PDA

View Full Version : Willow Springs Dive Park



Mountain Dog
07-11-2007, 06:00 PM
Has anyone been to Willow Springs Dive Park in PA this year? LadyDog and I are thinking about going there in two weeks and we were wondering about the viz. I'm told that in previous years it has been pretty bad, but they had been working on it this summer.

Mountain Dog

acelockco
07-11-2007, 06:44 PM
Yo Mountain Dog,

If you have any questions about Willow Springs, I am your man. I go there at least a few times per week.

The visibility in Willow is not even close to Dutch, but lately it has been really good. It seems directly related to the amount of rain. In the begining of the season, we had a ton of rain and the visibility got down as bad as 6" in some places! Lately things have been really good at least 15-20' and even better in some places....BUT there are a few spots that still offer limited visibility.

The new owners have been treating the water with bales of barley which are supposed to help clear up the water. From what I have been told, they put down 50 bales but would need at least 200 to treat that amount of water. I don't know if it is true or not, because the visibility has been increasing every dive since they added the barley.

Now if you would like a guided tour of the underwater attractions at Willow, just let me know.

Daddy-h2O
07-11-2007, 09:13 PM
Ace,

I have been to Willow a few times and I am considering making the trip in August with my kid who holds a Jr. Certification in August. Would you recommend camping on site or not?

By the way we will be at Dutch this weekend!!

acelockco
07-11-2007, 10:06 PM
You can definately camp at Willow. They have electrical hook-ups for RV's but no water/sewer connections. This is all down on the one side of the park. On the other side there is a nice grassy area with areas shaded by trees and an area without shade (this side would be for tent camping).

There are restrooms and showers, just like some campgrounds. There are picnic tables and I think fire rings and even a few bbq's around. They have a nice volley ball field set up as well. Swimming area for the non divers in your party and even fishing if you are so inclined...you don't even need a fishing license as it is a privately stocked facility.

Now, the entire facility is not nearly as nice as Dutch Springs where everything is nice and new. The buildings are old and the grounds are not as nice, but that is in the process of changing. The new owners are putting a ton of time and money into making the place great. Like I said before, they have treated the water and visibility is getting better. They have been working on the landscaping and are always fixing things there. They are in the middle of building a new grand entrance to the park. They are also in the process of remodeling the park office and dive shop.

Oh yea' they just had the compressor system service and all of the filters changed!

Let me know when you are going to be there, we can have a BBQ and a few dives.

If there is anything else you would like to know, just ask.

Mountain Dog
07-12-2007, 01:10 AM
Hi Ace,

Thanks for the great info on Willow. I had heard they were using barley bales, but I didn't know how successful that was. LadyDog and I are going to go camping/diving either at Rawlings or Willow July 21 & 22. We've been to Rawlings a few times already this year. Based on your fairly glowing review, I think Willow is going to get the nod.

Couple more Q's. What is max depth at Willow? What are water temps? How big is the weekend crowd?

Mountain Dog

acelockco
07-12-2007, 02:22 AM
The max depth in Willow is 55 ffw. Most of the attractions are in the 40-45 foot range. As far as water temps, I dive dry so I usually don't look at the temp gauge often. Surface temps are in the 70's. I think we are in the upper 50's at depth. Funny we get a bunch of divers that drive up for the warm water. LOL

Crowds......LMAO.....Ok, the big crowd is Thursady night, it is when our local divers meet for dinner and diving....maybe about 20 of us. Last Sunday for example there were a total of 10 divers. There are different areas, so I only saw one group of divers at a picnic table eating lunch and saw no one while under water. In fact I have never seen another diver besides my buddy while submerged at Willow....ever unlike Dutch where you almost have to wait in line to see something. They have a sectioned off swimming area and on a hot day there may be 200 swimmers, but they are not even near the camping or scuba areas.

The place is VERY laid back, basically you pay to get in and you are on your own. They don't have anyone watching you or telling you what you can or can not do. You can dive at 3:00am if you want! Of course you can only get air fills during regular business hours, so plan accordingly.

