Ontario Shore Dives
The canonical nearby dive site for Toronto divers. Only about an hour
west along the 401. This is a quarry, converted into a park, with
various amenities for divers, including an air station. This is a good
site for openwater checkouts or ice dives, depending on the season, and
gets fairly warm by early summer (at least by Ontario standards!).
Visibility can get a bit close, especially when an openwater class gets
let loose in here. Stuff placed on the bottom for the enjoyment of
- Chippewa Creek
Not the actual name of this river, but it does flow through the town of
Chippewa, just south of Niagara Falls. The creek's flow was reversed
by Ontario Hydro, who put the intakes for their hydroelectric plant
upstream a ways. One can do a drift dive from a point just short of
the confluence with the Niagara River, exiting a ways up the creek.
Both times I went here, the current speed to visibility ratio didn't
add up to more than half a second's warning of what you were going to
hit (there's a lot of interesting junk on the bottom), so I swore I'd
never dive here again. Apparently, though, the zebra mussels in Lake
Erie have really cleaned up the water, and a friend of mine claims he
had 30' visibility here.
- Niagara River
A good drift dive is to be had by entering the river near where it
starts, at the town of Fort Erie (we entered at the foot of Gilmore
Road), and going with it a ways. There are a lot of miles before the
river takes that famous jog downwards, so it's not as dangerous a dive
as you'll make it sound afterwards when you tell your friends about how
you went SCUBA diving in the river above Niagara Falls.
- Barge X
A barge wreck in the Niagara River was marked by the
Niagara Divers Association in
the summer of 1997, with a heavy line and lots of anchoring concrete
blocks to lead divers out from the start of the strong current out to the
wreck and back.
- Sherkston Quarry
Another quarry, like
Innerkip, that's got a park around it.
This quarry doesn't have neat artificially-sunk junk like Innerkip, but
its natural junk includes a bunch of railway track with two saddletank
locomotives from its quarrying days. Maybe the fourth time I get out
to Sherkstown I'll get in more than one dive and get more of my money's
worth. On the other hand, last trip involved four tanks apiece plus a
borrowed cave light for some technical training exercises and I think I
got my money's worth even in only one dive. The bonus was the eyes
bugging out of the recreational divers when we climbed out. "Wow, man,
how long were you down for???" "I dunno, what day is it today?"
Next project is to try and map all the railway tracks; that should take
a day and at least two tanks.
- an old Cessna airframe
- a Harvard fuselage
- a schoolbus
- the wreck of the Flying Swallow, a good-sized boat
- a van
- one or two cars
- a newspaper box, upon which somebody wrote in marker "The
Watered-Down News" (for non-Ontarians, there's a town not too far away
There's also a set of mineshafts from back when the quarry was still
being quarried. Note that there are some non-concrete-supported tunnels,
one allegedly running all the way out under the nearby railway tracks,
and these are not good for penetration because of the probability of a
This is a good spot for practising navigation, if you've got bearings to
some of the stuff.
A good drift dive we used to go on was at the CSL docks in Sarnia, just
south of the bridge; there's a back-eddy, so the dive actually runs
northwards along the dock. There are reports that people there have done
an underwater cleanup, but I've been assured they only took the popcans
and garbage and left the photocopier, the radar antenna, the cash
register, lots of steel cable, and the block from a V8 engine.
- Big Bay Point
Just east of Barrie, at the mouth of Kempenfelt Bay. Take 30 Sideroad
left just before getting to the point itself, and this leads to the
government dock. My first experience here was an ice dive, and after
the folks from Tam Dive had cut through two feet of ice, they found
only three feet of water underneath. Too much work to cut a hole
further from shore, so we used this one. We could stand on the bottom
preparing for our descent, and then had to scrunch down real low to get
under the ice. There wasn't the headroom to stand up at any point
during the dive, but it was a memorable dive nonetheless. The fellow
who was buddied with me went on to become a cave diver, possibly
inspired by this experience. In summer, this is a good shore diving
spot, less than an hour north of Toronto.
