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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.