FYI :

Make a right out of the parking lot and follow the road to the traffic light. Make a right (RT 422 East) and follow it down for a few miles, there will me a McDeath's on the right side and a small supermarket and drug store across the street..

When you decide for sure, let me know and we'll meet up. My wife also dives, so it may be a nice treat for your wife to have a fellow woman diver there.

Mountain Dog
07-12-2007, 03:10 AM
Ace-

Thanks for all great info. Sounds like my kind if place. I'm quite sure we'll be there on the 21st & 22nd. That's always subject to change because we both have the kind of jobs that can yank us in at a moment's notice, and on any day or night of the week.

We belong to a dive club out of Frederick, MD and it's not unusual that when one of us goes somewhere, others will follow. So who knows, could be a few of us showing up.

I'll PM you as that weekend gets closer.

Thanks again,

Mountain Dog

acelockco
07-15-2007, 06:09 PM
I went to Willow yesterday and did one dive in the morning. I was having a great time and wanted to do another dive or two before going home, but we had a friend on the way over for a visit.

Anyway I will most likely be going back in a few hours when our guest heads home. The visibility has been really good and it seems to be staying that way! Remember that is in realitive terms, but I am lovin' it!

If your group comes down, I will lead a underwater tour of Willow if anyone is interested. If you have a club sticker, be sure to bring one in a submergable waterproof container. There is an underwater habitat created from an inverted milk tanker with an air pocket. The ceiling is covered with stickers from dive clubs and such. DON'T BREATHE THE AIR IN THERE as it has been there since the 70's when it was sunk and some college students lived in it for a week doing experiments.

Just an FYI, they don't allow pets. I figured that would be a given, but just in case.

Mountain Dog
07-15-2007, 10:08 PM
Ace-

Thanks for the update. I will let you know if we're going to make it next weekend.

I saw the no pets thing on their website. It's actually a minor bummer because my Border Collie goes along to Lake Rawlings where they do allow well behaved pets, and he has become our dive club's de facto mascot. Oh well, he'll just have to spend the weekend sleeping on my bed while I sleep on the ground. Hey, wait a minute...

Mountain Dog

acelockco
07-16-2007, 12:36 AM
Great, let me know.

I just got home from diving there again today. My frekin' dry suit seems to think it is a wetsuit. I hand my entire right leg up to my croch filled with water. So it looks like I am in for a little repair work before the weekend.

I checked out the tent camping area today, and it looks like a sweet place to camp if you are tenting it.

Ace

Mountain Dog
07-16-2007, 02:26 AM
Ace-

ROFLMAO! So I bet that now you have a better idea of the water temps.

Yup, we will be tenting. I've been at work all day - I'm still at work - so I haven't had a chance to check with anyone else from the club. But we have a club meeting this Wednesday, and I'm going to see if anyone else is going to try to make it.

Mountain Dog

Daddy-h2O
07-16-2007, 02:43 AM
Hey Ace,

How about Guppy Gulch?

And will Wabanks Aquaculture ever be back?

acelockco
07-16-2007, 04:15 AM
I have never been to Guppy or Wabanks. I am willing to go on a little adventure to any of these places. I do know that there is Bainbridge Scuba, a quarry that is open. There is of course Dutch Springs which I am sure you know about.

There are a few other places near here as well, but I am really trying to get to some salt water. The boat dives in Jersey are costly though. I am thinking about some beach dives, but they may just be lame. Guess I will have to throw down some loot for the boat ride.

Daddy-h2O
07-16-2007, 06:25 PM
Wabanks maybe no more. It was a small part of a quarry on the east(?) side of Lancaster. I was there in '03 and shortly after they closed down because the quarry became active again.

acelockco
07-16-2007, 07:16 PM
I have heard of it before, but I have not been able to find much info. on the place. There are also the "secret" spots throughout the state that some lucky or resourceful divers get to go to.

So you are in New York, have you ever been diving in any of the finger lakes? I was told that diving was allowed and that the vis was good and there was even some things to see.

