>In 1935 the National Portland Cement Co. began mining limestone from the quarry for use in cement production. Pumps kept water from flooding the quarry. Through the 1970s the quarry continued to produce limestone, but when the company went out of business the pumps were turned off and water rose, creating the 50-acre freshwater lake now known as Dutch Springs.
>In 1980 Dutch Springs was purchased and made into a scuba diving facility. Today the quarry has grown in popularity and has dozens of underwater attractions as well as an aquatic recreation area and a rock-climbing wall. With a maximum depth of 100 feet, the quarry is an excellent facility for dive training and a reliable place to get underwater when boats can't get offshore due to weather.
>The sight of the still water around sunrise, as a light mist rises off the surface, is unforgettable. The water temperature in the summer is typically in the high 70s (°F) from the surface to the platforms at 25 feet. A little deeper is a thermocline, beneath which the temperature varies but is typically in the mid-50s (°F) during the summer. The visibility also varies; it averages 30-40 feet but can be as good as 50-60 feet in the winter months when the water is cooler and algae blooms aren't present.
>Among the attractions found underwater are a school bus, a crane, several boats, a fire truck, a tanker, old cars and several planes, all of which lie at depths between 20 and 100 feet. A jet, added in 2016, is suspended at around 30-40 feet so divers can visit it and stay off the silty bottom. Being suspended also makes the jet look like it's flying through the water; it's a fun swim-through and a great subject for underwater photographers. The jet replaced a helicopter that had been suspended at the spot for years but had begun to deteriorate; it was moved to another location close to the old pump house.
>Many of the attractions can be explored using established routes, and yellow ropes lead from the submerged platforms down to some of the more popular sights. Other attractions such as the trolley, the Army truck and the Helldiver plane are not marked, so good compass skills are useful for finding and exploring them. Several floating docks and submerged platforms are accessible from shore and are great for practicing skills and keeping classes off the bottom. These objects are all marked on the surface by floating balls that can easily be seen from shore.
>Twice a year, on Memorial Day and Labor Day, the North East Diving Equipment Group sets up on the "student side" of the quarry in about 5-20 feet of water and gives the public the opportunity to try diving with hard hats. They bring different ones that they've restored and guide anyone who is scuba certified in donning a Mark V helmet or a more modern Kirby Morgan SuperLite 27. It's a unique experience conducted by a dedicated and fun group of people. Divers come from all over the world during those two weekends just to experience diving with a military or commercial diving helmet or vintage scuba equipment as seen in movies.
>The popularity of Dutch Springs is evident when you see the number of people there on a typical weekend. There is a huge sense of community among the divers who gather from all over the Northeast and beyond. This once-active limestone quarry that produced the cement that built the foundations of Bethlehem is now a place that builds the foundations of friendships.
>Getting there: Located at 4733 Hanoverville Road in Bethlehem, Pa., Dutch Springs is open on weekends from April through November and every day from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend. Check the schedule at DutchSprings.com. Plenty of parking is available, but it's best to get there when the facility opens to get a good spot.
>How To Dive It
>Topside: The AquaPark is a favorite of families. Open Memorial Day through Labor Day, the park has all kinds of aquatic toys to climb on, jump off of or slide from. The blob is the most fun — I had to try it myself this summer, and I've never laughed so hard as I was propelled into the air. Dutch Springs truly has something for everyone who enjoys being on or under the water.
>© Alert Diver — Q1 Winter 2017