Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
By Frank Passic, Albion, Michigan.
Left to Right: Steve Burnam, Frank Passic, and Trevor Burnam by picnic table.
As you bicycle or walk the Falling Waters Trail stretch which goes through Lime Lake, you may be surprised by "stumbling" upon a scuba diver in full gear: wetsuit, tank, mask, fins, and regulator, walking along the trail! No, you donít need new glasses. The advent of the Trail has provided scuba divers with an easy non-motorized access to one of the most unique dive sites in Southern Michigan.
Lime Lake is a (partially) man-made lake, begun in 1903. The Concord News stated in January, 1903: "Another great industry is about to assume gigantic proportions right under our door. A side track is being built at Spring Arbor station, buildings and machinery will soon be put up and in place, for the shipment of marl for the manufacture of Portland cement." The Airline Railroad, upon which the Trail now is located, was used to ship the marl. Trail users can easily see the distinctive drop-off in the water in the south lake dug by the crane, which parallels the Trail.
What was left when operations ended during the Depression was a bizarre underwater scene where the crane missed spots. There are marl pillars, mountains, spires, and other unusual underwater formations. These formations are mainly located on the east side of the main south lake. The distance from the main Lime Lake Park on the west end is too far to practically swim for a dive. Scuba divers therefore access the diving area via the small north fishing lake parking area, and hike up a path to the Falling Waters Trail. They then turn left at the fence, and walk east along the Trail to the first picnic table on the right. That is the launching point into an underwater dream world, minus the coral.
Contrary to urban legend, there is no train engine at the bottom of Lime Lake, nor is there a hole 90 feet deep. The entire lake was dug only to a depth of about 30 feet. The deepest spot this writer has found is 32 feet. The lake has become a popular dive site for not only beginning divers, but seasoned divers as well. Dive clubs from Jackson and Battle Creek regularly dive here.
The lake is very clear, and unlike normal lakes, does not contain a huge amount of weeds in the places where marl was dug. Invasive Zebra mussels have been populating the lake for the past two years. Divers experience a feeling of swimming through the Grand Canyon as they navigate around various man-made formations. They will see an occasional turtle, schools of fish, and other marine life. The lake also makes a great compass training dive site. If you get "lost," just point your compass due north and youíll run into the trail!
There are still remains of early 20th century activity underwater. There are railroad ties, telegraph poles, and even a very long 18-inch thick square plank on the side of an underwater mountain, which probably fell from the barge which quarried the lake. All this great diving has become possible because of the Falling Waters Trail access. Divers are very ecologically conscious, and will pick up any modern-day trash that might have fallen from boats onto the bottom. They will however leave historical objects and formations intact. They also have dive flags to mark their location as they swim.
As mentioned earlier, Lime Lake is becoming a favorite dive site. For example, the dive club from Sub-Aquatic Sports in Battle Creek held their weekly "Wednesday Night Dive" at Lime Lake on June 16, using the Trail as the walking access point. Afterwards, the group went to Lime Lake Park where they enjoyed a picnic and fellowship together. Another dive was scheduled for August 11.
If youíre a certified diver and havenít dove Lime Lake yet, youíre missing a real treat. I encourage you to join the Falling Waters Trail in appreciation of your diving activities there, as I have done. If you are a diver and would like for me to give you an underwater tour, feel free to contact me at: Albionfp@hotmail.com. Happy diving!
Sub-Aquatic Sports Wednesday Night dive club August 11, 2010 at Lime Lake along Falling Waters Trail.
All text copyright, 2014 © all rights reserved Frank Passic