Daddy-h2O
07-16-2007, 09:13 PM
I have done a few of the lakes. The Finger lakes are more about the geology then wrecks and there is stuff that can be seen.
Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence have some of the oldest and most intact wrecks known.

acelockco
07-16-2007, 11:41 PM
I think Lake Ontario is within a reasonable distance to do a long 3-4 day weekend type trip. Is that somewhere you dive or have gone diving often? If you have any info. on whats going on there let me know. I am trying to set up something for a few of us down here in PA.

Also what's the deal with treasure hunting and artifact finding in the Great Lakes. I was told they have some strict rules there about that stuff.

Daddy-h2O
07-17-2007, 03:44 AM
I think Lake Ontario is within a reasonable distance to do a long 3-4 day weekend type trip. Is that somewhere you dive or have gone diving often? If you have any info. on whats going on there let me know. I am trying to set up something for a few of us down here in PA.

Also what's the deal with treasure hunting and artifact finding in the Great Lakes. I was told they have some strict rules there about that stuff.

There isn't alot on the NY side for dive charters, but there are a few PM me with some contact info and I will send you some stuff. And my local dive shop is currently setting up about just for that.

If you have a boat there are several great dives just outside of Oswego New York. Do a Search for the "David W. Mills" Also about an 1 1/2 hours north is the easyest shore/wreck dive you will ever do in Alexandria Bay NY

My Local shop also runs a boat on Skeanatlas Lake if you are interested in doing dives with lots of geology.

I will warn that the zebra mussels are a double edged sword. Yes they have been a benefit for the vis, but they cover everything! Oh and they are very sharp too.

As far as artifacts, it was explained to me this way. In NY if it has spent more than 30 days on the bottom it is the property of NEW YORK STATE. I do know guys that hunt for bottles and stuff but anything of real antiquaty(sp) will get your gear, car, boat, and anything else you have donated to the state. and I am told that Canada thinks that NY is to easy.


Do you have a time frame?

acelockco
07-17-2007, 04:45 AM
I have to talk with my wife to figure out the best time. I am self employed, so I often think about taking short vacations. My wife on the other hand works for a large company and they don't like it too much when she takes off.

Geology is very intresting, but I am looking for wrecks. Considering I would have a hard time leaving behind any artifacts, I may have to reconsider. They don't have any rules like that for the wrecks off NJ that I dive.

I have this problem with wanting to remove anything made of brass off of shipwrecks..... :D

Mountain Dog
07-17-2007, 03:49 PM
Ace-

We're a "Go" for this weekend at Willow. LadyDog and I, and at least one other buddy pair will be coming in Saturday morning, camping overnight, and getting in a couple of dives before heading out Sunday afternoon. We're going to try to round up a few more at the dive club meeting tomorrow night. About twenty just got back from a week on the Nekton Rorqual and a another bunch are heading to CoCo View next week, so I don't know how many are up for blowing bubbles this weekend, but we'll see.

Are there fire rings in the camping area? We'll bring firewood if we can use it.

As for your question of wrecks in the St. Lawrence seaway, I haven't done it yet, but there are some pristine wrecks there. Our club is going up the first weekend of September (I don't think I'll make it this year). They use a dive op out of Brockville, Canada. And as Daddy-h20 said, the Canadians frown quite sternly on souvenir hunting.

Mountain Dog

acelockco
07-17-2007, 06:56 PM
Great to hear you are going to make it up this weekend. I was informed that we have some stinking event to go to on Saturday for a few hours, but I think I may be able to get in a dive anyway. Sunday is 100% clear for me and we can dive all day.

There are fire rings so bring wood, and there is a charcoal BBQ if you want to bring charcoal you can use that. There are some gas grills at the opposite side of the park, but I am not 100% sure they work.

Mountain Dog
07-17-2007, 08:45 PM
Don't you just hate it when life gets in the way of diving.

No worries, we're a pretty self-sufficient group. If not on Saturday, we'll see you on Sunday. We should be easy to spot. Look for a white Ford Explorer with WV plates and a large van (I don't remember what make or color it is) with MD tags.

Thanks for the fire ring and b-b-q info. Next to diving, our club is best known for burning chunks of red meat over open flames.

Mountain Dog

acelockco
07-17-2007, 09:59 PM
Yes, when life interfears with my dive time I get really moody, just ask my wife.

