As Ben and I were looking around for new places to dive and stories to tell, we came across Haigh Quarry which is billed as the Caribbean of the Midwest. Kankakee, Illinois is only about two and a half hours from my place, so we made a last minute decision to hop up that way to see what Haigh was all about.
We piled everything into my new to me Mazda 3 just to see if we could fit all our gear and tanks in for these trips. She was squatting a bit by the time we had the trunk packed but there was plenty of room for the two of us. We started out at 7 am and stopped for our usual road breakfast of champions - three sausage burritos and large ice water.
After a brief sojourn through some of the smaller towns just north of Indianapolis and a wrong turn or two, we made it out to interstate. Up I65 and a left on IN 10 took us right there. The place has a big sign and is hard to miss.
We drove back through the trees and turned left past the giant catfish and marlin statues. One of the guys in the shop flagged us into the shop lot where we hopped out to sign our waivers. The shop walls are painted with all kinds of awesome and the place was inviting. Rows of tanks and buckets of gear surrounded us as we walked to the front desk.
The late owner’s wife, Tina, greeted us and had waivers ready to sign. For an extra $8 they sell a sweet little slate and pencil with a map of the quarry and compass headings to the major features. Definitely a recommended upgrade if you make the trip.
The quarry is more or less divided into a deep side and a shallow side. The place was crawling with new divers doing check outs and such but the quarry is plenty big to accommodate.
We chose to avoid the crowd and check out the deep side. Parking over there was sparse but we still managed to find a spot close to the dock. There was plenty of shade and several picnic tables so we just threw down the dive mat and started putting everything together.
Our first dive was intended to be a familiarization dive with the new camera rig. We dive to 15 feet and swam out to the first buoy. The line there drops to 60 feet and you end up on an old fire truck. Others had kicked up the area and visibility wasn’t great.
Since the camera operation was new to us, we decided the first dive may have been a bit ambitious. Dive number two was an out and back along the wall to the right of the dock. This one was a lot more comfortable and gave Ben an opportunity to fiddle with the focus and camera settings. We found a large group of very friendly bluegill that were happy to see us.
During our surface interval, we decided to ask around about places to eat. Since it was cool outside, we just stayed in our drysuits and drove up to the shop. “Hey Mickey” was on the radio as we walked up which quickly turned into a drysuit dance party with Tina, who came out to greet us.
Tina gave us directions into town and a quick history of the quarry. Her late husband owned a tree business and bought the quarry to dump cut trees in. After they turned the water lumps off and allowed it to fill with water, they decided that SCUBA would be a better use. They never dumped a single tree in it. By the way, Tina came up with the “Caribbean of the Midwest” title. We thought she did pretty good.
After some Checkers, we got back in to explore the cove between the two floating docks. Check out what we came up with:
All told, we want to go back to Haigh. We didn’t even come close to seeing all it has to offer and we spent the whole day there! They have a great dive community and the ownership is wonderful. It also ranked as one of the top 10 places to go in the Midwest. Be sure to check this one out! We leave you with some fun video of us kicking around the quarry on our dives. Enjoy!