The OJ Walker was built in 1862 in Burlington, VT and was a schooner-rigged sailing canal boat similar to its neighbor the General Butler. It is required that all divers sign up to dive this wreck. The wreck sits is 65 feet of water and it is recommended for intermediate- experienced divers. The ships wheel and aft cabin hatch cover are in place and are extremely fragile; please avoid contact. The mast, boom, anchors, and most rigging parts can be seen around the vessel. Many bricks and tiles still lie on deck and scattered off the port side along with the hand carts for moving them. PLEASE DO NOT disturb or take any artifacts. ** Diving permit required for this vessel. Do not penetrate the wreck! Removal of artifacts, Including bricks or other objects around the wreck is ILLEGAL.
Ferris Rock/Schuyler Island -
One of our favorite sites, Ferris Rock, rises off the bottom of the lake to about 3’ then goes back into the depths. Located in the middle of the lake, this ‘wanna be’ island has many interesting geological features. To the west, a wall complete with fossils and an old buoy which marked the rock years ago. To the south, huge rocks and overhangs resembling an old coral reef structure and to the east and north, a slow drop-off with more overhangs and yet another buoy that sank. Right at the highest point of the rock, you’ll see several metal plates, left there by a ferry that strayed too far north and struck the rock.
Schuyler Island is a large uninhabited island at the end of Willsboro Bay. After diving Ferris Rock, we usually stop at Schuyler for a shallower dive. Several wrecks are located around the island, though the ice has crushed some of them, and near an abandoned dock, are many bottles and an unidentified engine.
Willsboro Bay – A fiord-like bay with steep cliffs on the western shore that continue underwater straight down to 120+ feet. A railroad bed cut into the cliff provides opportunities to find train artifacts, tools, signals, and other finds, even a few boxcars. The eastern shore of the bay slopes off gently with a rocky bottom and is a popular anchorage for cruisers. Many anchors, tools and boat parts are lost overboard for us to find. At the mouth of the bay is our favorite bottle site. Bring a goodie bag, you'll need it!
More Wrecks* -
The first dives for most people into Lake Champlain are to the wrecks of the Vermont Historic Preserve. Three of these are located in Burlington Harbor, just a short boat ride from Jones’ Aqua Sports in Willsboro.
The General Butler is an 88’ sailing canal boat that sank during a storm on December 9, 1876. Loaded with marble blocks, it can be found in 40’ of water outside the breakwater. You can still see the unsuccessful emergency repairs attempted on the tiller.
The Horse-powered Ferry is located off North Beach and is the only known example of the teamboat design. Two horses walked on a turntable that, through a series of gears and shafts, drove the paddle wheels. Though fragile, the wreck gives the diver a view of a design that was popular on the lake during the 1830’s and 1840’s.
The Coal Barge (believed to be the A.R. Noyes) sits in 65’ to 80’ of water near Shelburne Bay. In addition to its cargo, the wreck sports several shovels and a harness for one of the mules that towed the barge through the canal.
A northern wreck of the Preserve, the Phoenix, is a ferry that burned to the waterline and sank in 100’ of water near Colchester Shoal. Because of the depth and the usually cold water, this is a dive for advanced divers and dry suits are recommended.
*Some text excerpted from "Dive Historic Lake Champlain – Lake Champlain's Underwater Historic Preserve System", a booklet printed by the State of Vermont Division for Historic Preservation and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, available at our dive shops.
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