Lake Michigan Wrecks

Lake Michigan WrecksDivers in the area are very lucky to be near so many fantastic wreck dives in Lake Michigan. The cold waters of Lake Michigan ensure the ships stay well preserved wether they are made of wood or steel. In many instances, the cargo is also preserved in and around the wreck site. Many divers refer to these wreck sites as “time capsules” and we can not disagree.

If you’re interested in getting into wreck diving, we have some great “introductory dives” available, and as you become more experienced, Lake Michigan certainly will have something to offer you!

For information on any of the wrecks we list here, please stop by our dive center as we have a good collection of information available to review.

Wrecks for New and Experienced Divers

Among wrecks described was the steamer Lady Elgin which went down September 9, 1860. It was a luxurious passenger boat and was carrying members of the Union Guard on a trip from Milwaukee to Chicago to hear Stephen Douglas speak. About 300 people died and wreckage was strewn for miles along the lakeshore near Winnetka, Illinois.
Side wheel steamer burned in 1868. Third greatest loss of life for shipwrecks on the Great Lakes. This wreck is in 25 ft very close to shore. On a good day photos of the wheel with divers swimming through it can be truly spectacular. Because it is close to shore there is a lot of silt and if the weather has not been calm for a few days the visibility may not be very good.
Fin Seeker 60 ft. (Waukegan) – 39 ft. fishing boat that sank in a storm 3 miles from Waukegan on May 30, 2008
World War I Sub Chaser scuttled near shore. Shallow wreck just off of Illinois Beach State Park, Zion, IL.
Sitting in only 40 feet of water, this three masted schooner was built in 1873. Though she sank in 1883, she is considered by many to be one of the best shipwrecks in Illinois waters.

Intermediate Wreck Dives

AKA “The Willie,” she collided with the towed barge SINCLAIR XII, in tow of the tug SINCLAIR HOUSTON (or SINCLAIR CHICAGO), and sank with a 20×8 foot hole in her side. Her crew of 30 were rescued by the Coast Guard cutter HOLLYHOCK. *She was scuttled while building to prevent capture by Nazis, refloated and completed in 1948-9
Dredge which sunk while in tow of E. James Fucik near Milwaukee, Wis., May 23, 1956. In 30 to 70 feet of water, she is upside down held off the bottom with her boom.
Intentionally sunk in 2003, this 204′ car ferry offers something for every diver.  Sitting upright in 82 feet of water with her main deck just over 45′ down, the “Straits” has become Chicago’s premier dive site.
On April 7, 1893, the wooden schooner capsized and sunk.  Schooner is upright and nearly intact.  The top of the deck is at approximately 50 ft..  Great dive site for wreck dive training.
39 ft. fishing boat that sank in a storm 3 miles from Waukegan on May 30, 2008.

Advanced Wreck Dives

This 120’ wooden schooner sits in 105 feet of water. Although the wreck has collapsed on itself all the pieces are there including the ship’s wheel, anchors and more.
MST728B 117 ft. (Waukegan) – 200 ft. grain barge that sank in a storm just 5 miles from the port of Waukegan on August 8, 2003.
The steamer Wisconsin was a steel freighter of 215 feet in length. On the night of Oct. 29, 1929 off of Kenosha, WI, the Wisconsin’s cargo of iron castings, automobiles, and boxed freight shifted during a north gale.
Sailed off into a storm, bound Milwaukee for Grand Haven, and was lost. Theory is that rail cars came loose in gale and crashed through her seagate, allowing water to come in over the stern and sink her. Her skipper apparently turned back for Milwaukee, but never made it. Some of her lifeboats were launched by her crew, and two of their bodies were picked up two days later by the steamer STEEL CHEMIST. Another lifeboat containing bodies washed up near Holland, MI. It was routine for her to challenge the storm, she was built for it. Wreck was located in 1972.

Technical Wrecks

A steel hulled motor yacht owned by the Commodore of the Chicago Yacht Club. Between 1916 and 1928 the Rosinco — the first diesel — electric vessel berthed in Chicago — was one of the largest (at 95 feet and 82 gross tons) and most opulent yachts on the Great Lakes. While en route from Milwaukee to Chicago early on September 19, 1928, the Rosinco  struck something and sank in 185 feet of water about 12 miles off Kenosha, Wisconsin.  Well preserved.  Intact wreck shrouded with fish nets.