A coastline that features a castle. The words "scuba diving in the 1000 islands" is written over the castle.

The Ultimate Guide To Scuba Diving In The 1000 Islands (Alexandria Bay)

Trust me, 1000 Island scuba diving on the St. Lawrence River off of the picturesque Alexandria Bay will have you singing Islands in the Stream!

Aerial view of 1000 islands.
It’s hard to beat the many wonderful views you can find in the 1000 Islands

General excellent underwater visibility and water temperatures during the summer months and into Fall – along with amazing shipwrecks with cool history – all help to lead to an adventurous diving experience.

Let’s go exploring!

The pilothouse of The Keystorm sunken underwater in the 1000 islands
Visibility is generally very good…like here on the pilothouse of the Keystorm.

1000 Islands/Alexandria Bay Scuba Diving

The mighty St. Lawrence River is a major transportation artery for modern day freighters traversing through the Great Lakes to and from the Atlantic Ocean. It flows over 500 miles from Lake Ontario and with the inclusion of the Welland Canal comprises of 15 different Locks to account for its water level differences.

A large freighter passing through St. Lawrence River
it’s not unusual to see, and hear if down below, large freighters passing by while diving.

There are over 1,800 islands in the St. Lawrence and a good number of them are within reach of the beautiful town of Alexandria Bay, sitting in Northern New York. As such, Alexandria Bay is a good spot to stay in between dives and/or grab some food and beverages after a full day of diving.

Aerial view of Alexandria Bay.
Alexandria Bay has much to offer in between your diving adventures. (Photo courtesy of I Love NY)

Dive Shops and Operators

My main go to for diving operations has been Arrow Charters. Capt. Carl (“Coach”) and his friendly staff are topnotch and helpful. They know the region by hand and are excellent guides and hosts.

Whether novice divers or more experienced, Coach and his crew have you covered for boat charters to explore various shipwrecks for all the various skill levels. They also offer training, such as advanced diver training.

Scuba Jay posing with friends on a boat.
Scuba Jay and the Botticelli Scuba Squad getting ready for a day of diving Arrow Charters.

Other dive operations in the area include Blue Foot Diving and Hunt’s Dive Shop. If looking for nitrox fills, you can check out All About Scuba right outside of the entrance of Alexandria Bay.

Pick your charter and get on with your underwater tours to see the underwater life – including fish like largemouth bass, yellow perch, rainbow trout and pink salmon – and incredibly well preserved wrecks lying in both shallow and deep waters.

Scuba Diving Sites

An estimated several thousand ships have sunk down to their final home of the St. Lawrence River bottom. And in and around the Alexandria Bay region there are plenty of shipwrecks well preserved beneath the surface of the waves.

The Islander

The Islander is a great shore dive site for novice divers and a good place to practice skills before heading out on your dive boat charter. The nice and easy access point is right in town, but with limited parking.

Scuba Jay and friends posing in front of the entrance for the Islander.
Scuba Jay and crew at the shore entrance for the Islander.

The Islander was a 125ft long sidewheel steamer built in 1871. It sank in 1909 after catching fire. Her burnt remains lie in between about 15ft to 60ft of water.

Commemorative plaque for the Islander.
Commemorative plaque for the Islander.

Water clarity is usually pretty good here and divers can explore the port and starboard side of this hollowed out wreck while spotting various ship parts.

Port side of the Islander underwater in the 1000 islands.
The port side of the Islander with some ship debris.

Snorkeling here is also possible and a float and flag should be used by divers as boats are frequently passing by. Overall, the Islander is a great shore dive for all experience levels.

SS Keystorm

As the St. Lawrence was and is a main shipping route, you’ll find plenty of shipwrecks that went down transporting goods. The Keystorm is one such wreck and is most likely the most dove wreck in the Thousand Islands.

The pilothouse of the Keystorm underwater in the 1000 islands.
The pilothouse of the Keystorm.

This 250ft long steel freighter was built in 1910. It sank after running aground on a fog filled night in 1912 (the same year the Titanic sank) while transporting coal. She is magnificently preserved, albeit with some zebra mussels, which are the invasive species that plagues all shipwrecks in the River and Great Lakes.

Lying on her starboard side on a bank, the Keystorm’s bow can be reached at about 25ft.

Divers can make there way down to the accessible three large holds (still containing some of the coal it was carrying). Continuing down, divers will see two large booms and at the aft wheel house there are other ship parts – such as portholes and an exhaust funnel – to see.

At about 115ft from the surface, divers can see the large propeller that is halfway buried in the River bottom.

An extremely fun drift on this wreck can occur as you follow the wreck back up the port side. A short distance from the propeller you will find an opening under the wreck and the water current will whoosh you trough back to the other side. Thrilling indeed!!

While the Keystorm’s bow is in relatively shallow water, there is current on this wreck and it is a dive more suitable for advanced divers.

A.E. Vickery

Looking to dive on wooden schooners? Look no further. Two beautiful wooden schooners that can be found not too far from Alexandria Bay are the A.E. Vickery and the Maggie L. Both wrecks have spent many years at the bottom of the Saint Lawrence River and offer much to explore.

Traveling to the Vickery and Maggie L. will take you under the impressive Thousand Island International bridge.

First up is the Vickery. This 136ft long schooner was built in 1861 and sank after striking a shoal in 1889. The wreck has a buoy attached to it and lies at an angle on a wall that drops down below recreational limits.

Heading down, divers will see the still in place railings on the ship’s port side and hit the bow at about 65ft. Once on the bow, stop to check out the windlass.

