“I grew up snorkeling all over the greater Williamsport area,” says Loyalsock High School graduate Gabe Cellini. “Some of my fondest memories are when my grandfather, brother and I would snorkel behind Bowman Field on Lycoming Creek. We would ride our bikes over in the morning with all of our snorkel gear, fishing rods, and lunch and spend the entire day there.”
Perhaps the notion of a youth spent snorkeling in the Susquehanna Valley seems unlikely. But actually, a wide spectrum of underwater activities is available on area waterways; some involve two local shops that provide not only equipment but also service and training for year-round scuba-diving in Central PA.
Scuba diver photo courtesy of Rich Best.
Local snorkelers and scuba-divers enjoy wildlife in and on the water; they dive at night and during winter; go “snorkel-fishing”; clean up tires and other waste; search competitively for pre-sunk “treasure”; and of course, they explore bottom-dwelling boats and lumber cribs—not to mention sunken trains.
Cellini, who lives and works locally after four years serving in the U.S. Marines, has observed “all types of fish, amphibians and crustaceans” in Loyalsock and Lycoming creeks—including catfish, turtles, waterfowl, muskrats, beavers and even otters.
“You’ll also find crayfish, which I like to use for ‘snorkel fishing,’ ” he said. “I attach one to a few feet of line, swim up to a structure, let the crayfish go and catch everything from rock bass to channel catfish. It’s amazing to see how fish act in their natural environments, especially if you’re an angler.”
Cellini recommends waiting till summer when the water warms up—though “if you were really serious about it, you could purchase an insulated diving suit and start a little early.”
But for that, you have to know what you’re doing, and this is where the two local dive-shops come in.
Sunken Treasure Scuba Center in Jersey Shore and A Water Odyssey Scuba in Williamsport both offer equipment, service, training and trips for beginners and experts alike.
Sunken Treasure is now in its 44th year under owner Rich Best, while A Water Odyssey, overseen by Frank Morrow and his wife, Lynn, has been in operation since 1965. Each offers scuba certification through PADI (the Professional Association of Diving Instructors)—along with sales, repair, rentals and refills.
Best, who was PADI instruction-certified in 1979, told On the PULSE that he tries to organize a dive “every other weekend, generally at Jay Street in Lock Haven.” In addition, “We do two underwater cleanups each year, along with just picking up trash when we see it”—plus night-dives, underwater pumpkin-carving contests and even some forays with metal-detectors.
Scuba diver photo courtesy of Rich Best.
Best scuba spots
Meanwhile Morrow, with over 50 years’ experience, was also certified to instruct in 1979. As with so many other lifelong divers, his interest in scuba stems from Jacques Cousteau, and he began diving as a youth in the Finger Lakes with his younger brother.
Locally, says Morrow, the water is rarely deeper than 25 feet. Nonetheless, “there are many places to explore the underwater world in Central PA. Loyalsock Creek, Lycoming Creek and the West Branch are open to exploration. Most divers dive the local area from May to October. Some limit their trips to warmer times of year, and a few enjoy diving beneath the ice in winter.”
Morrow adds that in addition to these recreational activities, many local divers work tirelessly—and often voluntarily—to help locate submerged items for criminal investigations, and to recover drowning victims.
Loyalsock resident Al Almarzouqi, who has dived all over the world—and who got married underwater off Key Largo in 2001—points out that there is good public access at Lock Haven’s Jay Street Bridge. He also recommends former train trestles along the Pine Creek Rail Trail—plus the so-called “Cannon Hole,” a deep spot where Loyalsock Creek flows into the Susquehanna.
Almarzouqi likewise suggests the Arch Street Bridge, “where there are tons of old log cribs and also sunken parts of an old train. I have not done that dive in years, but in the summer, parts of that train would be visible from our boat.”
Several other locals mentioned log cribs—large wooden structures that held logs together during downriver runs in the glory days…
Continue reading On the PULSE