When summer heat bears down on Austin, water is the go-to for relief, and going underwater — as in scuba diving — is even better. If you can’t escape to the Caribbean or South Pacific, no worries, Austin offers some killer options. Read on for five local dive spots, plus a special event.
Windy Point, Lake Travis
Local dive shops Scubaland Adventures and Tom’s Dive & Swim organize outings to this and other Lake Travis sites. Windy Point Park has an onsite air fill station, carts to transport equipment from the parking lot, and stairs that lead directly into the water.
Beneath the surface, divers can explore boat wrecks; an old car; unique metal sculptures including a scuba diver, sea turtle, and shark; and more. For advanced divers, there’s a canyon wall plunging to deeper than 100 feet.
Enjoy Bubble Hour dives here every other Wednesday through the summer with Tom’s Dive & Swim. Bring your own gear.
Quarry at Reveille Peak Ranch
This dive site, located in a former graphite mine on a private adventure ranch, is one of the clearest bodies of water in Texas with an average visibility of 20 to 30 feet. The granite walls and bottom contain graphite that sparkles when illuminated with dive lights.
During summer, the water temperature is about 80 degrees at the top, but below the thermocline, at about 15 feet, it drops as low as 50. Wetsuits of 5 or 7 millimeters are therefore recommended.
Stairs and shallow platforms make it easy to enter the water, and four shelters are available for gearing up and post-dive debriefings. All diving is organized and escorted by dive professionals. Contact the ranch to join or schedule a group.
Spring Lake, San Marcos
Through the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, those with science diving certification can explore Spring Lake’s crystal-clear waters.
With a temperature set at a constant 72 degrees year-round, the property is home to more than 200 artesian springs, eight threatened and endangered species, biological and archeological research sites, one of the densest population of turtles in the United States, and more.
Not science diver certified? The Meadows Center and some local dive shops provide training. Another way to get your fins into this lake is through courses that hold open water checkout dives here, including Scubaland Adventures and Tom’s Dive and Swim.
Canyon Lake Divers offers shore and boat-based diving. The lake, a reservoir on the Guadalupe River, features 80 miles of shoreline and an average depth of 43 feet.
Enjoy a variety of dive sites, including Comal Park and North Park, via pontoon dive boat and shore diving weekly on Sundays and Mondays.
Underwater at Comal Park you’ll find walls, overhangs, and, deeper down, trees. North Park features ledges; boulders; fish shelters; and many sunken objects including cars, boats, and a motorcycle.
The lake hits a maximum depth of more than 120 feet, with average visibility of 5 to 10 feet, improving to about 40 feet below the thermocline at about 40 feet. Surface temperature reaches the high 80s in summer with temps below the thermocline 5 to 10 degrees lower.
Enjoy a cool drift dive on the Comal River, the shortest river in the country at 2.5 miles, with a maximum depth of 15 feet and visibility averaging of 5 to 15 feet and better.
Tubing is hugely popular here, and tubers drop all manner of now-sunken treasure like sunglasses, jewelry, cell phones, and cameras. Plus, chutes and rapids installed for tubes can be shot with an inflated BC.
Tip: Look for tiny Fountain Darters, an endangered fish found only in the Comal and nearby San Marcos River, as well as perch, bass, and carp, freshwater clams, and snails.
Local dive shops such as Tom’s Dive and Swim schedule occasional trips here outside of peak tubing season. Or just round up a few friends, rent gear, and leave a car at your take-out spot.
Women’s Dive Day Event
Woman's Dive Day, a worldwide event organized by the Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI) on July 15, aims at encouraging more women to take up diving. Dive World and its Girl Scout Scuba Troop created an underwater heritage trail from biographies of influential woman in diving printed on waterproof paper in acrylic frames and placed at various locations at Windy Point Scuba Park in Lake Travis. From 11 am to 8 pm, follow the trail to learn about the history of women's contributions while diving.
Why learn to dive?
Scuba diving provides a full-body workout combining cardio and strength training and can burn up to 800 calories in 60 minutes. According to Kristin Valette, chief marketing and business development officer for PADI Worldwide, diving is a social sport and fosters a sense of accomplishment, builds confidence, and is empowering for everyone at every skill level.
Diving, like yoga, focuses on the importance of breathing, which is calming for the mind and body. This controlled, rhythmic breathing can help mitigate intense emotions, improve sleep, and increase stress resilience.
Diving has proved successful therapy for military veterans with post-traumatic stress injury. Divers gain a greater understanding of and appreciation for rivers, lakes, and oceans and often become advocates for oceans and marine wildlife.