Wazee Lake is fast becoming one of the most popular diving sites in the Midwest. Its exceptionally clear, deep-water creates a fascinating dive site for the experienced and novice diver alike. With a surface area of 146 acres and max depth of 355 ft, there is plenty to discover.
Wazee Lake was the site of the former Jackson County Iron Mine quarry. The mine was in operation from the early sixties until April of 1983. Approximately 850,000 tons of iron-rich taconite pellets were produced at the mine each year; the bulk of which, were used for steel production in the mills located in East Chicago and Indiana. A crash of the domestic steel markets in the United States contributed in the decision to close the mine. While the mine was actively producing ore, several high capacity pumps expelled over 800 gallons of water per minute from the quarry. Once the pumps were removed, the quarry began naturally filling with spring water to form this unique lake.
Today, Wazee Lake is recognized as the deepest inland lake in the state of Wisconsin, with a maximum depth of 355 feet. It’s a prime scuba destination because of the deep and clear water. Visibility in the lake averages 30-40 feet during the summer months.
Water temperatures run from approximately 70+ degrees at the surface to 50+ degrees below the first thermocline. The thermocline depth varies during the summer, but averages about 30 feet. Divers who venture to greater depths will encounter a second thermocline at approximately 60 feet where the temperature drops to a chilly 40 degrees.
Wazee Lake also has a beautiful beach area that can be accessed from a paved parking area. There is handicapped access to the beach, via a paved walk and a mat system that extends across the sand to the water. The beach area is facilitated with dressing rooms, bathrooms and a large picnic area complete with picnic tables and stationary grills.
Exploring the Lake
Although all the quarry machinery was removed from the quarry upon its closure, remnants of the mining operation still remain visible underwater. A series of circular haul roads wind around the pit where divers often find artifacts including, chains, pipes, taconite pellets, and iron shovel teeth.
Massive boulders and shear walls create challenging and interesting features for the more experienced recreational diver. Novice divers will enjoy the gradually descending roadways which are found throughout the quarry. Divers may encounter several groups of fish cribs, as well as four dive platforms used by instructors for training new divers.
In 2006, Wazee Sports Center along with the Jackson County Dive Unit, sunk a 32’ cabin-cruiser boat, in about 30’ of water. There’s even a shark (plastic) in the lake for divers to discover. Fish species include rainbow, brook and brown trout, blue gills, suckers, catfish, and small mouth bass.
Fees & Regulations
• Dive fees are assessed for each individual diver using the lake.
$10.00/day or $75.00/year
(County Residents Yearly Fee $50.00)
• Admission fees are required between Memorial Day and Labor Day in addition to the dive fees.
$3.00/vehicle/day or $12.00/vehicle/year.
• Fees can be paid at the contact station between Memorial Day and Labor Day, or divers can self-register at the contact station in the absence of a park attendant.
• Use of a dive flag is mandatory, and is enforced by the local law enforcement.