I will send you a PM with my contact info so you can give me a ring when you get there.

Mountain Dog
07-23-2007, 03:31 AM
Hey All-

We had a good time at Willow Springs this weekend. As it turns out, only 3 of us were able to make the run but we got in 5 dives.

We camped on the east end right at the edge of the water and we were the only ones on that end of the quarry. It was beautiful.

Can't say the same for the diving on that end of the quarry, though. On our first dive on the east end as I dropped down I held my wrist out in front of me to make sure my computer had started doing it's thing, and I couldn't see my hand. My dive buddies were about 3 to 4 feet away from me, and they might as well have been on the next planet. I did manage to find one of them. We joined hands to stay together and promptly ran head first into the quarry wall. At this point we decided we had better surface and look for the other team member. LadyDog was already bobbing around on the surface.

So, we decided to surface stroke it to the tanker truck bouy and try again. The viz was a little better there - maybe 3 or 4 feet in some spots. We found the truck and something else - it may have been a car (we never could tell). We spent the rest of the dive effectively blind. We did make it back to the tanker truck and using our superior navigation skills (um, look at the compass idiot) actually made our way back to the dock.

The rest of our dives were done from the west end of the quarry. The viz there was still very tough, but much better than the first dive. Maybe 10-15 feet in the good spots. We found cars, airplane, fire truck, torpedo, several boats including the "Quest", railroad tracks, steel tanks, snowmobile (I think), and even a few fish. Coldest water temp was 57 degrees.

Topside, Willow Springs is very nice. Awesome camping areas, nice bath house, great picnic areas, a good air-fill set-up, and nice people. They are rebuilding the main shop and the entrance gates. Looks like it will be very nice when it's done. If they can get the viz improved, this will be one top-notch dive park.

It was a lot of fun and actually a good experience diving in low viz conditions. We'll be back.

Mountain Dog

aerospot
07-23-2007, 03:59 PM
Hey All-

We camped on the east end right at the edge of the water and we were the only ones on that end of the quarry. It was beautiful.
On our first dive on the east end as I dropped down I held my wrist out in front of me to make sure my computer had started doing it's thing, and I couldn't see my hand. My dive buddies were about 3 to 4 feet away from me, and they might as well have been on the next planet. I did manage to find one of them. We joined hands to stay together and promptly ran head first into the quarry wall. At this point we decided we had better surface and look for the other team member. LadyDog was already bobbing around on the surface.


Mountain Dog

Perhaps I am just to damn particular but, this doesn't sound like any fun at all save for the beerz and campfire! I am not anxious to do any diving in conditions like you have described here. Granted I have yet to gain my certification (2 more classes and 5 ow dives ahead) but my drive and desire to achieve ow cert stems from our 'snuba' trip in the Keys.
I agree that there needs to be an understanding as to diving in low vis so as not to panic when someone silts up the water but, what fun can be had from dropping into water where you cant see your hand at the end of your arm?
Having spent some snorkel time in Lake Erie over the past several years I have enjoyed better than average vis mainly due to the zebra mussels. I had imagined diving into such water and enjoying the various wrecks and artifacts to be found on the bottom. And when we can return to the Keys or other reef I anticipate diving in pristine clear ocean water...

Mountain Dog
07-23-2007, 05:14 PM
aerospot-

I understand what you're saying. There's nothing better than viz that's so good you don't even have to think about it. Believe me, if I could dive in the tropics every day, I would.

But I also subscribe to the philosophy that "a bad day of diving is better than a good day doing anything else." I had this choice: spend the weekend doing yard work, or dive Willow Springs. LOL.

There is a lot to be said for doing some diving in low viz conditions. For one thing, you never know when it's going to happen to you, so being able to handle it could save your life. For example, our dive club went to Pompano Beach, Florida earlier this year. Viz is usually pretty good there, but there is also a lively current, which can change conditions on you in a heartbeat. And it did. We were diving a wreck in a hefty current that started with about 25' of viz but by the time we thumbed the dive the viz had dropped to maybe 10'. Ripping current, failing viz, and dropping tank pressures is enough to deal with. If these conditions induce any amount of panic in a diver, the result could be disastrous.

