnants of the cribbing from a landing pier can be found along the southeast shore. Depths range from 20 to 40 feet. Ideal for a newly certified diver. The John Jay is a 142-foot steamboat that burned in July of 1856 destroying the boat and taking six lives. Some of the remains are in shallow water but the only access is by boat as the location is off private property. You can still see some beams, bottom planks and ribs of the ship.”
Harley also stresses that the Adirondacks aren’t just all about what is underwater but topside is also rather enchanting, “I want to mention that there is an incredible history in Lake George. There are reenactments yearly, historical events, and so much more. Really this is a wonderful place to visit – we have everything including campgrounds, hotels for all budgets, restaurants, and events and festivals depending on time of year. This is an exciting place with a robust community. Divers and non-divers can enjoy Lake George.” Clearly the Adirondacks is far more than mysterious beaver sightings, as seen in the series Curiously Adirondack, or lakes and rivers, or pristine forests, or incredibly resilient people, or miles of hiking trails and shorelines, or views so splendidly colored with golds and reds, or craft beers and restaurants, or even one of the most prolific underwater memorials to American history so well preserved and available to see from under the waterline to on land. Clearly the Adirondacks is everything and more – this “Forever Wild” park is an adventure waiting to be experienced.