Whenever you think of people snorkeling, you usually envision sandy beaches, swaying palm trees and tropical ocean environments. Billboards, magazine ads, television commercials and even movies all reinforce the idea that snorkeling is only done in the ocean. While it is true that the bulk of people who enjoy this sport do so in warm ocean destinations, it should be noted that fresh water locations are proving to be just as enjoyable to the snorkeling community.
Marine life in fresh water environments can be as diverse as that which is found in ocean environments. Clams, mussels, crayfish, freshwater eels and jellyfish are just some of the interesting creatures that may be found. Blue Gill, bass, carp trout, muskie and catfish are just a sampling of some of the many types of fish that may be seen. Some State and National Parks do allow snorkeling, here is the website to U.S. National Park Services and click under activity. The marine life in fresh water may only be found in certain regions so going to different area in the U.S. and even out of our country will provide many new wonders to behold.
Sure we don't think of our local fresh bodies of water as a places to grab your mask, fins and snorkel for an adventure but you would be amazed at the opportunities that are available for snorkelers. Living in Illinois, I personally would consider myself to be in a land-locked state ocean-wise, but less than 30 miles away from me is the second largest fresh water lake in this country, Lake Michigan. The lake is host to a number of opportunities and is rich in maritime history. There are shipwrecks all throughout Lake Michigan and some are shallow enough for snorkelers to check out.
Flooded quarries are interesting places to snorkel and depending on how long ago they flooded, they can actually have some interesting artifacts that were left behind. Some quarries are stocked with fish as our local quarry, Haigh Quarry is. This is where we make most of our videos and is a great example of snorkeling in fresh water. If you look closely in our videos, you will see moving spots in the water, well those are Bluegills. And also stocked in the quarry is catfish, crappy, northern pike, large mouth bass, small mouth bass and even paddle fish. But before you jump into any body of water, there are things that have to be taken into account. Make sure that snorkeling is allowed in these areas as quarries and lakes that are on private property would need to have the permission of the owners.
If you want a little competition in your fresh water snorkeling venue you might want to check out The World Bog Snorkeling Championships which are held in Llanwrtyd Wells in Powys, Wales. Every year in August, contestants get down and dirty in this competition that began in 1976. It takes place in a peat bog, where a cut out section consisting of a 60 yard trench serves as the course that requires the use of mask, fins and snorkels. It began as an idea over drinks and has grown into an event that draws contestants from all over the world. People have been creative in their attire over the years and events such as who can ride a modified mountain bicycle the farthest while on mask and snorkel through the trench. They also have added a Bog Snorkeling Triathlon for the truly athletic.
Rivers are fast becoming a popular place to find snorkeling in fresh water. Whether lazily floating along watching the changing scenery or even watching the salmon as that make their fascinating journey. Snorkeling with salmon? You can do this in the Campbell River which is located on the eastern side of Vancouver Island, British Columbia in Canada. For three months every year salmon make their way back up the river from where they originally hatched to continue the cycle. This begins late in the month of July and usually end in late August. The salmon run as it called begins with the pink salmon which is then followed separate runs of for other species of salmon which are the chinook then coho, followed by sockeye and ending with the chum salmon. The water is brisk in temperature but crystal clear in clarity. This is also a great chance to see some of the other river and forest wildlife in the area. There is one tour that is a combination rafting and snorkeling tour in the city of Campbell River which makes this a unique family adventure.
If you still want palm trees and at least the air temperatures to be close to tropical, you still have opportunities for fresh water snorkeling in the more southerly states such as Florida which is host to a number of rivers and springs that tout crystal clear visibility. Crystal River became a part of the United States Wild life Refuge System established in 1983 for the protection of the West Indian Manatees that can be spotted in the area. Most tour operators allow anyone at the age of 6 years old and up, making this a great family adventure. Devils Den is a pre-historic underground spring in a dry cave with year round temperatures of 72 degrees. You'll find snorkeling at its best and will be fascinated by the rock formations with stalactites and 33 million year old fossil beds, truly a natural wonder.
Looking for somewhere close to home but want to use your passport? Go to Mexico, the Cenotes (found in the Yucatan) are sinkholes that are filled with either freshwater or a mix of fresh/salt. Great experience. These are just a few of the fresh water snorkeling opportunities out there for the snorkeling adventurer. They are, each one, individual and unique with claims to fame that have been heard across continents. I bet you can find fresh water snorkeling in your own backyard, so go start looking.