There aren't too many options for freshwater diving around here. That's not to say that you can't try jumping into any body of water you find, but most of them are likely to be pretty awful, and a few could get you arrested. Two good freshwater dives in the region are Round Valley Reservoir and the Delaware River Water Gap. Some diving is also done in Lake Hopatcong, although access is a problem. Of course, you can always go to
Looking roughly southeast, with the diving cove in the foreground. The natural basin
of the valley is evident, as well as one of the two dams, at right. Water level looks
pretty high, with a little snow on the ground.
- freshwater artificial reservoir
- 160 ft + , but less than 60 ft in the usual area
The visibility here is usually good, although the silty bottom stirs up at the slightest touch. The usual diving area has a maximum depth of about 60 ft, although in other spots the reservoir is much deeper. Entry is a short hike down a grassy slope to a pebble beach. There is an underwater training platform, and often you will find an O/W class there. Water temps get up into the high 70's later in the season, although it is chilly below the 30 ft thermocline.
Round Valley usually has good diving conditions even after a rain, when most other places will be completely silted out. This is because there is practically no natural drainage into the basin. Instead, it is filled ( expensively ) by pumping water up from the Raritan river. Because of the expense of filling the Round Valley reservoir, it is drawn down only in emergencies, when nearby Spruce Run reservoir ( which fills naturally ) is almost empty. Thus the water level in Round Valley is consistently high, and the clarity is exceptional.
Unfortunately, compared to the ocean, Round Valley is a relatively dull dive. Mud, rocks, snails, and a few fish can be found, as well as huge stands of water plants later in the season. The sunfish are amazingly tame, and will follow you around wherever you go. The bottom is littered with fishing lures, and sometimes you can find bottles. Way down deep is the remains of roads and a small drowned village, but you'll probably never get there. There is little boat traffic, although the rangers patrol the lake diligently.
As you can see from the picture above, the surrounding park is an exceptionally beautiful place, and many people go for swimming, fishing, picnicking, hiking and cycling. This, combined with the much shorter travel distance and much lower entrance fees, makes Round Valley my favorite over
Dutch Springs for freshwater diving.
- Divers must check in and out at the ranger station, and a valid C-card is required..
- Admittance $7 / car ( 1998 )
- Flag required, and the rangers are strict about this.
An old stump protruding from the bottom ooze.
This is about as interesting as it gets in most of the reservoir.
Large Snapping Turtle in the weedy shallows to the west of the entry area.
- inland river / train wreck
- 6-18 ft
There have been at least two railroad accidents at this spot: the first on May 18, 1948, and the second in the evening of September 11, 1975.
In the first derailment, the locomotive jumped the tracks, killing two crewmen. The cars somehow stayed on the tracks, sparing the 76 passengers. It is rumored that the locomotive is still somewhere in the river mud, but there is little evidence of this.
In the second accident, two engines and thirteen cars of a freight train went into the river. The train's crew was unhurt in a third engine. Most of the wreckage was cleaned up, but several cars remain, including a closed boxcar in 14 ft ofwater, and nearby a flatbed car with a semi-trailer full of real Miller beer bottles ( empty, sorry. )
In the CNJ ( Central Railroad of New Jersey; see
Cranford ) tables of the FRA database, this wreck is listed. The specifics are: Lead unit CNJ 3068, nearest station is listed as Slateford Junction, temperature was 62 degrees, train speed was 37 mph, train number was 99 (ES-99), with 2460 tons, 17 loads, 41 empties, equipment damage was $546,840, track damage was $11,243, for a wreck total of $558,093. It also lists the time as 8:18 pm.
X marks the spot in this satellite image
Most of the people who have been on the train wreck will probably tell you it's a 'one and done' dive. From what I've personally seen, it's either hit or miss. That also depends on if anyone has been on the wreck before you got there. On a good day you can almost make out the wreck from the surface. The top of the wreck starts around 7ft in the summer time, with a deep, dark hole downstream at the back bottoming out around 14ft.
Getting to the wreck site is only part of the fun. There is a large parking lot across the highway from the river, however I would suggest that you park on the shoulder and unload there. Just before the road rounds the corner, and the wall starts on the train tracks is a large area to pull off on. It's far safer unloading here. In fact, while I don't know if it's legal or not, we just simply parked there without problem. Playing dodge-car isn't much fun with your arms full of expensive equipment.
Even more fun will be had getting your equipment from the road to the river. The easiest way I've found so far to get your kit to the water, besides making your buddy carry it for you, is to assemble it by your car, put it on, and hike down the bank to the water's edge. Securing a rope to hold onto is highly suggested here, not only for the trip down, but also for the trip back up the bank.
Once you're ready to get in, be absolutely certain you have your diver down flag, and a person on shore if at all possible. One of the first things you will notice in this area is that boaters have NO clue what a diver down flag means. Your surface support person will most likely have to wave off a boat or two.
The easiest way to hit very closely, if not right on top of the wreck, is to enter the water next to the yellow painted railroad rail on your left, and the large tree on your right. With the tree directly behind you, take a bearing straight across the river, submerge, and head out approx. 20ft. This should run you into the boxcar.
Most of the remaining freight car is full of river muck now, with lots of fishing hooks, and monofilament all over the area. You will definitely need a good sharp knife. Every now and then, you might find yourself face to mask with rather large pike. Search in the muck, on the side heading out to the river and you might come up with a bottle or two.
The rest of the wreck is located upstream from the boxcar. Current is almost non-existent here in the summer when the water is lower, and you'll be in a very slight back eddy. Take your time and look around. More bottles from the wreck have been found upstream in the 2002 summer season.
If you decide on heading out towards the center of the river, be warned that it comes close to 50ft, it's cold, dark, and murky. You will want a light with you, and watch out for the current. It can get very swift in the channel. From the reports of the others that dove with us the last time we were there, there's not much to see out that far besides discarded tires, and trash.
Bottles from the train wreck.
I was the conductor on the last road freights SE-98 / ES-99 as an "extra board" road conductor, because the regular conductor was on vacation for 2 weeks, and it just so happened I caught the 99/98 cycle until he returned. My normal location would have been in the 2nd locomotive unit, #3069, which burned after derailment.
There had been a severe kink in the rail on the downgrade of Mount Minsi, which headed across the Gap into PA. I notified the Towerman at East Stroudsbourg on every westbound move ( ES-99 ) during my cycle. Normal speed through that area was 45 mph.
Had I caught that cycle one more time, chances are I wouldn't be adding this piece to your history of the wreck at the Gap in 1975.
James M. Kukor, CNJ Vets, 1972-1977.
- From I-80, exit onto Rt. 611 South
- Follow 611 through town of Delaware Water Gap into Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
- Parking lot is at bottom of hill south of town on right
Scenic picture courtesy Divers Anonymous
Underwater photos courtesy of diver Harri Ojanen
Bottles and site description courtesy of David Reiger
I make no claim as to the accuracy, validity, or appropriateness of any information found in this website. I will not be responsible for the consequences of any action that is based upon information found here. Scuba diving is an adventure sport, and as always, you alone are responsible for your own safety and well being.
Copyright © 1996-2016 Rich Galiano
unless otherwise noted