Discover what lies beneath the rippling waves. Here’s where to go snorkeling near Traverse City and Leelanau.
The heat-rippled days of July invariably call one to the nearest water. Whether paddling upon its surface or swimming in its depths, rarely are the wonders beneath the waves explored. Invest in a snorkel, mask and fins and turn a beach day into an underwater adventure.
Plain and simple, there is no attractive way to wear a snorkel strapped across your face. But go ahead and embrace the aqua-nerd look and relish in the novelty of a clear underwater perspective as you glide atop the spectacular marbled-rock shores. For the hobby geologist, snorkeling is also a great way to pluck out prized Petoskey stones and Leland blues.
To go full Cousteau, peruse the list of sunken remains at michiganpreserves.org. One notable (and accessible) marvel is the wreck of the Metropolis, located in the Grand Traverse Bay Underwater Preserve. This 125’ schooner ran aground in 1886. Lying just south of Old Mission Point with much of the remains residing in a shallow eight feet of water, this wreck is a snorkeling favorite. Another oddity is the “Junk Pile” off Haserot Beach also near the tip of the peninsula. Resting in 20 feet of water and consisting of several small boats, a refrigerator and even a Ford Pinto, this hair-brained attempt at a man-made island is something to see.
In addition to scoping out Lake Michigan, rivers with gentle currents can provide aquatic views bursting with biology. The natural obstructions found midstream are likely to hold a host of aquatic insects, crawfish, and even the occasional trout. Streams such as the Platte River, Crystal River, and Boardman River are perfect for subaqueous surveying.
Snorkeling is as simple as going for a leisurely swim with the uncanny charm of breathing underwater. Like swimming, stick to the key safety steps: Know your ability, be aware of your surroundings, and use the buddy system. Familiarize yourself with the equipment and practice calm breathing in the snorkel above the surface. The mask should be snug around the widest part of your head and airtight. Fins should also be tight but not rub or cramp your feet. If water does seep in mid-swim, clear the mask by pulling the bottom edge slightly from your face while blowing air through your nose. Practice using the purge valve as well to clear water that may enter the snorkel from waves or diving. And most importantly—relax! Even strokes and breaths will build confidence and make for an enjoyable exploration.
Andrew VanDrie writes from Traverse City. [email protected]