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Michigan Underwater Preserves System

map of great lakes bottomlands preserve system

Michigan's thirteen underwater preserves include approximately 7,200 square miles of Great Lakes bottomland - an area larger than the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined. The underwater preserves protect some of the region's most sensitive underwater resources. Michigan's first underwater preserve was designated in 1980 through legislation developed and supported by Michigan sport divers.

As a result, the finest sport diving in the Midwest can be found in Michigan's Great Lakes.  Shipwrecks and natural features attract skin and scuba divers from across the U.S. They come to explore these shipwrecks and see how the cold, clear fresh water of the Great Lakes preserves history. Small items, such as plates, bells, ship's rigging, cargo, and other artifacts often remain where they were left many years before.

Communities near underwater preserves provide many services for the diver and non-diver alike.  Lodging, restaurants, campgrounds, and other attractions can be found here for the entire family.

Most underwater preserves have dive charter services.  There are boat ramps, marinas, and other facilities for divers with their own boats.  Many of the popular dive sites are buoyed by volunteers of the Michigan Underwater Preserve Council, Inc., a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to development and management of the preserves.  Shore-access diving is available from many preserves.

It is important to remember that the State of Michigan's bottomland preserve system is unfunded and that preserves are not "state parks."

Wrecks outside of the established preserves are afforded the same protection as those enclosed within preserve boundaries.  It is a felony to remove or disturb artifacts on Great Lakes bottomlands.  Those apprehended and convicted of removing items such as cargo, portholes, anchors, or other "souvenirs" will face having their boats, cars, and equipment confiscated and up to two years imprisonment and stiff fines.  The law does not restrict searching for, diving on or photographing shipwrecks.

Anyone with information about the illegal removal of artifacts can call the Michigan Department of Natural Resources at 800-292-7800.