Ship's Wheel

Many people visit Southwest Michigan to enjoy miles of sandy beaches, great restaurants, unique shops and exciting water sports. While many others visit because of Lake Michigan’s historic shipwrecks, pier structures and geological formations in and around the boundaries of the Southwest Michigan Underwater Preserve.

For hundreds of years the Great Lakes provided a natural transportation system into the interior of the United States as our nation expanded west. The inland waterways of these Great Lakes provided the most dangerous shipping waters in the world. Sudden storms, fog, heavy traffic and steamship companies demanding captains to stay on schedule no matter what the weather, resulted in the destruction of thousands of schooners, steamers and barges. The Great Lakes bottomland is littered with these time capsules from the time when our nation began to emerge into the world power it is today. These shipwrecks, artifacts, and natural features attract skin and scuba divers from across the United States. They come to explore and observe how the cold, fresh water of the Great Lakes preserves history.

The Michigan Underwater Preserve system was created in 1980 through legislation supported and largely drafted by Michigan sport divers. The South West Michigan Underwater Preserve was officially designated number ten of Michigan’s now thirteen Underwater Preserves on November 11, 1999. The shipwrecks and geological formations in our preserve offer divers a “porthole to the past” —a chance to see history up close. Currently we have located only a handful of the 100’s of shipwrecks that may be in or near the boundaries of South West Michigan Underwater Preserve, in depths varying from 15 feet to over 250 feet of water.

Michigan’s underwater preserves include nearly 2,300 square miles of Great Lakes bottomland, an area nearly twice the size of the state of Delaware. The underwater preserves protect some of the region’s most sensitive underwater resources.