That's why I would rather practice dealing with things like this under the more controlled circumstances of a quarry. Was that first dive in the zero viz "fun"? No, not really. We regarded it as a training dive. We practiced maintaining buddy contact, navigation, and using all of our senses - not just sight. Without visual references, it's pretty tricky to judge your bouyancy. If you can stay neutral in zero viz, you're doing a good job. Believe it or not, this one dive did more to make me a better diver than any other dive I've done.

On the other end of the quarry, where viz was better, we had a lot of fun trying to find the wrecks and other toys down there. Again, navigation and communication skills were put to the test. Nothing wrong with that.

The more work I put in on my diving skills now, the less I will have to focus on that when I hit the warm, clear waters of Bonaire in September. :D

Mountain Dog

Daddy-h2O
07-23-2007, 05:36 PM
Can't agree more with MDog. 95% of my diving is in 20' viz or less. These are the conditions availible to me and given the choice between not diving or diving in less than ideal vis conditions, I will dive.

Just my 2psi.

acelockco
07-23-2007, 06:11 PM
Obviously (I dive Willow Springs at least 2 days/week) for me I agree 100% with Mountain Dog and Daddy-h20. I have logged about 50 dives at Willow Springs already this season and can really feel my diving skills have improved because of it.

This weekend I was wreck diving off the coast of New Jersey. An opening on a boat I wanted to dive from was available last minute. The reason the diver backed out was because of the conditions. The seas were really rough, we had crazy winds, strong currents and guess what, LOW visibility. Because of my constant training in low visibility at Willow, I felt right at home in the low vis on the wreck.

In the end, it was a GREAT dive, what others consider low vis is good vis to me. I bagged a few flounder for dinner and almost had a nice lobster, but it backed into a hole and I could not reach in far enough to grab it. I met some really great people there and just had a totally enjoyable day.

In retrospect, had I not been so comfortable diving in such conditions things could have been a disaster.

Now all of that being said, I really thing the visibility at Willow is pretty good. On the East side of the quarry the vis is pretty bad, but that is what the entire place was like earlier in the year. On the west side I think the visibility is fine. Of course I would like it to be clearer, but the thought of poor visibility does not even cross my mind when diving there. Goes to show you, that with practice your opinion could change as well.

Mountain Dog
07-23-2007, 06:49 PM
Hey Ace-

We missed you at Willow this weekend, but I'm glad to see that you had a great dive in NJ.

I agree that the more you dive in "less than pristine" conditions, the less it matters. You had told me the viz was bad on the east end, but we went there anyway, precisely to challenge ourselves in those conditions. It was an excellent experience. It also made us appreciate the conditions on the west end.

I don't mean to make it sound like I'm complaining about the viz. I'm not. It's just that everything else at Willow is so nice that this is the one drawback to the place. I would like to enjoy the topography of the quarry and see the huge variety of toys down there a bit better.

I know they are working on it, and as I said I will be back. Clearly, the new owners are moving things in a positive direction, and for that alone they deserve our support.

Mountain Dog

acelockco
07-23-2007, 07:25 PM
That's great Mountain Dog. I did not think you were complaining, but even if you were, we are all entitled to our opinions so no worries if you feel the need to complain.

LOL!!!

Anyway, back to things, the new owners are really doing a lot. Funny thing, the new owners are not even certified divers. In fact they just started their SCUBA class this week.

Indeed they are doing a lot, last year when I was diving there the place was a dump. The grass/weeds were usually up to your knees. The front gate was a disaster, there was trash everywhere (not just trash but abandoned vehicles and such) and there were none of the porta-johns (which are usually really clean). The bathouse was always dirty and smelled like...well you know what it probablly smelled like. All of those problems have been taken care of. The compressor was just serviced and they just repaired the one side of the dock last week as well.

