With our favorite summer holiday — the Fourth of July — just around the corner, it’s time to start planning for the festivities, which, of course, means heading underwater to party with all of our dive buds. Fortunately, the good old USA boasts tons of killer dive spots, so you won’t have to travel far to get your dive on. Here are 9 of our favorite American dive sites, where divers can get wet to commemorate our nation’s birthday. It’s just too bad you can’t fully appreciate fireworks from below the surface.
Athens Scuba Park
This spring-fed lake southwest of Dallas is owned by divers and has been hosting our tribe for nearly 25 years. A dozen docks with nearby shady pavilions offer easy access to the water (in which viz can reach 70 feet), where more than 30 underwater attractions — including busses, boats, motorcycles, a Lockheed C-140 jet plane and a space capsule — can be explored. Bathhouses with hot showers, overnight camping, on-site air fills and night diving round out the amenities.
Location: Athens, Texas
Entry Fees: $15 for divers; $5 for non-divers
Casino Point Marine Park
Boasting a protected underwater park loaded with great sights, including several small wrecks, giant kelp and heaps of marine life, Catalina’s Casino Point is one of California’s most popular dive spots. Take the ferry from Long Beach, Dana Point or San Pedro to Avalon, where you’ll find several dive shops, hotels, storage lockers, restaurants and lots of great company — all within walking distance.
Location: Catalina Island, California
Entry Fees: There are no entry fees to dive the park, but roundtrip ferry tickets to Catalina Island cost around $70.
Dutch Springs, in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, is a flooded limestone quarry turned 47-acre diving attraction that also includes a water park, adventure ropes course, rock climbing, camping, PADI Recreation Center and great spots for picnics and parties. Underwater highlights include a plane, a helicopter, a fire engine, a trolley and lots of freshwater marine life.
Location: Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Entry Fees: $36 for divers; $24 for non-divers ages 10 and up; $15 for non-divers ages 5 to 9.
One of Gilboa’s main attractions are the resident paddlefish, 5-foot-long, toothless filter feeders that were once heavily fished across North America and now thrive only in a few locations. There is also a 65 foot-long Grumman airplane and several boats to explore. With depths of more than 130 feet, the quarry is even suitable for tech training. Amenities include camping, cottages, concessions, on-site dive support, changing rooms with hot showers and plenty of non-diving fun, from zip lining to rock climbing and more.
Location: Gilboa, Ohio
Entry Fees: $21 for divers and snorkelers; $6 for non-divers
Ginnie is a Central Florida scuba landmark, thanks to world-class spring diving in water that’s always crystal clear and 72 degrees — perfect on a hot summer day. Even more, there are number of caves and caverns for more advanced divers to check out. Set up for easy diving, there are multiple dive sites, including a drift down the lazy Santa Fe River, and a full–service dive shop on site, as well as camping, a bath house with hot showers, rental cottages and loads of fun activities for the whole family.
Location: High Springs, Florida
Entry Fees: $22 for cave divers, $30 all other divers; $12 for non-divers ages 15 and up; $3 for non-divers ages 7 to 14
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Our nation’s first underwater park is a Florida Keys staple, offering sunny, shallow reef diving and snorkeling fun for the family. The park has camping, beaches, covered picnic areas, fishing, glass bottom boat tours and an on-site PADI Dive Center. Pennekamp is also where to find the famous Christ of the Deep statue at Dry Rocks Reef.
Location: Key Largo, Florida
Entry Fees: $8 per vehicle for park entry; $60 for diving and snorkeling boat trips to the reefs
Contact: Ocean Divers, Key Largo
Boasting awesome 100-foot walls that can be followed down to depths of 120 feet, this 8.5-acre spring-fed quarry also offers two small planes, train cars, an ambulance, a big fake shark and a sunken Boeing 727 that was used in the 1998 film U.S. Marshals. With an on-site PADI Recreation Center, pavilions, concessions and a strong local dive community, Mermet is a Midwestern scuba haven that will definitely be rockin’ on the Fourth.
Location: Vienna, Illinois
Entry Fees: $20 for divers; $5 for non-divers
Santa Rosa Blue Hole
In this 80 foot-deep, spring-fed pool, sometimes called "Nature's Jewel,” visibility can reach 80 feet. There’s a brand new dive center offering fills and gear, plus covered pavilions and other facilities for a day of holiday festivities.
Location: Santa Rosa, New Mexico
Entry Fees: $8 for weekly dive permit; $25 for annual dive permit
Sanilac Shores Underwater Preserve
Wreck diving is the big draw at this Lake Huron preserve, with more than a dozen sunken vessels, including the 250-foot steel hulled Regina, which sank in 1913. The area also will please non-diving family and friends with charming coastal hamlets that offer historic attractions from a lighthouse to petroglyphs and a shipwreck museum.
Location: Port Sanilac, Michigan
Entry Fees: $25 for divers