- J.C. Morrison
This wreck, apparently a sidewheel steamer, went down just off downtown
Barrie. Lots to see, and lots of fish. Starting from the fountain in
Centennial Park, enter from the beach just to your right. Navigate
exactly 120 degrees and you'll hit the wreck dead-on. Alternately,
look for the bouys on it. Don't confuse them with the ones set up for
the jet-skiers, and don't get intimate with one of those mini-monsters
either. This wreck may be best for night dives and early and late-season
visits; boat and jet-ski traffic is too excessive here during sunny
- Jackson's Point
Just beside a boat-launch ramp in Jackson's Point there's an old marine
railway. Heavy timbers that used to act as the rails for launching boats
now serve primarily as a playground for visiting divers. Unfortunately,
this site is threatened, so dive it while you still can and help support
the project to Save the Jackson's Point Marine
Down around Bala there are some popular dive spots; one time we did an
exploration sweep in the bay near the Kee (found lots of junk) and another
time we went below the falls. There are a lot more fish down below, and
some lovely icky white muck in spots on the bottom.
We find ourselves in Peterborough annually for the Ice Floe race, and
it's traditional to arrive reasonably early Saturday morning and do a
dive or two before surrendering to Party Mode. Past spots we've tried
include the river behind the Holiday Inn, especially in the vicinity of
the railway bridge, and further down off the park at the foot of Lock
Conditions on the Saturday of Ice Floe weekend do vary. One year, the
river was thawed only in segments and most of it was still frozen.
Especially with the current, it would have been suicide to go diving
that year, so we stayed out. Another year, it had just melted and was
really coming down fast, so we entered a few blocks north of the
Holiday Inn and went for a fast drift dive. The sun was shining, and
the water was exceptionally clear, and that was quite the trip to
remember. On yet another occasion, my buddy and I found a bicycle
underwater, and I climbed on it and found there was enough current at
my back to be able to ride downstream without having to try to pedal
with fins on. Harold wears a full-face mask, which is a good thing
because he would have laughed his reg out watching me. I could hear
him quite clearly.
- Fenelon Falls
An occasional winter dive site. Boat traffic is a problem here during
the summer, and the police reputedly put the onus on the diver to avoid
the Evinrude Haircut, sometimes going so far as to hand out tickets.
In winter, the fast-running water stays liquid when most other sites
are frozen over. We once recorded a water temperature here of 28F; let
it sit still and it'd happily freeze. There's an interesting if
somewhat overly macho dive that involves entering the river from the
pier below the falls, pulling your way across the bottom with your
hands, getting into the slack water to the far side of the falls, and
then swimming around behind the falls. You then work up your courage,
dive deep and swim hard into the falls. It'll churn you around a
couple of times and then spit you out downriver. Probably not a dive
for the faint of heart or the Politically Correct, but I was young,
stupid, and single, and would follow my buddies anywhere, back when
this dive was suggested to me. To top things off, this was my
first-ever drysuit dive. Nowadays we try to get new drysuit divers to
do a pool session first and learn the tricks, but all I had to go on
was a bit of predive advice from my buddies, one of whom was doing his
second drysuit dive. BTW, I had no bouyancy problems with the suit
until the next dive. Go figure.
Afterwards, there's a spot downriver with a couple of old cars, and
allegedly also some train cars somewhere that I've never found.
- Trent River, downtown Trenton
I mention this only so I can add a word: "AVOID". This was a muddy
dive; we had to wade through thick glutinous mud and assorted
vegetation to get into deep enough water to start swimming, we maxed
out at 12', and our gear stank afterward.
There's a quarry just west of Kingston about a stone's throw south of
the 401; ask at Kingston Dive Centre for directions. On the way to
this quarry, you pass another one you're NOT allowed to dive in; don't
short-circuit the directions and stop and go diving the first moment
you see water.
Last modified 2004-11-17 by Anthony DeBoer.