When Michael Van Eaton finds a hobby, he dives right in.
When he’s not teaching, the Federal Way, WA, resident is enjoying the water any way he can. As an avid swimmer, he’s coached both swimming and water polo. He even spent time as an international water polo referee. But one of his main passions is scuba diving.
Like most other divers, Michael Van Eaton would travel to distant waters in faraway lands for adventure. But there are plenty of places to explore a little closer to home. And this isn’t taking a dip in the local swimming hole. The U.S. offers countless, diverse diving opportunities with crystal clear views.
Michael Van Eaton has scoured sea to shining sea to share his five favorite scuba diving locations in the U.S.
When most people think “scuba,” they picture tropical locales off sandy beaches. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park doesn’t disappoint. In many ways, this Key Largo, FL, spot is a pioneer. Just 60 miles from Miami in the Florida Keys, this place is considered the nation’s first park entirely underneath the sea. Year-round, visitors experience vibrant sea life and coral. Michael Van Eaton promotes this as a great place for beginning divers due to its shallow, accessible waters.
Try something off the beaten path. Far from the ocean in Missouri, this flooded mine has morphed into an underground lake. It’s a beautiful and eerie time capsule. This site is a perfectly-preserved ammunition plant, where employees just left without bothering to pack up any belongings. Divers can swim past numerous man-made objects, like ore cars, offices, and driving fountains. The site offers guided tours.
Just a short drive from his home in Federal Way, Michael Van Eaton loves spending time in Puget Sound. These waterways provide protected dives and a chance to interact with a variety of sea creatures. The temperatures are a little chillier here, but this actually allows the wildlife to grow larger. Divers may encounter sea lions, killer whales, or eels. Edmonds Underwater Park is a prime viewing point. Or try Dead Man’s Wall, which is one of the nation’s best wall dives. Visibility is best in the fall or winter while the algae are dormant.
Another freshwater location, Dutch Springs is a 50-acre lake that sits in Bethlehem, PA. Less than two hours from New York City, divers flock to see the plethora of rainbow trout, koi, yellow perch, and other freshwater fish. You can also see submerged aircraft and sunken vehicles. Michael Van Eaton cautions you to plan ahead. This destination is only available a couple of months out of the year.
Fans of shipwrecks will be delighted at this Great Lake location. Because the Presque Isle coastline here has very few lighthouses, the seas have claimed nearly 75 sunken ships over the years. Divers can even navigate three schooners that are still intact and upright. At Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, visibility can reach up to 50 feet. This is also a great place for newer, less advanced divers.
Warren James is the lead editor for Diving Daily. Warren has written for many publications including the New York Daily News, Vanity Fair and Yahoo. Warren is based in New York city and covers issues affecting local communities. In addition to following the day-to-day life of the Big Apple, Warren also has a passion for martial arts.