Alger Underwater Preserve
When loggers were felling the vast stands of pine across the central Upper Peninsula in the 1800s, Munising grew into a busy port, with schooners carrying loads of timber to the growing cities of the southern Great Lakes and iron ore to an ever-growing number of factories. Yet the narrow and shoaly passage between the mainland and Grand Island, and along the Pictured Rocks shoreline, was the downfall of many ships; their skeletons litter the lake floor here.
The Alger Underwater Preserve covers 113 square miles, from just west of Grand Island to Au Sable Point near the east end of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Nearly a dozen ships lie here, well preserved in Lake Superior’s cold, fresh water. Some wrecks, like the 19th-century Bermuda and the 145-foot Smith Moore, lie upright and nearly intact. The Alger Underwater Preserve marks many of the dive sites with buoys and helps ensure that they will be protected from poachers—it’s a felony to remove or disturb artifacts within any Great Lakes underwater preserve.
Several factors combine to make the Alger Underwater Preserve one of the finest sport-diving locations in the Midwest. There are several wrecks concentrated in one area; the cold, fresh water keeps them from deteriorating; many wrecks are in very shallow water, as little as 20 feet deep; visibility is excellent, usually a minimum of 25 feet and sometimes twice that; and Grand Island helps moderate the cold water temperatures. “It’s one of the best wreck diving sites for beginners that I can imagine,” notes Pete Lindquist, who operates a dive charter in Munising.
Just offshore from the Munising High School, an underwater museum among dock ruins includes underwater signs that interpret large maritime artifacts. The Alger Underwater Preserve also attracts divers for its sea caves in about 20 feet of water, where sandstone cliffs have been eroded by wave action. To arrange a dive charter, contact Lake Superior Shipwreck Diving (1204 Commercial St., Munising, 906/387-4477, www.shipwrecktours.com).
by Laura Martone from Moon Michigan, 3rd Edition, © Avalon Travel