August 2007

Dive Into Adventure At Lake Pleasant

By Colene White
El Mar Diving Center

The water in Lake Pleasant has offered extremely high visibility this year, and some of El Mar Diving Center’s staff has made interesting discoveries while exploring the lake underwater.

One of our divemasters researched the old Waddell Dam built in 1927.  Upon completion, the historic Waddell Dam was the largest multiple-arch dam in the world.  The dam rose almost 200 feet above bedrock, and spanned more than 2,000 feet across the Aqua Fria River valley.

Upon completion of the new Waddell Dam in 1994, the old dam was partially dismantled and breached before it was covered with water.  A 224-foot wide breach was cut in two places and the saw-cut sections were toppled into Lake Pleasant in December of 1992.  The breaching provided a channel between the old and new dams.

The standing remains of the old Waddell Dam lie an average of 65 feet beneath the waters of modern-day Lake Pleasant. Except for the four-arch breach, the historic dam stands complete, about one-half mile north of the “New Waddell Dam.”

Diving to see the remains of the dam is an all-day adventure.  A minimum of Advanced Scuba Certification is required as the depth exceeds 60 feet. 

On the north end of the dam you can peer into the rooms formed by the interesting “arches and buttresses” of the dam construction.  Diving to the south end is not for the timid. 

The dive begins at the top of the dam.  From there, you move out over the old river canyon, and dive along the arches on the face of the dam to the “breach.”

 You can then swim through the breach around to the back side of the dam, and cruise along the buttresses, looking up into the overhangs and caverns formed by this magnificent structure.

In addition to exploration of the old Waddell Dam, quite an adrenaline rush is to be had by searching out the large catfish that wait inside the deep holes and crevices along the rocky walls of the lake in early summer.  Divers get a bit of a wrestling match bringing them to the surface to be photographed before releasing them back into the lake.

El Mar’s Staff Divers also located the wreckage of a small plane that crashed in Lake Pleasant this year.

Lake Pleasant isn’t the ocean by any stretch of the imagination, but it is close to home and does offer interesting adventures.  If you only have a day or two but still want to dive, check out Lake Pleasant. 

There are some good diving spots with reasonable or better visibility. You just have to find them.