More than one certified diver has been posted to Wainwright, and sold their dive gear, assuming there was nowhere to dive in the middle of the Canadian Prairie. Sometime after arriving in Wainwright, they discover Alberta Adventure Divers, and the local diving community, and the local dive sites!
Where are these dives sites? You can dive in many of the lakes around Wainwright and Lloyd. Arm Lake - been there. Schuster Lake - yes, it has fish & weeds. Golf course water hazards - they have lots of silt and lots of golf balls. However, the most popular location is Clear Lake, near Edgerton, Alberta. Clear Lake has a lot to offer divers.
The Public Beach on the west side of the lake is the common access point. Divers can set up at their vehicles and walk their gear down to the dock to enter the water. From the shore it is a bit of a surface swim to get to the dropoff. At the dropoff, water depth increases from 7’ to 20’+.
If a large group of divers are out (like Alberta Adventure Divers on a Tuesday night!), dive flags may be tied to landmarks. If not, you can carefully descend so you don’t kick up the silt at the dropoff and swim east. Within a few kicks, you will either find a boat, a shark, or a line, suspended 2’ off the bottom. You can follow this line either direction, to find the dive course.
The dive course is extensive, with more than two dozen interesting features to check out. These include teaching platforms, Ogopogo, a shark cage, a dive bell and many more. You can see pictures of some of these on our website. One should monitor their buoyancy when swimming between objects at different depths, taking care to vent air as they swim shallower, and add air as they swim to deeper locations. Because the swims are mostly horizontal, changes in depth can easily sneak up on the unsuspecting diver!
The entire course is connected with ropes which are firmly secured. New divers can hold onto these to assist with their buoyancy if required, but within a few dives, they should be able to use the rope as a guideline only. More experienced divers will swim near enough to reach out and grab the rope in the event of a silt-out. Because of the silt bottom, silt-outs are very easy to cause with a typical flutter kick. For this reason, divers are encouraged to stay close to the guidelines or use a frog kick, and use careful buoyancy control to avoid the bottom. Experienced divers can do an entire dive without disturbing any silt. The best way to do this is to dive lots and gain experience! Of course, we can help out to improve skills with courses like Peak Performance Buoyancy.
If you are interested in checking out the flora and fauna, it is worth your while to take a swim along the dropoff. You are likely to see schools of minnows and walleye (with their distinctive white tail spot). To lazily swim along the dropoff on a warm summer day is a very relaxing experience. It also makes for a great safety stop!
There are a few safety recommendations. If you are diving by yourself, fly a dive flag, and carry it with you for the entire dive. Clear Lake is very popular for all sorts of recreational activities, not just diving. If you are with a group and a dive flag is set up, you should send your DSMB up every time you surface. This is a valuable skill for warm and coldwater divers. If you need to brush up on your skills, you could consider the DSMB specialty.
For divers who are looking for a buddy, feel free to contact the store, follow “Alberta Adventure Divers” on Facebook, or check out the “Lloydminister and Area Divers Connect” Facebook page. As well, please join us on Tuesday nights! Every Tuesday night from the beginning of June to September Long Weekend we are out with the Alberta Adventure Divers trailer, and can provide on-site air fills. If you need gear, contact the dive store by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone 780-842-2882. Ask about the Dive Night gear rental discount!
Even after hearing about all the things to see underwater, many people still ask “WHY?”. Of course, there are many reasons. When you are diving locally you will have the opportunity to improve your dive skills through practice and training. When you go on a dive trip, because of your experience the diving is easy, and you can enjoy the diving without focusing on the diving. As well, Tuesday night dives provide an opportunity to meet other divers, and discuss a shared interest. Warming up around the campfire after a dive while discussing the things divers usually discuss can be as much fun as the diving itself!
Many people learn to dive in the Caribbean or some other tropical location, and then come back to Alberta, thinking they won’t be able to dive until the next time they can afford a plane ticket. What they might not know is that there is an extensive community of divers right here at home. Many of us cannot get enough of the underwater world, and choose to refine our skills and expand our capabilities here, in our local lakes.
Where are these local dive sites? Around Red Deer, a common dive site is Twin Lakes (near Winfield). Every Wednesday, from the May long weekend until the campsite closes at the end of October, divers will gather during the day or after work. In addition, there are social events organized by the Alberta Underwater Council. These events include a Treasure Hunt in June, and the Poker Dive on Canada Day.
There are several reasons divers like this lake. There is a staging area for divers to prepare gear on the shore. You walk down the dock, and can jump into water that is 15’ deep. Much of the life is in the top 20’ of the lake, where you will find Burbot, Jackfish, minnows, and more. Divers have reported Jackfish several feet long! The bottom slopes downwards, and below 20’ you will find a training platform, and other objects to assist divers with their skills. If you make the swim to the west side of the lake, you can find cliffs, which drop from 20’-70’. If the visibility is good, the view can be impressive. More advanced divers may be interested in checking out the bottom of the lake, which is below 100’, but this is cold, dark, and full of fish poop, so it is recommended you seek proper instruction in deep diving first.
The water temperature near the surface can get as warm as 15C (59F) in late August, but divers are wise to prepare for colder temperatures which are expected below the thermoclines. Albertan Divers will typically wear a 7mm wetsuit on the warm summer days of July and August, or a drysuit for the shoulder seasons of May, June, September, and October. Many divers will only dive a drysuit.
Visibility is certainly less than you’ll find in a tropical location, on a great day, vis will be 25’. The bottom is also silt, so a misplaced fin can quickly reduce visibility to zero. For that reason, buoyancy control and finning techniques are important.
So what should you do if you’d like to dive in a local lake, but haven’t before? Coldwater diving is certainly different than the tropics. You should consider a Discover Local Diving experience with your friendly PADI Divemaster. You may wish to consider some continuing education courses. In particular, the PADI Drysuit Specialty will show you how to use a drysuit properly to improve warmth while still controlling your buoyancy. The Peak Performance Buoyancy course will help you to adjust your weighting, improve your buoyancy, and introduce finning techniques to minimize contact with the bottom (and disturbing the bottom). After gaining experience with diving you may wish to check out the deeper parts of the lake, for this, you should consider the PADI Advanced Diver course, which builds on your skills, and shows you how to manage some of the concerns which can come up on deeper dives. If you really want to check out the bottom of the lake, consider the PADI Deep Diver Specialty, which will provide you with the training to safely dive below 100’.
But what if you don’t have the gear? Again, your friendly dive staff at Alberta Adventure Divers can help! We have rental gear. Send an email to email@example.com and we can arrange all the gear you need! From mask, snorkel, and fins, to a drysuit or wetsuit, we’ve got it all!
So what will you gain by diving around home? For starters, you can dive much more often. This means you will be a better diver when you go to a warm tropical destination. You will be able to focus on the amazing diving you are doing, because diving will be a second nature activity to you. But there is more. You will meet dive buddies who become friends. You will become part of the community of local divers who share a common activity. Because the best part of diving around home isn’t refining our skills, jumping in the cool water on a hot summer day, or even seeing the local northern pike (jackfish). The best part of local diving is the camaraderie, the people, the community of divers.