Diving in Alabama

By on 13 May, 2013 in Fun, Outdoors with 1 Comment

Photo by Steel City Hobbies

Montgomery is about as well known for diving as, say, Des Moines, Iowa, or Lincoln, Nebraska. But if you’re living in Midtown, you’re actually not too far away from some pretty exciting stuff that just happens to be under water.

I honestly had no idea that Alabama had scuba and snorkel options until I came across the January 2012 issue of something called Southeast Dive News. It was sitting in the lobby of a dive shop in Florida — and I had no idea how to dive. Or snorkel. Or use a scuba tank. The few times that I have been under water, I’ve been holding my breath — and most of the time closing my eyes too.

I’ve complained before about how Montgomery doesn’t make enough use of the beautiful river that our city was built on. We’re working on that, of course, having Dragon Boat races and (just recently) our very first triathlon. The more people in our river, the better (especially assuming that we enforce Clean Water Act regulations to make sure nobody’s spoiling it).

But did you know that Alabama is home to the second most navigable waters in the nation, only behind Alaska? We’re talking about 77,000 miles of rivers, most of which we fully take for granted and go full days (if not weeks and months) without ever thinking about.

Also surprising: Alabama was one of the first states in the nation to start an artificial reef program, as early as 1953. A lot of people would shrug their shoulders at Alabama, assuming that we are hostile to nature (and environmental regulations), but the facts are clear: We have incredible resources here.

The diving magazine suggests that folks should check out the natural limestone reef at something called Trysler Grounds, which is south of Perdido Bay. There is another nearby one called Dutch Banks. These locations are only about a three hour drive from Montgomery.

Take a look at a map. There’s a little body of water jutting in from the Gulf of Mexico between Alabama and Pensacola. That’s where you’ll want to suit up.

Oh, you should probably have some lessons first. As I said, I’ve only done snorkeling once. And never strapped a scuba tank to my back. But there are at least two dive shops in town and I’m thinking about taking lessons. One is Adventure Sports II and the other is Southern Divers. I’m not sure which one is best, but I’ll let you know. The main point is that I want to swim down to the bottom of a large body of water and see an aircraft carrier.

Yep, you can totally do that. The  USS Oriskany is an aircraft carrier sunk in Florida waters in 2006. This is near us. We can swim down and see it. Check this out. The world’s largest artificial reef is close to us. It is a boat. That you used to be able to land airplanes on. There is also a Navy tug near there too, but who will prefer that to an AIRCRAFT CARRIER?

What else is at the bottom of a bunch of water near Alabama? The magazine also recommends the Tenslaw River Bridge, the wreckage of an Interstate bridge destroyed by Hurricane Ivan, the Hopper barge near Orange Beach (warning: music is annoying), the Antares wreck (a 400 foot freighter), the Hugh Swingle permit area, the Don Kelly North General Permit Area (battle tanks?), the 105 tug, the 151 tug, the Mobil Oil platform, the Allen, the Sparkman, and the Wallace. I don’t even know what some of those things are, but if they are underwater and rusting and covered with fish and weird ocean life, I want to see them. Evidently, Florida is promoting a whole underwater shipwreck trail. Pensacola appears to be a hub of this action.

Alabama also has the Point Jetties, which are open to shore dives. And there’s a Whiskey Wreck near Bahama Bob’s in Gulf Shores. The magazine also highlights the Alabama Point Sea Wall and Alabama Point Bridge, along with other inland options like the Madison Quarry and unnamed spots around Lake Martin.

Finally, AL.com just went underwater and came back with this video of offshore forests off of Alabama’s coast. Underwater trees that are 12,000 years old? Yes please. Really cool stuff.

As noted, I am not a diver. I have done snorkeling exactly once. But being underwater exposes you to an entire new kingdom, invisible to land dwellers. The ocean reveals the incredible diversity of Earth’s life. And there’s something meditative about being in the silence of the deep, hearing only your own breathing.

Once again, we are lucky here in Montgomery to live so close to so many treasures.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with a cat, a dog, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.


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  1. Great article and full of resources I’ll use in promoting our Memorial Reef Project. Keep me posted on your endeavors to learn to Dive and hopefully we’ll get to see you here in Pensacola more often.

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