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Scuba Diving Northern Illinois

Updated on September 6, 2014

Pearl Lake South Beloit, IL

Scuba diving Northern Illinois is easy at Pearl Lake.

Pearl Lake is just south of the Wisconsin boarder just off Interstate 90. It is in the town of South Beloit, a fairly small town. Pearl Lake is just north of Rockford, the second largest city in the state of Illinois.

Pearl Lake first opened as a fishing facility back in 1961. Over the years it has turned into a diving and swimming lake. The beach area is in the far south part of the lake and separated from the diving area.

Besides scuba diving they also have camping there too for both RV's and tent camping. You can camp by day, week or even seasonally. They have rustic and elec/water sites.

There is also a number of hotels in the area, most less than 30 minute drive from the lake. Don't forget to ask about the scuba divers discount most will give a discount. Also if you happen to be active military or a veteran ask about a discount, so far I found two that will give a discount for that too.

Diving season is from April to Oct. Nothing like a brisk October dive.


Prepare to Dive
Prepare to Dive | Source
Summer Time Diving
Summer Time Diving | Source

Shore Line Diving

Pearl Lake is a great place to gear up and walk in. Having at least seven areas that have graded entries makes it perfect for all divers. No need to giant stride in, no waiting in line to enter the water and no climbing up and down some steep incline.

Don't worry your not going to have some long surface swim to get to any of the attractions either. Unless your just crazy enough as we have been to do a surface swim all the way across the lake to see something. Just about every attraction is a short swim from shore, no need to swim across the lake. The photo above (Prepare to Dive) gives you an idea how far from shore you have to swim. The mini submarine is about 5 to 10 feet to the right of were I am in the picture. As you see the shore is not very far to the left.

Most everything is marked by a buoy so all the attractions are easy to find. Such things as the mini sub, many boats, a school bus, plane and much more to see.


Photo: This photo was taken from the east shore looking to the North shore.

Divers Gearing Up
Divers Gearing Up | Source

Pavilions for gearing up

Pearl has 2 of these pavilions one on the east side and one on the North. They are great for gearing up and getting some shade from the summer sun.

The pavilions have six picnic tables in each and they have lights for night diving. Also near each pavilion there is a changing room. These areas are great for bigger groups and usually taken first thing in the morning and they are first come first serve so get there early if you have to have the pavilion.

There are picnic tables all around the lake if the pavilions are taken you can still find benches to use. They have installed a few grills for cooking near each pavilion. You can also bring your own grill to cook on if you plan on making a whole day of it.

Photo: This is one of the pavilions on the east side of the lake.

This school bus sits on the north side of the lake at about 20ft depth.
This school bus sits on the north side of the lake at about 20ft depth.

Have you ever dove at Pearl Lake

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Training at Pearl Lake

Although, Pearl Lake does not offer scuba training itself, many of the dive shops in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin use Pearl Lake as their open water site. There are 12 different training platforms ranging from a 8 x 8 platform to the 45' flatbed trailer.

It is a great place for new divers due to the clear water usually 15' to 40' visibility. Almost all the attractions to see are from 20' to 40' deep. The airplane is the deepest at 40'. There are many entry points around the lake and unlike most other quarries they are all very easy, graded entries, perfect for new divers.

The only thing they lack for training is a deep dive. They do have the "deep hole" that they claim on their website as being 80ft. However, in June we were kneeling on the platform and our computers told us it was 68ft. I will be fair and say that on the west side of the deep hole it does seem to get a bit deeper, but there is no platform and we didn't want to land in the silt to find out how deep it was over there.

They do offer night diving on Fridays and Saturdays by appointment only. So if your thinking about doing a night dive make sure to call ahead of time.

Yellow Submarine
Yellow Submarine | Source

U-Boat

This mini submarine is one of the more interesting finds in Pearl lake. It sits on the east side of the lake at 20-30ft depth.

