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Follow us. Welcome to the Underwater Photography Guide. Our idea is simple - learn, shoot, explore. Their riverbeds are littered with hundreds of beautifully preserved historical and recent shipwrecks — a combination of their strategic location within the continent for the shipment of merchandise and bulk freight along with their many al hazards. The wrecks are incredibly well preserved.
There are a of reasons why the Saint Lawrence Seaway is considered one of the go-to diving regions of Ontario. Unlike many other places along the cusp of the Great Lakes, this area has a reputation for lacking a thermocline and being on the warmer side of your average Canadian dive site. Not only that, but the riverbed of the seaway is also well known for being littered with age-old shipwrecks, some dating as far back as the early s. Acting as a bridge between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic ocean, the Saint Lawrence River has been used for centuries as a primary shipping route.
Every day close to 15 cargo bearing ships alone travel back and forth along this canal of water, making use of the lockage system to transport goods from the east coast as far inland as St lawrence seaway diving, Minnesota. The waterway is especially unique in that on top of connecting the Great Lakes to the ocean, it also shares a border with Canada and the USA. For those who have never tried diving in Canada — relative to its geographical location, my home country is a cold place.
Heading underwater in the Saint Lawrence River is considered a special exception in the summer months. In the Saint Lawrence, warm surface waters from Lake Ontario flow seaward into what is known as the Thousand Islands part of the province. As described in the name, the Thousand Islands is a region of endless islands peppered amid a spectacular shoreline.
It begins at the mouth of Lake Ontario and stretches for 80 kilometers downstream ending in Brockville.
As the heated surface water of Lake Ontario travels downriver through the Thousand Islands, the topography and river current mix Saint Lawrence. The end result is that in the height of summer, divers can ditch their dive hoods and wear a mm wetsuit while exploring the area. The riverfront city of Brockville and surrounding is a dreamy place. From lavish brick homes along the water to a charming hometown atmosphere, Brockville works hard at balancing a thriving tourism industry and hospitable community.
And while there are no shortages of interesting things to do in this budding Southern Ontario municipality, scuba diving ranks high on the activity list. While Ontario has many incredible freshwater diving sites scattered throughout the provincethe city of Brockville holds a special place in the scuba community.
Along the stretch of river between Rockport and Brockville, there are more than a dozen shipwrecks and drift diving sites to explore.
In addition to the many different freshwater fish, divers can find torpedo bottles and clay pipes on the river floor. The statues have been sunk by members of the Save Ontario Shipwrecks Society SOS not just as a diving attraction, but to relieve dive traffic on local wrecks. There are approximately 25 pieces on the river bed and much more in the works.
The sunken statues range from standing figures, benches, tables, sea creatures and much more, placed at strategic points within the perimeter of the park. Because of the shallow depth less than 9 meters or 30 feetamazing life-size statues and aquatic life, Centeen Park is an appealing dive site, especially for new divers. The park has washroom facilities, metal stairs to enter the water and benches for dive gear set up and tear down. To aid with maintaining and developing the site, divers using Centeen Park are required to purchase an annual dive token at the Brockville Tourism Office, local dive shop or Blockhouse Island tourism kiosk and harbor office.
GPS Coordinates: While there is parking available onsite, this can be limited on busy days and it is recommended to drop equipment then park on King Street. The Rothesay is a 19th-century wooden side-wheeler that initially sailed between Fredericton and St. John, New Brunswick. The wheeler was later relocated to serve on the St Lawrence River. On September 12th,the Rothesay was ferrying passengers between Brockville and Montreal when she collided with the Myra tug and sank to the west of Prescott.
Since her sinking inthe Rothesay has been used by members of the Royal Military College in Kingston for a munition exercise. This is made evident by the debris field that remains of the once magnificent wooden vessel. Today, the Rothesay is a minute surface swim from shore. The swim takes divers across gently tapering weed beds which are the perfect refuge for perch, bass, and pike. At nine meters 30 feet deepthe bow of the ship is decorated with colorful freshwater sponges, plant and algae growth.
A quick glance shows every square inch jam-packed with these razor-sharp bivalves.
Scuba diving in brockville and surrounding area
As some of my images can bear witness, the sheer density is near-indescribable. From the embankment a dive buoy feet offshore marks the start of the line out to the wreck. The vintage Conestoga is a 77 meter foot steamer launched on July 6th, The vessel was outfitted with steel plates around her hull and powered by a steeple compound engine capable of a speed of 8 knots.
The Conestoga, also known as the Connie, sank on May 22nd, after a fire broke out in the engine room while awaiting passage. Concerned for the fire damage to the lock, she was flushed from Lock 28 out into the St Lawrence River. Now, the Conestoga rests in 9 meters 30 feet of water in a flowing part of the St Lawrence.
The ship is considered a drift dive with flowing current on the outer proximity of the wreck and mild current inside. Looking out at the water from land, divers can easily see the upper steeple of the compound engine protruding out of the river. Underwater the Conestoga is an antique masterpiece.