Following the wreck down deeper you will pass the ship’s hold, which is an excellent photo opportunity.

Past the hold, drop down from the stern to see the large intact rudder, which is at about 118ft. As you are making your way back up, dive inside of the ship, which is easily accessible. Then continue your way back up to the bow for your exit and trip back to the surface.

Scuba Jays daughter in the hold of the Vickery underwater in the 1000 islands.
Scuba Jay’s daughter Sofia in the hold of the Vickery.

Make sure to hold onto the buoy heading down and up as there is a strong current at this site and plenty of boat traffic in the area. As with all the dives in the river, wear gloves to protect from the zebra mussels.

The Vickery allows you to see one of the most beautifully preserved old shipwrecks in the region and is an excellent advanced dive!

The Maggie L.

This 67ft wooden schooner sank to the bottom of the St. Lawrence after being hit by a steel freighter in 1927. The blow severed the bow – which is still missing – causing the Maggie to sink instantaneously.

Painting of the Maggie L.
The Maggie L. in better days before her collision. (Photo courtesy of the Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston )

This is not a snorkeling or novice dive site. While the wreck is usually buoyed, the stern lies in 75ft of water and there can be a strong current here on the way down and up.

For those that venture down, you will find the stern section nicely intact with rudder, holds and broken mast.

Take a close look around once on the wreck and you will see a stack of some of the bottles she was carrying as well as some of the china that was on board…please make sure to leave everything for future divers to enjoy!

Scuba Jay and his daughter taking photos underwater on the Maggie L. wreck.
Scuba Jay and daughter Sofia photographing some of the china that was on the Maggie L.

The America

You’ll want to make sure this unusual wreck is a part of your 1000 Island scuba diving underwater tour.

The America underwater in the 1000 islands.
The America lies upside down on the river bottom. (Photo courtesy of Warren Lo photography)

This 92ft long blasting barge that was used to clear the Saint Lawrence River for shipping traffic. It was sent to the bottom of the River in 1932 following an accidental explosion in 1932.

The barge came to rest upside down in about 75ft of water just off of the historic Singer Castle (see below) on Dark Island…que the spooky music!

Aerial view of Singer castle.
The America lies just off of Dark Island, which is home to Singer Castle. (Photo courtesy of Singercastle.com)

The mooring buoy for the America is in shallow waters. Divers will follow the mooring line down to the America’s long Anchor chain. They will then follow the chain to a drop-off and down to the wreck below.

The wreck is pretty impressive and a rather interesting dive. For those trained and adventurous, you can go under the wreck, but be careful not to stir up the oily-silt bottom.

Given the current and depth at this site, this is an advanced dive. Also, large freighters are frequently passing by and this makes for an exciting experience if down below.

The Henry C. Daryaw

This 219ft long steel freighter was built in 1919 and sank in 1941 after hitting a shoal. She finally came to rest turtled between two shoals at a depth of about 95ft.

The dual propellers of the Henry C. Daryaw underwater in the 1000 islands.
The dual propellers of the turtled Henry C. Daryaw (Photo courtesy of Warren Lo photography)

This wreck also has a mooring buoy and divers are well advised not to let go of it as the current is significant! Once on the wreck there are lines along the starboard side that divers can hold on to as they make their way from the bow to the impressive propellers and rudder.

This is an exhilarating dive for advanced divers, but HOLD ON TO THAT LINE!!

Other Activities

The St. Lawrence region has plenty of interesting and fun things to do above the waves as well. Alexandria Bay has many nice restaurants and fun little shops. Visitors also can go out on the River to experience the region from one of many boat tours.

Boldt Castle and Singer Castle

Not all the castles are in Europe. In Alexandria Bay you can find two – Boldt and Singer – but you’ll need a boat to get there as they are on their own islands.

Boldt Castle is a beautiful place to visit, but with a heartbreaking story. In 1900 millionaire George Boldt began building his dream summer home to honor his wife. However, just months before the castle was completed in 1904 his wife passed. George was in despair and ordered all work to stop. the castle sat incomplete and vacant for over seventy years.

Aerial view of Boldt castle in the 1000 islands.
Mrs. Boldt can rest easy as the castle built in her honor is a beautiful attraction.

In 1977 the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired the property and has since worked hard to restore this landmark to it’s glory. For an added attraction make sure to take a water taxi over to the Boldt Castle Yacht House.

Singer castle or “the towers” was built by Frederick Bourne, fifth president of the Singer Sewing Machine Company. Completed in 1905, the castle had four story towers, over 20 rooms, a two story icehouse and a boathouse.

This furnished castle allows for wedding events and even overnights for up to six people with dinner and a private tour. Even if not sleeping over, you’ll want to see this historic location.

Boat Tours

Uncle Sam Boat Tours are a fantastic way to explore the islands around Alexandria Bay. They offer shuttles to Boldt and Singer Castle and various options for tours depending on how much time you have to spend out on the water. There are even lunch, dinner and 4th of July cruises.

Uncle sams boat tours in the water of the St. Lawrence River.
Book yourself a boat tour of the St. Lawrence, you wont regret it! (Photo courtesy of Uncle Sam Boat Tours)

Wrapping Things Up

As the sun sets in all its glory over the scenery and you reminisce about your diving adventures, you’ll be happy you made the trip to Alexandria Bay and the 1000 Islands.

Sunset off of the water in the 1000 islands.
You’ll be thinking of a return visit to Alexandria Bay as your current trip comes to a close.

“How boring would the world be if everywhere and everyone were the same. Safe travels and good adventures.” Scuba Jay

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