As a pair of scuba divers traveling across Canada’s immense geography, the province of Manitoba is certainly not a place with diving listed at the forefront of things to do. But with a curious spirit, a wicked sense of adventure and connecting with the right people, there are interesting pockets of scuba diving that can certainly be found in one of Canada’s flattest provinces.
Nestled in the midwestern part of the province of Manitoba, approximately 100 kilometers north of Brandon is Riding Mountain National Park. It straddles the Manitoba Escarpment and covers almost 3000 square kilometers of land.
This island of wilderness surrounded by a sea of farmland offers windswept grasslands, silent forests and rippling lakes singing with life. On top of the park’s extremely varied ecosystems, Riding Mountain is home to a staggering diversity of living things – the most notable being the Plains Bison – an iconic animal to the Canadian prairies.
The Bisons of Riding Mountain National Park: Wondering where to find bisons in Manitoba? Riding Mountain National Park is nestled in the midwestern part of the province with beautiful grassland plains allowing visitors to learn and view bison at the Lake Audry Bison enclosure.
Clear Lake at the Glen Beag picnic site is the spot for scuba diving in Riding Mountain National Park. The lake is considered a unique lake for the prairie parkland thanks to its low amounts of nutrients, or oligotrophic nature. This gives it a clear look but also make it a suitable source of clean, fresh drinking water.
Beyond Clear Lake’s physical characteristics, this body of water is a key habitat for 14 species of fish. This includes whitefish, northern pike, white suckers, walleye and slimy sculpin. Of these species, whitefish are the most abundant large-bodied fish typically found in the deeper parts of the lake. Because whitefish require well-oxygenated lake bottoms to survive, their predominance in Clear Lake speaks to the healthy ecology of this watery ecosystem.
Where to Dive Clear Lake
GPS Coordinates: 50.67676, -99.91941
Address: Glen Beag, Wasagaming, MB R0J 0Z0
There is parking onsite at Clear Lake and a set of stairs that leads down to the water.
Following a four-hour drive from Manitoba’s capital city, we finally arrived at Riding Mountain National Park with bells on. It was early afternoon and the beautiful day presented the opportune time to hit the water in the park’s one and only dive site – Clear Lake. Parking in the small designated area, we kitted up from the back of the van and sauntered down the convenient set of stairs leading down to the water’s edge.
Finishing up our final checks, we donned our masked and sunk below the surface of Clear Lake eagerly anticipating what we would see and where we would go. The first glance into Clear Lake told me that in spite of its name and reputation visibility wouldn’t be the greatest. Almost as soon as we sunk past the 3 meters (10 foot) mark the particulate and plankton matter in the water significantly reduced our range of vision.
Navigating along the right shore bank we followed the gracefully sloping bottom comprised of stones and sludge. The deeper we swam the more the bottom turned into a silty, slimy mess. Because of this, we took care to keep ourselves well off the lakebed.
Descending around 7-9 meters (25-30 feet), we discovered that Clear Lake had a basic training platform constructed from metal poles and chain link fencing. Greeting us on the platform were a few of the lake’s clawed crayfish inhabitants. I later learned that these were Rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus) an aggressive invasive species originating in the Ohio River Basin in the USA.
Pushing past the training platform we descended to 17 meters (55 feet). At this depth visibility, which wasn’t the greatest to begin with, was reduced even further by the limited sunlight penetration. We decided to make this the turnaround point of our dive.
As we gradually rose towards the surface Joey and I were surprised and delighted to find a small sunken powerboat filled with inquisitive-looking bass. The boat was situated at 6 meters (20 feet) in-depth, making it just deep enough for us to enjoy some fishy company during our safety stop.
Clear Lake is a place that has flourished over the years. The scenery provides a picturesque backdrop for walking, hiking, biking and picnicking around the area. The water provides beachgoers, campers, anglers and boaters with a perfect opportunity to enjoy its liquid bounty.
As for scuba diving, while the visibility was not astounding in Clear Lake we did see many small creatures. One thing that Joey and I both realized afterward was that even at the deepest point of our dive, the lake had no thermocline. For those unaware, this is not common for such small lakes to be so well mixed – typically there is even a small amount of stratification. I think the lack in thermocline reiterates how unique Clear Lake is for this prairie parkland.
Riding Mountain is found within Parks Canada and therefore the standard fee associated with entering the park to dive are as follows. Adults cost $7.90 CAD, seniors (65 and over) $6.90 CAD and youth (17 and under) are free of charge. Family/Groups cost $16.00. Alternatively, a year Discovery pass for Parks Canada costs $139.40 CAD for a family/group of up to 7 people in a vehicle.
On top of the entrance fee divers must also consider the extended price of gear rental and tank fills as there are no dive shops onsite. Tank fills range from $8.00 to $10.00 depending on the shop. Extended gear rental is more.
Clear Lake is a lake that freezes over in the winter months, therefore it is advisable to dive into this lake in the spring, summer and fall prior to the big freeze. Springtime offers the best visibility before the sun heats the lake and creates a plankton bloom. Summer offers the warmest water and most comfortable wetsuit diving temperatures.
Clear Lake is located inside a National Park and can only be accessed as long as the park is open. This varies according to the time of year. For the most up-to-date schedule, it is recommended to check their website for operating hours.
Additionally, there is no dive shop or outfitter for scuba diving near Clear Lake, hence divers must bring all their own equipment onsite.
When diving this lake it is important to know that it is around 2100 feet above sea level and appropriate corrections should be made for altitude diving.
Riding Mountain is far from any dive shop. The closest shops are in the capital of Winnipeg. We are huge fans of Diver City Scuba and would highly recommend them to anyone seeking to visit the area.
A compilation of Winnipegs dive shops include:
Do you have any other must-visit scuba diving sites in the province of Manitoba? Where are they and what kinds of things should we expect to see? When is the best time to visit these sites?
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