Is Illinois good for scuba diving?
It’s certainly a yes, however there are some locations that are best suited for novices, while others require more experience and understanding of diving in general (although I suppose you could say that about most places).
As an insider tip, the best time to go is June through September. The weather is at its peak, and you can always hide from the pesky sun underwater if you’ve had enough of it!
Okay, enough rambling. Here’s the best places to go scuba diving in this beautiful state.
The 7 best places to go scuba diving in Illinois
1. Kickapoo State Park
Location: 7042 County Road 1000 E., Shelbyville, IL 62565, USA (Clarksville)
It’s a dive site best for beginners as part of a full day dive excursion with other dives possible at the park as well. The best diving is in the spring and early summer when water temperatures are around 70 degrees F. Diving starts at 12 feet, and drops down to about 40-50 feet in depth by following man made canals/dams from the Lake Shelbyville Recreational Area.
2. Salt Creek Recreation Area
Location: 9525 North US Highway 12, Morris, IL 60450, USA (Morris)
This area is best known for its popular scuba diving location near Chicago and it has been designated as a National Scuba Diving Trail Site since 1985 by the National Scuba Association. It’s best suited for more experienced divers due to depths that can be reached in this area (up to 100 feet). At high tide Snapper fish may be seen very close to the shoreline while offshore are Sand sharks with its slimy grey/brown skin.
3. Montrose Harbor
Location: 600 East Grand Avenue Chicago, IL 60611, USA (Chicago)
It’s best in the summer months due to water temperatures of around 50 degrees F during spring and fall or dive with a dry suit (which is great for its buoyancy). Also best suited for more experienced divers as it can be hard to find your way back if you start drifting away from the harbor area into deeper waters. Minimum depth is 20 feet at the north end of this location while maximum depth can be reached at 75 feet on either side of Rainbow Reef near the center of the harbor.
4. Lake Shelbyville
Location: 1200 East Townline Road Shelbyville, IL 62681, USA (Shelbyville)
It’s best for more experienced scuba divers due to depths that can be reached at this lake, which happens to be the largest man made lake in Illinois. In addition too keeping a watchful eye on your air supply, you will also have to remember to check your compass often as it is easy to get lost underwater without one!
What to see: This lake has an abundance of submerged stumps and logs which are great for hiding Rainbow darters within the shallower areas, and the best diving areas are found to the east of this site where you can find Catfish and Spotted Gar on the lake bottom.
5. Lake Shelbyville: Shore Dive Sites (Illinois River)
Location: Illinois River
This one is best suited for novices as they don’t have to dive too deep at this location. Divers will find that visibility underwater is best during spring and summer months when there are stronger currents and colder water temperatures.
6. Lake Shelbyville: Old Site Location (Shelbyville)
Location: 1200 East Townline Road, Shelbyville, IL 62681, USA (Shelbyville)
his is best suited for more experienced divers who have scuba diving equipment as this location is best suited for professional training purposes only and it’s best to get permission from the park authorities prior to visiting the site. Maximum depth can be reached at 100 feet while minimum depth is 20 feet with an average water temperature of 70 degrees F in this area.
7. Lake Shelbyville: Big Bay/North Point (Shelbyville)
Location: 1200 East Townline Road, Shelbyville, IL 62681 (Shelbyville)
Why: This is best suited for more experienced scuba divers due to its depth and water temperature at certain times of the year. To best enjoy this location it’s best suited for Spring and Summer months with a minimum depth of 10 feet while maximum depths can be reached at 50 feet on either side of Rainbow Reef near the center of the lake.