Now the place is cool, I feel like I am just chillin' in my own backyard over there. Maybe you will come up sometime over the winter and brave the ice. I don't know if you went into the dive shack by the dock on the west side, but there is a HUGE wood burning stove in there. We get that thing going with a ragging fire, do some dives and jet back into the shack to warm up and get some grub. If you were in there, you may have noticed the nice seating removed from the school bus you dove on.

My next job is to remove that air conditioner that is in the bus's engine compartment. Did you see that waskely SCUBA wabbit by the way?

Mountain Dog
07-23-2007, 07:38 PM
Wow, they have done a lot of work on the place. I was actually most impressed with their air fill set-up. I rarely get good fills on my HP100's anywhere but my LDS. But at Willow I actually got around 3200 - close enough.

No, I didn't see the wabbit. Guess I'll have to go back.:)

As for that winter diving, my man, well...that's going to have to wait for the drysuit. I'm working on LadyDog about that. Stay tuned...

Mountain Dog

Daddy-h2O
07-23-2007, 09:43 PM
Okay a small quarry is fine but how well do you think you would fare in a meduim sized lake looking for an anchor line. Are your navagation skills up to the task.

I will state that mine are in great need of improvment. But we dive in Owasco Lake (one of the finger lakes) where the vis can be less than arms length. So I get to work on it. I know in a quarry, recently went to Dutch Springs, I am not so concerned with my navigation as much.

Just wondering if the same held true with others??

acelockco
07-23-2007, 09:58 PM
Okay a small quarry is fine but how well do you think you would fare in a meduim sized lake looking for an anchor line. Are your navagation skills up to the task.


Usually in low vis or difficult navigation areas when we are diving from a boat, we have a way on getting back to the anchor line and a backup plan.

We generally attach a line to the wreck or some structure near the anchor line. We don't attach to the anchor or it's line, because if it ever pulled free we could be pulled into shallow water, become tangled or other danger.

Backup plan is a Jersey Line, which is basically a spool of line you can attach to the wreck or structure and use to get to the surface or deco. depth. It keeps you from drifting away as you would without a line.

acelockco
07-23-2007, 10:03 PM
Wow, they have done a lot of work on the place. I was actually most impressed with their air fill set-up. I rarely get good fills on my HP100's anywhere but my LDS. But at Willow I actually got around 3200 - close enough.




The reason they give such good fills is because they are new to doing fills. They are a bit nervous about the entire thing so they are sure to check the pressure markings and the hydro and vis dates on every cylinder they fill. When they first began to do fills, they often gave very light fills. I remember in the begining one of my 3000psi tanks was only filled to 2100 psi. I think the divers made sure they figured out how to do it really quickly.

It is nice that they have the ability to do HP fills there, however they only have one HP fill whip.

Daddy-h2O
07-24-2007, 01:14 AM
Usually in low vis or difficult navigation areas when we are diving from a boat, we have a way on getting back to the anchor line and a backup plan.

We generally attach a line to the wreck or some structure near the anchor line. We don't attach to the anchor or it's line, because if it ever pulled free we could be pulled into shallow water, become tangled or other danger.

Backup plan is a Jersey Line, which is basically a spool of line you can attach to the wreck or structure and use to get to the surface or deco. depth. It keeps you from drifting away as you would without a line.


Sounds good but I don't think I explained well enough. We dive from pontoon boats in the Finger Lakes.

We are not on a wreck or a structure. We follow the anchor line down and check the anchor and then check depth before swimming into the current. More often than not we swim in one direction until someone hits 1500 psi or gets cold before turning around coming up to our anchors depth and returning. This has worked well for us. We have missed the boat and surfaced as much as 50 yards or so, but it has typically been an easy surface swim. One diver I go with will do a large square and everytime I am with him we have found his anchor line. I some how manage to get confused, simple math I struggle with in my head. Which is funny as I am a construction trade designer and I am forever doing math, I just need to write it out first...

acelockco
07-24-2007, 01:50 AM
Another option for you would be a large strobe on the anchor line about 6 feet or so above the anchor. You should be able to see the strobe even in very low viz for some distance. It may not be perfect, but it will help for those times when you know you are close, but just can't find the line.

Another option again is to inflate a lift bag or surface marker with a line connected to it, you can use that line to go up but you will drift.