Yellowstone National Park

The Best Idea

Noted American writer and environmentalist Wallace Stegner famously called the national park idea “the best idea we ever had.” The National Park Service has its 100th birthday this year. Divers everywhere should celebrate.

Say “National Park” and immediately everyone thinks about a couple of the big ones, Yellowstone and Yosemite. Fewer people know that the National Park Service preserves more than 400 parks, monuments, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, scenic rivers and trails covering more than 84 million acres in every one of the United States. Fewer still know that many of these harbor great diving.

Buck Island Reef National Monument

How about diving on some of the most spectacular stands of elk horn coral in the Caribbean at Buck Island Reef National Monument near St. Croix in the Virgin Islands? Diving here is “as easy as falling off a three-legged stool,” according to the NPS website.

Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park

Don’t forget to bring fresh water when you dive the Dry Tortugas National Park, west of Key West in Florida, there’s none out there. But there are 67,000 acres of coral reefs and sea grass beds teeming with fish, mollusks and crustaceans. And more than 250 wrecks stacked on top of each other.

Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park


It’s hard to have a bad dive at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park on the Big Island in Hawaii. Sunlight filtering through lava tubes and sea caves illuminates myriad reef fish that keep a weather eye out for predatory jacks and sharks prowling the coral encrusted rocky drop offs.

Those are just a few of the more obvious opportunities. At Isle Royal National Park in Michigan, plenty of perfectly preserved shipwrecks wait for adventurous divers. There’s a ripping drift dive at Ringbolt Rapids on the Colorado River a few miles downstream of the Hoover Dam and geysers bubbling beneath the surface of Yellowstone Lake beckon divers equipped for the altitude of perhaps the most famous national park of them all.

Join the party and find a park near you at or read another PADI article about National Parks.


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