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Keweenaw Underwater Preserve
Lying adjacent to Michigan's "Copper Country", the Keweenaw Underwater Preserve stretches along the Keweenaw Peninsula's shore on Lake Superior. Due to its location on the Lake's south shore, it has often been a "catcher's mitt" for lost ships.
Because of its location and extensive mining and settlement activities, shipwrecks and artifacts are scattered along the coast. Eagle River, Eagle Harbor and Copper Harbor all host a variety of shipwrecks dating to the 1800's. Many of the wrecks are in fairly shallow water where they have been broken up by ice and storm action. What is left is an inviting resource for beginner to intermediate divers who can explore boilers, machinery and broken hulls.
Among the best shipwreck dives in the Keweenaw Underwater Preserve are:
Mesquite. The wreck of the U. S. Coast Guard Cutter Mesquite is the premier dive destination in the Preserve. On December 4, 1989, the Mesquite was retrieving buoys when she ran aground off the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula. Because of the time of year, she could not be removed before winter. The harsh winter weather pounded the 47 year old vessel against the rocky shoal damaging her beyond repair. Because she was a total loss, the Coast Guard cooperated in the intentional sinking of the Mesquite as a dive site. Divers find the wreck in excellent condition with most of her equipment still on deck. Part of the pilot house was removed during the sinking and is now located near the hull. Very experienced divers can penetrate the interior. Water depths on the wreck vary from 82 to 112 feet.
Tioga. The 285 foot steel package freighter Tioga was launched at Buffalo, New York in 1884. She ran aground on Sawtooth Reef on November 26, 1919 during a winter storm. A gale followed shortly after the stranding and she went to pieces. Today, the ship's debris including her boilers and engine can be examined in 28 to 35 feet of water.
City of St. Joseph. The City of St. Joseph was a 254 foot steel barge lost on September 21, 1942 when she struck a reef during a violent gale near Eagle Harbor. A companion barge, the Transport, also sank in the gale and is located about 110 yards inshore from the St. Joseph. Both wrecks lie broken and flattened out in shallow water ranging from 25 to 35 feet.
John Jacob Astor. Claim to being the oldest known shipwreck on Lake Superior belongs to the John Jacob Astor lost September 21, 1844 near the dock of old Fort Wilkins. Built at Black River, Ohio in 1835, the Astor was the first commercial vessel on Lake Superior. After stranding, she encountered a fate similar to the Mesquite's. When she could not be refloated before winter, she broke up in the severe winter weather conditions. Her rigging and portable equipment were salvaged. Today, the remains sit in up to 35 feet of water.
Langham. The wooden steamer Langham was built in 1888 and lost to fire on October 23, 1910. Loaded with coal, the Langham anchored in the lee of the Keweenaw Peninsula off Bete Grise Bay. She burned to the waterline and settled in 105 feet of water. While her decks burned away, the hull remains intact with two boilers, her engine and a variety of equipment.
Wasaga. The wooden steamer Wasaga burned to a total loss on November 7, 1910. She went down with a cargo of farm equipment. Much of the cargo can still be found at this site just off the Harbor House Restaurant. Water depths range to 35 feet.
The dive sites are not generally buoyed. Visiting divers should be prepared to locate them.
The Keweenaw Peninsula is also home to unique geological formations that supplement shipwreck diving. One good area to visit is Esrey Park located about halfway between Copper Harbor and Eagle Harbor. This roadside park is an easy shore dive and a great place to look for agates, copper and other unique Copper Country treasures. For more details on the Keweenaw Underwater Preserve, visit www.ship-wrecks.net/shipwreck/keweenaw. It has more information on the shipwrecks in the Preserve.
When not diving, visitors can enjoy the historical sites in the region like restored Fort Wilkins and the beautiful nature trails of the Keweenaw Peninsula and Copper Country State Forest. You can learn more about attractions and events by visiting the websites of the Keweenaw Convention and Visitors Bureau, www.keweenaw.info, or the Keweenaw Peninisula Chamber of Commerce, www.keweenaw.org.
A note concerning the use of the charts in this web site:
Rec & Tec Dive Charters, Inc.