SCUBA DIVING KENTUCKY
BLUE WATER IN THE BLUEGRASS STATE
By: Marla Nicole Shivers
Scuba diving is an exhilarating experience – imagine swimming with and observing water creatures in their own environment and not just by watching a movie. Diving enthusiasts typically head south to tropical waters for the best conditions but may be surprised to discover this landlocked state allows divers to explore lakes, rivers and quarries for an up-close and personal view of local life underwater.
While skin and scuba diving are prohibited in lakes owned or managed by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR), Kentucky still has enough blue water to please any level of diver, and all the dive sites listed in this article are either privately operated or owned by the US Corps of Engineers that encourages scuba diving. Unless otherwise noted, the sites do not have dive shops.
Newest Scuba Attraction
Greenbo Lake State Resort Park in Greenup recently opened a 10-acre scuba refuge in northeastern Kentucky to encourage and allow diving in this Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources lake from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. April through October. The first of its kind in the Kentucky state parks system, divers need to sign in (and out) at the lodge, show their dive certification, have a dive buddy and display “diver down” flags. Uncertified divers must be accompanied by a certified dive instructor. According to DiveBuddy.com, Greenbo’s water depth averages 25 feet, the daily park fee is $12 per person and divers should bring their own gear.
Not Your Average Dive Site – Divers’ Full Service Resort
Pennyroyal Scuba Center Blue Springs Resort, the “top destination for scuba diving in Kentucky,” in Hopkinsville, has been serving divers in western Kentucky since 1994. It’s the only full service diver-exclusive resort facility in the Commonwealth that offers:
- A full-service dive shop
- Overnight accommodations
- Area attractions
- 40 sunken treasures
From depths ranging from 5 to 120 feet, the 22-acre spring-fed quarry offers divers good visibility to see bass, boats, a bus and a bath tub, as well as assorted vehicles including a fire truck, cabin cruiser, vans and a motorcycle. Open April – November, Pennyroyal advertises monthly dive-n-movie nights during the summer, divers forum, certification training and gear, plus a 1-2 hour “try scuba” experience.
Sparkling Waters at one of KY’s Largest Lakes
The dam reservoir in Lake Cumberland at Jamestown is one of Kentucky’s “best diving areas” according to the Bluegrass Dive Club (BDC) of Lexington. Novice divers can find fallen trees, a houseboat and freshwater fish, which may include stripers, crappie, bass, walleye and catfish. Experienced divers with wreck and cave certification will want to spend time exploring the ruins of submerged towns. Summer surface water temps are the warmest, but expect a dramatic drop between, at the thermocline, about 15-30’ below the surface. Visibility can vary from inches in the spring (from boat traffic) to 15-20 feet in the summer.
Best places to scuba dive – from Blue Grass Dive Club
- The Dam at Laurel Lake, in Corbin in southeast Kentucky, is “one of the deepest [30 to 80 feet] and cleanest lakes in KY… The clear water and submerged rock formations make Laurel River Lake a popular destination for scuba divers. You can spot dive flags almost every weekend throughout the recreation season.”
- FRP THE QUARRY in La Grange is a 7-acre rock quarry with amazingly clear warm rain water (no wetsuit needed during the summer). Open Memorial Day weekend through the last weekend in October, divers will find “quite a few fish (bass, bluegill, catfish and paddlefish), small boats, cars, trucks and a commode.” Originally created as a training facility for divers, it’s still used by some Kentucky scuba schools for divers for their certification class. $15 cash per certified diver; non-divers are $10 cash per person.
- In south central Kentucky about 20 miles from Mammoth Cave National Park is Nolin River Lake. The best time to dive is in the morning while visibility is good, i.e., before boat traffic increases. Rough River Lake, also in south central Kentucky is mentioned, but no information was provided.
Interested in diving? Find out where to take a scuba diving class and how to get scuba certified.