The mini sub is a smaller version of a World War II U-Boat. The one thing everyone asks is, what's inside of it. Well I could tell you but I would rather you find out for yourself. I will give you this advice, bring your flashlight so you can see inside it. there is not much to see but without the light it's just black in there.

I think this and the plane are by far the most interesting or odd things to see. There are many boats and lots of different fish hanging around the boats and that is interesting as well but I guess I expect to see boats and fish in a lake.

Photo:This is the mini World War II U-Boat on the east side of the lake.

Diving with the Fish

Latest Dive Sept. 6, 2014

I think they were hungry. They followed us around for the whole 50 minute dive. Photo taken by me, today Sept. 6, 2014
I think they were hungry. They followed us around for the whole 50 minute dive. Photo taken by me, today Sept. 6, 2014 | Source
Plane Crash
Plane Crash | Source

Airplane and the Western Shore

The "airplane" is a Beechcraft twin engine, and it can be found on the west side of the lake. Sitting around 35 - 45ft. This plane was purposely sunk there for dives to enjoy. The few times I have seen it there were a lot of fish in and around it and even a plastic gun. See if you can locate the gun. :)

The west side seems to have a lot more fish than the east. I'm not really sure why that is but if your a fish watcher you just might want to head to the west side. While your there look for the crane too. The crane sits in really shallow waters about 15'.

I was also told there is a short bus somewhere on the west side although with over 60 dives at Pearl Lake I still have yet to locate a short bus. If you happen to find it let me know, I'd like to know that there is some truth to this rumor.




Non-Divers

So for those friends and family that don't dive but want to come out with you. Pearl Lake does have a beach area for those that just want to come out and swim but are not divers. In the warm summer days the beach is filled with swimmers. They do have music going and there is a bar for those that are of age and would like to have a few drinks.

For non-divers that just want to hang out and watch your bubbles there is a $10 entrance fee, but that also pays for them to use the beach if they would like to.

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    • bensen32 profile image
      Author

      Thomas Bensen 2 years ago from Round Lake Park

      Annie, it's not to bad, most of the time :) Of course we will be diving this weekend and next, so the air temp might be a little chilly.

    • annieangel1 profile image

      Ann 2 years ago from Yorkshire, England

      my first reaction is brrrr -

    • bensen32 profile image
      Author

      Thomas Bensen 3 years ago from Round Lake Park

      Thank you, Yes we dive in the lakes especially that big one :) There are quite a few old quarries that they changed into dive sites.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      I never knew people went scuba diving in Illinois lakes. It's neat that they sunk the school bus and other structures. I enjoyed the hub!

    • bensen32 profile image
      Author

      Thomas Bensen 3 years ago from Round Lake Park

      Donna,

      I go to Pearl all the time and Haugh too. I did my open water a few years back at Pearl in early May when the water was a nice 56 degrees :)

    • profile image

      Donna Cook 3 years ago

      Great article! I did my checkout dive at Racine Quarry and dove the bus at Pearl Lake several times. Cold, cold diving.

    • bensen32 profile image
      Author

      Thomas Bensen 3 years ago from Round Lake Park

      :) yes, billybuc we do scuba dive here but I wouldn't say it is highly thought of as a scuba diving destination LOL

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Oddly, I don't associate scuba diving with Illinois. Very interesting and great pics.

    • bensen32 profile image
      Author

      Thomas Bensen 3 years ago from Round Lake Park

      Thanks Ed, Yes the sites are very accessible the deepest site is about 35ft and that is the plane. It's a great site for beginner divers and even those that have much more experience can enjoy themselves just being in the water.

    • Edward J. Palumbo profile image

      Ed Palumbo 3 years ago from Tualatin, OR

      I was unaware of this dive site, but appreciated the information and the good photo support. The features you photographed look diver-accessible and provide interest for a subsurface visit. Wishing you and your son a great many safe dives together.

      Semper Fi,

      Ed