As a certified scuba diver I have experienced some of the most spectacular underwater locations on earth, such as the Red Sea, the Great Barrier Reef, Truk Lagoon, Palau, Papua, New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, the New Hebrides, Fiji, Grand Cayman, Bonaire, Cozumel, and other Caribbean islands. However, I was not aware of the magical world that exists just below the surface of our magnificent inland lakes and rivers in my home state of Michigan.
In 1992 when my son was 12, he asked to go camping, an experience no one in our family had ever had. My husband did not want to spend the night in a tent, but I told my son I would be glad to accompany him if I could take my snorkel and mask and explore Michigan’s inland lakes. It came as a big surprise in a state called a “water wonderland” that there was no information available from any source on which lakes were best to snorkel. The DNR and Michigan State’s Fisheries and Wildlife Department knew the water chemistry and what fish were there, but from a recreational point of view, there was nothing. It was soon easy to see why---most people snorkeled in the Caribbean, Mexico or Hawaii---there was little or no interest or even any belief that Michigan’s inland lakes had anything to offer.
Initially, I thought this was probably because either the lakes were murky or there was nothing to see in shallow water. Indeed, the first few lakes I sampled were total losers, but then I got on a roll, and the next lakes were clear, colorful and full of excitement. When I saw the infinite variety, I realized that a sampling of lakes would not do; I would not be satisfied or have the necessary knowledge until I checked them all. Since I was not allowed to enter private lakes, this immediately eliminated 10,000 lakes from my list. Still I was left with approximately 1000 public access lakes to explore. Snorkeling them all was a daunting task--I was a soggy mess for over 5 years until I finished the project in the fall of 1997, but the discoveries I made have made me a dedicated fresh water snorkeler.
I realized that we have been blessed with these magnificent resources, and it is our duty to preserve them for future generations in their most pristine form. Salmons migrate to the lakes every late September. It is one of snorkeling’s greatest thrills to be surrounded by hundreds of these 20-30 pound creatures, both King (Chinook) and Coho, something you have to experience to believe it. I want our children to be exposed to this magical world. Once they know it, they will love it; and once they love it, they will protect it. I believe in the virtuous circle of exploration, education and conservation; and that is why I have dedicated the last quarter of a century of my life to educate people about the underwater wonders of our freshwater inland lakes and rivers in Michigan, for which migratory fishes have an important role; hoping that this will inspire people to do the same all over the world.
Snorkeling is a great tool to learn about fish diversity, behavioral biology, underwater flora identification, and conservation, not to mention the great fun of experiencing nature’s spontaneous events. There’s so much to see. Loads of small trout and steelhead (migrating rainbow trout), as well as the salmon, and if you’re lucky, some brook and brown trout. Through my activity, I hope to encourage people to care about and protect migrating fishes and freshwater ecosystems.
Discover more here: http://www.snorkelmichigan.com