The wooden portions of the wreck are still in relatively good condition however she has suffered greatly from looting and wreck stripping. The wooden hull points upstream and is by far the most intact part of the ship.
Train with the best
A windlass, winch and anchor chain adorn the bow and are an interesting sight for divers. Follow the dive line down to 6 meters 20 feet to the bow of the ship. The Weehawk is an old steel ferry that after a long and prosperous life on the water now rests in shambles on the bottom of the Gallop Canal or what use to be Lock The Weehawk and its sister ship the Walsh were bought by a scrapyard operator, Percy Larose, who operated the scrapyard at Lock Beginning with the Walsh, Percy began scraping both ferries at the old Cardinal Lock but after a severe car accident, which took the life of his wife and left Percy unable to continue his work, the two ferries were abandoned and gradually sunk to the bottom.
Between October 10th and November 21st,the wreckage of the John J. Walsh was removed from the North Side of the locks. The Weehawk remains in its sinking location, upstream from the Conestoga in a shallow 5.
Currently, the Weehawk wreck site is simple to access and a popular drift dive, where divers will enter the water and explore the rusty remnants of the Weehawk then let the strong current suck them down Lock 27 and out into the Saint Lawrence. Divers will then drift down through the confined lock passageway spotting bass and other aquatic life along this speedy lazy river ride.
As divers approach the exit to the lock which spits out into the Saint Lawrence, the bottom will become shallow and grassy. This is a queue to kick hard across the mouth of the lock, towards the opposing riverbank where the bottom drops off and becomes rocky boulders. Once on the other side the drift dive typically ends with a quick pass along or through the Conestoga shipwreck. The drawback is that it is not necessarily an attractive dive site. St lawrence seaway diving one, the Weehawk shipwreck is in skeletal conditions, but also visibility is often poor and the silty riverbed churns up easily.
From the parking lot, walk over the metal bridge following the path to your right. A dive buoy is highly recommended due to boat traffic. On top of the plethora of shore diving sites the Saint Lawrence River has to offer, Brockville also has a good amount of offshore diving opportunities.
To access the offshore diving locations, divers must book a dive charter through a local scuba shop. Boat charters typically offer one, two or three tank dives which vary in location on both the Canadian and US side of the river.
For those heading to a diving location across the border, advance registration is necessary and all individuals are required to have their passports on their person. Not far offshore from Centeen Park, in downtown Brockville, is the two-masted iron rigged wooden barque of the Robert Gaskin.
At 34 meters-long feet the Gaskin was launched on April 21st, from Kingston and later was outfitted as a salvage barge. For scuba divers, the wooden barque of the Gaskin rests on a firm bottom of clay and silt with her bow facing the shore. When compared to the Rothesay shipwreck, the hull of the Gaskin is in splendid condition with detailed wood railings and large timbers making up her framework.
Thanks to the open deck on the vessel, divers could easily sink down into the belly of the boat heading towards the stern and not worry about being in an overhead environment. It became blatantly obvious that the force of the current and inquisitive divers visiting the wreck, had not been kind of the remaining structure of poor Robert. This 19th Century Great Lake Centreboard schooler is 40 meters feet long and built of white oak. With a substantial carrying capacity of ton, the Lillie transported coal, lumber, wheat, barley, railway iron and salt from destination to destination during her lifespan.
On her last voyage, the Lillie Pearson hit a rock and took on water due to a cargo shift during a squall. On August 5th, the Lillie sank upside down in the place she is found today.
In terms of a dive site, the main body of the Lillie Pearson lies in meters feet of water, with wreckage and masts extending down to 27 meters 90 feet. The powerful knot current, make the Lillie an advanced dive attracting a wide range of fish species who love to hang out in the small cubby holes of the boat. Typically, scuba divers will be dropped at the upsidedown stern of the Lillie Pearson and drift to the bow.
At the bow divers can grab a purposely placed metal chain on the port side of the boat and pull themselves against the ripping current back to the stern. This cycle can be repeated several times so that divers can get a full overview of the wreckage. On their final pass of the sailboat, divers continue the drift past the Lillie along a rock wall looking for the safety stop line which they can follow into a sheltered alcove.
Need to know for diving in quebec
Ontario is a province that attracts a substantial amount of cold water divers every yearmainly because of its shipwrecks and sunken towns. And like much of the Great Lake region of this province, the Brockville has an impressive array of diving attractions. But what makes Brockville so appealing as a dive destination is not just the age-old wooden shipwrecks. From drifts, to shore dives to sunken statues, the region is chock full of watery goodness. Depending on where you are planning on diving, there are many shore diving sites in Brockville and Prescott that are well marked and free of charge.
To access the offshore diving, it is necessary to charter a boat through a local dive shop. Check with local dive shops for additional equipment rental prices as these can vary depending on the season and dive shop.
Diving the Thousand Islands region of Ontario is best in the spring or late fall of ideal visibility. Plankton blooms and green water tend to happen during June, July, and August.
For peak water temperatures, the summer is when the Saint Lawrence River is the warmest and divers can often get away with not wearing a neoprene hood.