St Clair River 2
2023 July 29th and 30th
St. Clair Drift Dives
Total number of different dives: 6 of various degrees of difficulty. All from the Shore. These are dives in current and exits can be challenging.
Number of divers: For dives 1-3 there will be an unlimited number for divers. For dives 4-6, the number of divers will be determined by the Divemaster from those in attendance. As with previous years, SUCI will solicit help from the Sarnia club.
** Qualifications for these dives will be reviewed by everyone in order to ensure maximum numbers of divers can participate with the maximum amount of safety and fun.
Recent Experience Rating “A” for dive 1-3 with a C diver as a buddy. “C” Experienced fit Rescue diver and up for dives 4-6.
Cost: All Divemasters – Free; SUCI members – $20.00
Open spots 20
Emergency Assistance PlanEMS Information for Scuba Injuries: Hand to EMS
Must have done cold water dives in the past 2 months.
If you are only going to choose one dive this season, this is the dive.
The changing swift currents, the physical conditioning needed, the sighting of various schools (100’s of fish), including 3’-8’ sturgeon and pickerel make this a MUST DO DIVE.
This dive will consist of minimum experienced fit Rescue-certified divers for dives 4-6, also Rescue divers who have extensive experience in drift diving and diving in overhead environments, and who have mastered the art of underwater navigation by compass. Due to the strong current on Dives 4-6, it is entirely possible to get separated from your dive buddy… Navigation is paramount. Dives 1-3 are for the adventurous, fit “A” divers. You will experience plenty of fish, navigable current, shipwrecks, and a “Back Eddy” (a reversal of current).
“Why?” Because of the following including, but not limited to, considerations:
1. We need divers who are trained and experienced in assessing and evaluating dive sites for possible risks to others, and how to best manage and respond to those risks.
2. As with the Niagara River, the current in the St. Clair River is considerable and highly variable in speed and direction; mastery of underwater compass navigation is essential
3. Similar to the Niagara River, good visibility is dependent on the absence of heavy rainfall and the absence of recent strong winds out of the North / North-East.
4. Unlike the Niagara River, the St. Clair River is an International Shipping channel, and as such must be considered as an “overhead environment” for pretty much the entire dive.
Stuff to see:
Dive #1; Wreck of the Gladstone; a few meters offshore, this is a 283-foot wreck There is a 200-300 meter walk from the parking lot, where you gear up, through a sandy beach. You would enter upstream and drift into the dive that is in about 15-25 feet of water.
Dive #2; OLG Casino Drift Dive (Night or Day). A “Back Eddy” dive. Entry off Private Property, remember to always ask for permission beforehand
Dive #3; Barge Shipwreck and Monarch Shipwreck Drift Dive; Entry and exit are at the same spot. We enter down a 30-45 degree stepped rock wall. See the PowerPoint Presentation. Take it slow with caution. Descend down the slope to the Barge at 30 feet. The barge is at the point where you meet strong current. Then drift downstream, following the bottom landscape which is uniquely divided between sand (east/shore side) and gravel (west/stronger current). In 5-8 minutes you will come upon the Monarch shipwreck 55 ft deep. After touring the wreck, you will head east to shore up a sandy embankment to about 15 feet and catch the “back-eddy”. It will take you back to your entry point. Very cool dive.
Dive #4; Abandoned Municipal Water Intake Drift Dive. You will start from the beach area and fin kick, at the surface in current while locking arms with the other divers, for about 200-250 kicks. You will be drifting at the surface from the beach entry to the Marina. You will then descend with your buddy and follow the sloping sand and wooden wall. Maintain a depth of 50-55 feet. You will then notice a large INACTIVE water intake. You will be in a strong current but you can hold on to some large bars for a couple of minutes and watch the fish go by. Then proceed along the wall. You will then notice a “dark” section in the water (if it is sunny). This is your indication that you are passing under the twin arches of the Blue Water bridge. You will want to be at 30 feet in current and you will encounter the barge. This is the exit point. Make your way east up the slope in slack water to exit. Make your 3 minute stop and then proceed to the surface to climb up the large concrete Armour stone wall.
Dive #5; Superman (Sturgeon) Drift dive. If speed and 3-7 foot fish by the hundred are your thing, then this is your Stanley Cup. You will start from the beach area and fin kick, at the surface in current while locking arms with the other divers, for about 200-250 kicks. You will be drifting at the surface from the beach entry to the Marina. You will then descend with your buddy and follow the sloping sand and wooden wall. Maintain a depth of 80-90 feet. You will literally be bumping into 3-7 foot friendly sturgeon at speeds of 6-10km/hr who will drift with you. At this depth, you are diving in the shipping channel. You may hear the engines of large freighters. IF AN EMERGENCY ASCENT IS REQUIRED YOU MUST NOT ASCEND STRAIGHT UP, 90 DEGREES TO THE BOTTOM. ASCEND AT AN ANGLE, 45 DEGREES EAST. DIRECT ASCENTS ARE NOT RECOMMEND AND MUST BE AVOIDED. For this reason and the fact that this dive could last 40-60 minutes, at depth an alternative source of air (pony bottle, second tank, etc…) is needed. After 30-45 minutes, you will then notice a “dark” section in the water. (If it is sunny). This is your indication that you are passing under the twin arches of the Blue Water bridge. You will want to be at 30 feet in current and you will encounter the barge. This is the exit point. Make your way east up the slope in slack water to exit. Make your 3 minute stop and then proceed to the surface to climb up the large concrete Armour stone wall.
Dive #6; The Fontana drift dive near the channel in high current. This shipwreck lies in the channel. The same procedure for ascent should be adhered to as in Dive #5 The top of the wreck is about 30-40 feet below the surface, depending on the water level, in a very high current. This is a beautiful BUT very physical dive. You will again start at the beach, fin kick and drift before descending. You will descend to a predetermined depth. As you approach the wreck you will notice the wreck is somewhat sitting on a sandbank. Built-in 1888 at nearby St. Clair, Michigan, by Simon Langell, she was a two-mast schooner barge headed downbound with a 2,600-ton cargo of iron ore, the vessel was in tow of the Kaliyuga headed for Cleveland, Ohio as they entered the St. Clair River “Rapids”. At the same time, the vessel SS Appomattox was headed up-bound with the schooner vessel Santiago in tow. As they passed on the night of August 3, 1900, the two vessels in tow collided. The Fontana sustained the most damage to her bow sinking rapidly. With a crew of (6), all escaped with the exception of a member that was sleeping in the forecastle. The wreckage partially above water began to cause many problems. A vessel by the name of Samuel Marshall was towing the schooner Kingfisher which became lodged in the wreckage as they passed. The Kingfisher sustained heavy damage when it broke loose the foretop and mainmast of the Fontana.