In a small town called Bethlehem, Pennsylvania exists this unexpected diver’s playground called Dutch Springs. Dutch Springs was once a cement plant, but started to flood when the workers started mining. They built a pump house to pull the water out. Fresh water seeps in through an aquifer and goes through the limestone bottom to create clear water. Operations for the company shut down in the 1970’s, and, in 1980, new owners developed Dutch Springs into what is now a 50-acre scuba park reaching 100 feet and beyond depending on the lake levels. The lake offers 20-30 foot visibility on most days. There are thermoclines, usually two in the summer, ranging from near 80°F on the surface to near 30°F on the bottom. We usually wore 7mm wetsuits in the summer to account for the thermoclines. In the spring and fall, water temperatures are much cooler and dry suits are often required. Here’s a video of a little tour of Dutch Springs.
I had been out of the water for nearly 5 years when I found my new home with Hamden Scuba who took me to Dutch Springs. I spent nearly every weekend there spring through fall when I lived on the east coast. A simple 2 ½ hour drive from our home in Connecticut and we were off to a weekend of diving in Pennsylvania!
Dutch Springs is a place for teaching and for fun! There are easy entries into the water with railings to platforms for gearing up. You can also walk in on the rocks or do a deep water entry from the docks. There is even a confined open water space where skills can be completed making conducting an open water course doable in just one weekend! They call one side the peninsula and one side the student side. Most divers spend their time on the peninsula where there are plenty of benches for gear assembly (get there early to reserve your table). Both sides have easy entries with platforms or just walking in. There are also staff located throughout the area that are there for safety. There are staff located on lookout towers too to get help to anyone who might need it. They even have a boat to get people back to shore easily.
Dutch Springs is ideal for teaching scuba courses. There are a variety of sets of platforms located at 25-30 feet for your skill checkouts. Easy to follow ropes allow you to ascend and descend with references or even easily guide you to the platforms and attractions. There are plenty of opportunities for compass work as well. The quarry includes many open water level attractions within 60 feet deep such as boats, a school bus, two Cessnas, a van, firetruck, the old pump house, a crane, helldiver, the Sikorsky H-37- a helicopter that used to be suspended in mid water but started falling apart so they moved it. You can watch an entry into the helicopter here.
The newest attraction suspended in the water is the Challenger 600, an airplane that you can go inside and take the controls! You can go inside many of the attractions, most of which are cut so that they are not overhead environments. Watch it here!
Imagine, there you are descending in open water and you start to see the outline of something. Then, suddenly, there appears a school bus! Quite the sight to see! Even better, you can descend directly above the school bus and do a skydiver pose right into the bus from the opening on top.
The old pump house that was used to get the water out when they were mining still stands, but now underwater. If you want to make your way to the pump house, which is totally worth it, I would suggest driving to the student side and entering the water in the back cove.
You can explore the pump house area and even venture part of the back wall to find the old Cessna. Alternatively, you can make a long surface swim from the peninsula, check out the pump house, and come back along the front wall where you can also detour to the firetruck. Watch my video of the pump house!
For deeper ventures, there is an old presidential trolley car beyond 70 feet that also offers an overhead environment, an army 6 x 6 truck, a tanker truck… so many cool attractions. On the back wall you can find cars that are beyond 80 feet deep, but go with someone that can point them out because they are hard to find! There is also a deeper hole that lets you get your 100 foot plus mark. Many attractions have lines going directly to the surface and a buoy above for easy descents and easy dives.
As you venture around you will also come across an old road which has downed power poles and a stop sign. There is also an outhouse, a toilet, and a variety of strange things around the lake. The gnomes like to travel around as well. There is an island in the middle of the quarry that is full of fish and is a great place for snorkeling. You can even see the Cessna from the surface there!
The fish are quite abundant and friendly! There are large mouth bass, rainbow trout, koi, carp, palomino trout, crayfish, perch, catfish, zebra mussels, and others. There are even these giant fish that swim around and on rare occasion you can catch a glimpse! Beautiful giant goldfish! Take the swim out to the back wall early in the afternoon where you will not only find gorgeous views of the lighting on the back wall and plant life, but you also might find those giant fish back there.
There are so many more great attractions that you can find underwater, but you will just have to go there and see for yourself! There is also a buoyancy course to test your skills. You can even do a night dive on Saturday nights that allow for some really cool lighting effects through the attractions.
Besides the underwater adventures, Dutch Springs is special because you can camp out. You can literally go to sleep, wake up, roll out of your tent into your gear and into the water!
There are also bathrooms and showers on site as well as a snack bar and shop. There are plenty of area restaurants for eating out or a grocery store to pick things up for a barbecue on site. There is an air fill station that offers air and nitrox. There is also a gear rental place. The great, welcoming staff can answer all your questions and guide you to where you need to go. They also offer an aqua park, paddle boats, ropes courses, and more. Check out their website for hours and pricing.
When you go, don’t forget to look for Hamden Scuba, usually a big group camped out on the peninsula side. They offer courses from open water up to instructor and can help guide you around the lake or provide a dive buddy!
Dutch Springs: Home away from home!