Our trip to Sunset Lake got off to a rocky start. It was the Fourth of July and we hadn’t picked a spot officially until the day before. We weren’t even sure Sunset would be open on the holiday. On our way south, I called the park, city and mayor’s office before finally getting a hold of someone at the Linton, IN Fire Department. I figured firefighters know everything. The fellow who answered the phone informed me he was just watching the station though. Everybody in town was at the town parade. He recommended I call the police department instead.
At this point, maybe most would have given up but we had a plan and wanted to see it through. An officer named Harry picked up at the police station and I informed him that this was definitely not an emergency. At least not to him. Harry told me that most of the town was at the parade but he would call around and see if Sunset Lake was open for the day or not. I left him my number and we waited….We waited at Cracker Barrel though so it wasn’t torture. : )
Harry called back and gave us directions to Sunset campground. He let us know that the place was owned by the City of Linton and was dive at your own risk. He just recommended we check in with the park ranger before getting wet for the day.
We pulled into Linton just after the parade ended so that was a very good thing. After a brief pitstop for snacks and water, we headed toward our destination. Here’s the water tower!
We pulled into the campground and the place seemed pretty popular. They have a nice size campground for the kids and some shelter houses. No caretaker was in sight so we just followed the path around until we saw a dive flag on and old wooden sign. There were a couple divers already in the water!
We unpacked and assembled and decided on an easy dive to get started. The two divers in the water were packing up by this point and said the viz was awful and they didn’t get very far due to several downed trees along the bank. After exchanging pleasantries we hopped in to find out for ourselves.
The viz would have had to step up its game a couple notches to be considered merely bad. Anything below about 12 feet was just plain terrible. When we muddled our way to the first platform, we discovered how easily mud bottoms are to stir up, even while hovering perfectly above the surface. We had to muck around to find a line that would take us out to the middle.
I ok’d the line with my left hand which raised it out of the muck. Apparently, not many folks dive this site anymore - and we later found out why. We kicked along the line, passing a submerged tree (not sure how it ended up in the middle of the lake) until we hit an overturned boat lying on the bottom at 20-25 feet. As we rolled up, a huge black cloud of silt washed over its stern and threatened to engulf me as I moved down the length of the boat. Ben hit me on the new mask comms and suggested we do an about face. I forgot to mention we went without hood and gloves for the first dive, incorrectly assuming the water would be warmer!
During our return to the floating dock, we warmed up and enjoyed the view at around 10 feet in depth. I was pretty grateful to be back where the sunlight could smile on me. It was apparent we would need to adjust our dive plans for the remainder of the day.
We ascended just off the dock and floated onto a rocky outcropping where we sat in the water and stewed over our options. We thought about packing up the gear and just heading back up north to Philip’s in Muncie. I could tell Ben wasn’t pleased with the seeing and truth is, I wasn’t either. But what if we stayed shallow and followed the bank around……?
Thankfully Ben didn’t need to much convincing. After a brief surface interval, we slid back beneath the surface and hit 15 feet before shallowing up a bit to see what we could see. By staying in the top 12 feet or so, we were able to take some good video and see some fish. We eventually came across a school bus as well. The back end had been ripped off but you couldn’t see too far in it. The sun didn’t reach that far and it just descended into the cold, inky blackness.
Since this dive had gone so much better, we decided to stay.
Our next surface interval lasted longer. We spied another deck where somebody was fishing and we ventured off to see if we could find it. As it turns out, the dock is owned by one of the regular campers. He explained that the City of Linton owns the lake now. The previous caretaker was an ex-Marine and loved diving. The big draw to Sunset was that it has some of the clearest lake water in Indiana (just not this day). After he passed away, the site hasn’t been kept up as well.
The fact that Sunset Lake remains open for SCUBA at all is wonderful. What it needs though, is a regular dive club to make sure that the features, lines, and site maintenance are kept up. It really has a lot of potential.
Our last dive was another shallow one, just following the shore the opposite way. We hit the downed trees the previous divers told us about and managed to swim our way into a school of bass. The visibility was still unforgiving in most spots but we enjoyed ourselves anyway. The dives weren’t without their high points though. We found a couple statues and platforms as well as lots of plant life and fish.
All in all, we plan to return to Sunset Lake, either in the fall or early spring. Colder water should lend itself to better viz and we think this site has much more to offer. It is a lovely location. The people we met were friendly. Sunset lake has a lot of potential as a dive site. Though not perfect, we enjoyed ourselves and will visit again. Take a look and let us know what you think!