Diver Seeks Others Willing to Clean Up the Bottom of Canyon Lake
Canyon Lake parks are overflowing with trash left behind by record numbers of tourists surging into the area in search of someplace safe, sunny and scenic to escape COVID-19 restrictions.
Below the water, things are just as bad.
Canyon Lake scuba diver Chris Armstrong spent three and one-half hours at the bottom of the popular Party Cove area a few weeks ago along with Matt Shepherd, another diver from the area. Together they recovered hundreds of sunglasses, swim goggles, cans, bottles and even six anchors and a boat propeller.
“The whole bottom is just covered in aluminum cans,” said Armstrong, who is a 32-year-old fourth-generation Canyon Lake resident who also works as a divemaster at SA Scuba Shack in San Antonio.
At Overlook Park the situation is just as dire.
“I dive there quite a bit, there’s always trash,” he said. “People drop barbecue tanks in there, tents, chairs, anything people take to go to a barbecue or for a little vacation.”
He said Michael Johnson, another area diver, is pulling three to five mesh bags of trash out of the Guadalupe River every day.
Armstrong, whose day job is diving into golf-course ponds across the country to make repairs, wants to help the Canyon Lake community deal with the trash it can’t see.
“I’m trying to get more divers involved in Canyon Lake,” he said. “Lake Travis has its own dive community. Medina has a pretty big dive community. So we’re trying to get a group of divers to take care of Canyon Lake.”
He said there are four scuba-diving businesses in the Canyon Lake area but they aren’t in regular contact with each other.
“People drop barbecue tanks in there, tents, chairs, anything people take to go to a barbecue or for a little vacation.” –scuba diver Chris Armstrong
But divers here have bigger problems, he said.
In the wake of an executive order by County Judge Sherman Krause, Comal County constables and sheriff’s deputies are strictly enforcing laws that limit activities around boat ramps to launching and recovering boats. Swimming, partying or just hanging out are no longer tolerated around these areas.
Divers are being unfairly targeted, he said. To access the lake they need staging areas where they can train new divers, set up circuits, access the lake and explore new dive locations.
“They’ll shut us down before we even get on the water,” he said. “We’re the ones that clean up after the tourists when they leave or throw stuff on the water, yet they’re singling us out.”
North Park used to be especially popular with divers, but with new restricted access to the lake, recreational divers who would ordinarily drive to Canyon Lake the morning of a dive now have to book a spot a day in advance.
“They’ve limited our water access pretty good,” he said.
Hanging Out with the Fish
At 30 feet, Canyon Lake might not be the most scenic underwater realm in Texas, but Armstrong said it’s still filled with cliffs, a few underwater structures (no, not Hancock!), old cars and interesting fish.
When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) began construction of Canyon Dam in 1958, it left cliff faces undisturbed.
The area around the spillway is clear and the rock formations are beautiful, Armstrong said.
However, in some coves visibility is limited to what’s right in front of divers’ hands.
Last year, he told MyCanyonLake.com that he’s found fence posts, house frames, support structures and evidence of old creek beds despite sometimes murky water. Unfortunately for novelty-seekers, USACE gave homeowners ample warning their property would soon lie at the bottom of a huge lake. Everything of value was stripped away.
“There’s still stuff down there, but not as much stuff as people think,” he said.
What lies beneath also includes 30- and 40-foot oak and pecan trees and tons of fishing lines.
“We named one part of it the Forest of 1,000 Lines,” he said. “One of my pictures shows a tree with 50 to 60 fishing lines caught up in the tree limbs.”
At shallower depths, Armstrong said divers encounter lots of rocks where bass, perch and bluegill like to hang out. At 55 feet, the water is dark, with very fine silt. That’s where divers find common carp “that are a lot bigger than we thought they would be.”