Lots to See and Do
Like so many
inland dive destinations in the Midwest and East, Portage was
originally excavated as a limestone quarry. In this case, mining
began in the 1940s to provide concrete and gravel for road building
in northwestern Ohio.
one mile (1.6 km) south of the town of Bowling Green, was closed in
1962 because the stone wasn't hard enough for use in constructing
Interstate 75. Natural springs caused the 70-foot-deep (21-m) hole
to flood, creating a 23-acre lake.
local dive instructor Jeff Rice took over a 50-acre property
surrounding the lake and developed the Portage Quarry Recreation
Club. For 25 years the multipurpose facility has been a favorite for
scuba training and recreational diving, as well as swimming, camping
and summer activities.
several unique features, scuba instructors from Ohio, Pennsylvania,
Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Illinois and Ontario, Canada, regularly
conduct open-water training at Portage.
noteworthy is the stone and concrete ledge that runs around three
sides of the lake. Only a couple of feet beneath the surface, it
forms a convenient platform for entries and exits. Instructors can
stage their classes al- most anywhere along three shores of the
roughly rectangular lake, preventing the congestion often associated
with limited water access points.
The east end
of the lake is relatively shallow, with two 8-foot- (2.4-m-) square
training platforms placed at depths between 20 and 30 feet (6 and
The west end
of the lake, on the other hand, drops off from the ledge to more
than 50 feet (15 m). Two more steel- grated training platforms have
been placed near shore at 25 feet (8 m) deep.
One of the unique underwater attractions at Portage is the silo, a
remnant of quarry operations. Just off the north shore near the
swimming area, it was once filled with concrete powder; now it rises
from the quarry floor at 55 feet (17 m) to within 20 feet of the
get a good view of the gently sloping roof, which is often used by
instructors as a training platform.
other quarries redeveloped for scuba diving, the lake at Portage
Quarry Recreation Club contains a number of man-made underwater
features. Several boats, a small plane, a motorcycle, a phone booth,
old cars, a school bus, a semicab and a large tractor-trailer lie
scattered at various depths around the bottom. Unlike most quarries,
however, Portage is equipped with underwater navigation aids for
years ago the Great Lakes Wrecking Crew, a dive club from nearby
Milan, Michigan, conceived the idea of building an underwater
navigation course at Portage. "We wanted to keep our members
interested in diving," says Tyler Schultz, an instructor and one of
the founders of the 50-member social and educational scuba club.
The navigation course, which is still a work in progress, divides
the lake into quadrants. Nylon line stretches at a depth of 25 feet
(8 m) from the four comers of the lake to the geographical center. A
submerged truck and boat greet divers at the intersection.
guide rope, additional features can be found by sight. For in-
stance, a Ford Bronco lies near the southeast corner at a depth of
54 feet (16 m). Extending straight upward from the Bronco is a
30-foot (9-m) length of 3-inch (7.6-cm) diameter plastic pipe. A
diver following the guide line at 25 feet can see the pipe and
navigate to the Bronco. From there, an additional line leads the
diver to a boat suspended bow-down in midwater. In this manner
divers are led from object to object.
placed at various depths to suit novice as well as more experienced
divers. "The course is designed to encourage divers not to be
intimidated by new situations, to go beyond what they are familiar
with," says Schultz. To date work has progressed mainly on the
eastside quadrants, but Wrecking Crew members can be spotted almost
every summer weekend at Portage, installing new navigation aids and
placing additional features for divers to explore.
If all the
man-made attractions aren't sufficient to keep divers engaged, the
natural inhabitants surely will. The lake supports a significant
population of freshwater fish, including largemouth and smallmouth
bass, bluegill, carp, northern pike, walleye, channel catfish and
yellow bullhead. Crayfish, turtles and zebra mussels can also be
proliferation of zebra mussels, which has seriously damaged some
ecosystems, has thus far benefited Portage by improving the
visibility. Visibility typically ranges from 30 to 50 feet (9 to 15
m) during the summer diving season, but has been recorded as high as
70 feet (21 m) in September.
opens in late May, the water temperature is in the low 60s
Fahrenheit (high teens Celsius) at the surface and the 40s F (single
digits C) at depth, with a thermocline at about 10 feet (3 m). By
late summer it has warmed to the high 70s F (upper 20s C), at the
surface and low 60s at depth, and the thermocline has dropped below
convenience of Portage Quarry Recreation Club is well-complemented
by the above-water facilities. Except for the sandy beach fronting
the cordoned-off swimming area, the lake is surrounded on three
sides by open grass and shade trees. Divers set up base camps all
along the shore with parking and porta-potties nearby. A restroom
building with changing rooms and showers is also provided, as is a
gear rinsing station. Air and nitrox fills are available on site
from two 25-cubic- feet-per-minute (cfm) compressors.
The main structure includes a gift shop and a snack bar open seven
days a week, adjacent to a large covered pavilion with picnic
tables. There is also a full-service dive center. Although the club
caters to scuba classes from regional dive centers, the on-site
instructor does offer a variety of courses on request. The lake is
suitable for beginning, advanced and specialty training dives.
Quarry Recreation Club has become a weekend getaway for divers from
surrounding states and their families. Many pack their campers or
tents and overnight in the 23-site primitive campground (i.e., no
electric or water hookups) at the club, or stay at one of the motels
in Bowling Green (one mile north) or Portage village (one-half mile
south). Upgrading of campsites to include water and electric hookups
is planned for later this summer.
facilities include three sand volleyball courts, used for scheduled
tournaments as well as frequent pickup games. The clean sand beach
and lifeguard-monitored swimming area with two floating platforms
attract many local beachgoers. Hydro bikes can be rented by the
Elm trail passes by about a mile from the club. This former railway
bed has been transformed into a 13.5-mile (22-km) asphalt jogging/bicycling
path that winds through the rural Ohio countryside.
Quarry Recreation Club hosts several events during the summer.
Fourth of July weekend provides the occasion for an annual "BlowOut"
party featuring a number of bands. A barbecue is held the last
Saturday in July to benefit the Divers Alert Network (DAN). Several
additional band concerts are scheduled throughout the summer.
Portage Quarry Recreation Club, take Interstate 75 to U.S. Route 6
west (Exit 179). The club is one mile south on Ohio State Route 25.
staff is prepared in case of a diving emergency. Local medical corps
response time is about three minutes. The nearest recompression
chamber is at Toledo hospital, less than 30 miles north; Lifeflight
is in operation.
The club is
open seven days a week from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day,
before and after these dates on weekends as weather permits. Night
diving is available on weekends by reservation. Pets and fishing are
for divers is $8 per person. For complete information on 2003
season hours, events and prices, check the Portage Web site (www.portagequarry.com),
or call (419) 352-9203.
with Permission from
Linda Lee Walden & Lynn Laymon