2 scuba divers exploring a wreck

How Deep Are Wrecks To Scuba Dive In The United States?

Everyone has their own reasons for wanting to take up the sport of scuba diving. Whatever you want to explore is available somewhere, with a variety of different experience levels needed.

Beginners look for amazing underwater topography as the experience is entirely new, and enjoy the fish, wildlife, and corals that are available to witness.

Large marine animals like rays or sharks are often a driving force in wanting to train further, and gain more experience in the world.

A large contingent of people want to explore a shipwreck though. For the last few decades, governments have deliberately sunk functionless vessels in order to provide this attraction so there must be something to the phenomenon.

While they are interesting, many want to see something historical. The experience is very real somehow, and you get to witness a little bit of history that few can actually claim to have seen.

A natural question is that reality often doesn’t comply with our diving desires. The Titanic is in 12,500 feet of water which is impossible to dive. There’s plenty of scope out there.

So what about the US specifically and diving wrecks. How deep are these wrecks to scuba dive in the United States?

The range of depths for scuba diving a shipwreck in the United States is between 20 and 180 feet while the average is around 60 to 100 feet. Around 30% of the shipwrecks are viewable with the PADI open water certification but PADI advanced water qualifications will make most wrecks visitable to scuba dive to the depths of 100 feet of water.

Searching all the best wrecks in the US with google, it took a bit of research but I made the following table to view.

The depths expressed are maximum depths or seabed depth.

WreckLocation Depth (ft)
USS OriskanyPensacola, Florida80
USS Spiegel GroveKey Largo, Florida80
USNS General Hoyt S. VandenbergKey West, Florida165
U-352Cape Lookout, North Carolina115
USTS Texas ClipperSouth Padre Island, Texas132
USCG DuaneKey Largo, Florida120
USS HatterasGalveston, Texas57
HMCS YukonSan Diego, California70 to 105
USS HoganSan Diego, California125
Eagle freighterFlorida Keys, Florida65
USS YO-257Oahu, Hawaii100
Vought F4U CorsairHonolulu, Hawaii115
KeystormNew York25 to 110
A.E. VickerySt. Lawrence River60 to 125
Prins Willem VLake Michigan80
SS MilwaukeeLake Michigan90 to 120
USCGC SparCape Lookout, North Carolina85 to 110
USS ArizonaPearl Harbor, Hawaii40
Alexander NimickLake Superior, Michigan20
M/V LuluGulf Shores, Alabama115
EngediKona, Hawaii110
Carthaginian IIMaui, Hawaii95
GrecianAlpena, Michigan100
SanduskyMackinaw City, Michigan85
Cornelia B. WindiateAlpena, Michigan180
USS AlgolAsbury Park, New Jersey125
SS OregonIslip, New York130
USS San DiegoIslip, New York70 to 110
U-853Block Island, Rhode Island121
SS WisconsinKenosha, Wisconsin130

Not too surprisingly, the depths of these wrecks are nicely in scuba diving type depths.

2 scuba divers exploring a submarine

What Scuba Certifications Get A Diver To Shipwreck Depths

Wrecks in the US that a diver might want to visit vary quite considerably and different people have different levels of comfort when deciding how deep they want to dive.

The PADI open water certification qualifies a diver to go down to 60 feet. The advanced option qualifies a diver down to 100 feet.

Most can be observed with advanced water certification. Even though technically the depth may be a little over the advanced open water depth limit, a shipwreck should be observable even at that hard limit.

If a diver has the PADI open water then a few wrecks you should be able to see are;

  • USS Hatteras
  • Eagle freighter
  • USS Arizona
  • Alexander Nimick

If a diver has the PADI advanced open water then almost all of them are available for viewing if you dive to the recommended depth associated with the course.

A few that might be just unobservable, being a little too deep would be;

  • Cornelia B. Windiate
  • USNS General Hoyt S. Vandenberg

The PADI deep diver course teaches diving down to 130 feet so you should be able to go to the seabed with most of the wrecks in the United States.

There are various categories when discussing wrecks, namely

  • Non penetration diving
  • Limited penetration diving
  • Full penetration diving

Those categories are probably self explanatory.

To fully go inside consider the wreck diver course. If you purely wish to observe, then advanced open water certification should get you visually sighting some impressive shipwrecks.

 U-352 Cape Lookout, North Carolina wreck

Final Thoughts – Parting Waves

If you are going to take up the sport of scuba diving then there are many great reasons to do so, and the sheer excitement of gazing upon a sunken wreck is why many take to the water.

While not the first thing you will likely be seeing as you take up a career beneath the waves, a historical wreck that’s exciting to dive is nealry always on a divers wishlist of sights.

The known and established wrecks available for a diver are in depths that are consistent with the training courses available to take, namely the open water and the advanced open water.

While you might be able to see plenty of wrecks with the basic open water diver, should you progress to the advanced open water you can attain depths around 100 feet and this opens up a whole new world or wrecks to visit.

To get the best out of wreck diving for non penetration diving then advanced open water gets you to the depths you require to see nearly all the wrecks available.

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Mike Seals
Chief Crisp Eater at Guiness Brewey | + posts

Mike resides in landlocked Indiana but takes every opportunity to travel to warm waters for diving. When in his home state, he typically dives quarries. His favorite place to dive is the reef off of Ambergris Caye, Belize. When not diving, he works as a researcher, runs marathons, and spends time with his three kids.

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