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No rules, but very, very dangerous. There is usually way more current, there is usually debris, visibility is measured in inches and never more than a foot, but most importantly, boaters will never expect someone to be in the water even if they see a flag and can hit you. Where I live near the Mississippi they call it black water because you can't see anything and only rescue divers pulling out a body go in. My instructor is a cop and does scuba search and rescue and says it the most dangerous thing he has ever had to do. He wont teach anyone black water diving until they have logged over a thousand dives, and says most of those people still quit after just a couple of times trying it.
Does anyone know the rules about diving in rivers? I wasnt sure if there was any restrictions or not. thanks
I've been drift diving in the Clutha river in NZ, was great! We had a dive flag up so definitely bring one of those and just speak to other people who've done it to see about any rules as it would be very location dependent.
Going through rapids is awesome fun but there are big rocks so I had to be careful not to run into them. Depth was 7m, temp 9C and viz about 10m. Sadly there aren't any rivers locally to me to drift in though Here's a pic:
Having dove the river here in Charleston SC (the Cooper River) well over 100 times, I feel I can share some of my perspectives that should be of help to others.
We dive for sharks teeth. Diving for teeth is addictive. I can't explain it. It just is. I found out, many years ago, that diving for teeth and treasures, is NOT about diving. It becomes about the people and the obsessions for finding stuff.
Diving black water is creepy at first. What you find is that once you get to the bottom and lay on the bottom with your powerful flashlight, you start to calm down. Laying on the bottom has a significant calming effect. This works in the ocean also.
Here in Charleston SC, a 3mm suit if fine for the summer months. A 5mm suit works for the late fall and very early spring. The guys from the northern states bring drysuits.
During the colder months a hood, gloves, and warm water poured into the suit helps quite a bit.
Some people weight themselves a little heavier than usual. If the current is slow, this is unnecessary. Sometimes it helps to carry something (like a large screwdriver) to stick into the bottom to hold you in one place. Again, this depends on the current.
Lighting is a big deal when diving black water. Take many lights. The more powerful the better. Take backups and backup batteries.
Any basic BC and regulator are fine. Nothing special needed.
Stay in the gravel beds. Work the gravel beds. Look for gray, pasty, clay. Look for large fragments of bone and tooth. Crab your way to a location on the bottom and in front of the boat. This is so you can float back to the boat upon surfacing.
Diving in rivers is not as dangerous as some might have you believe. True, it is different from lakes, quarries or the ocean. Conditions change daily; sometimes in a matter of a few hours. Visibility is usually limited. The best river visibility I have experienced has been in the Ohio River with visibility of 8 to 10 feet on a good day. It drops to inches after a period of heavy rains due to the runoff. The best days to dive are after a long dry spell with little or no rain (especially upstream). Stay close to the river banks in heavily traveled streams. Rivers are generally shallow and the center of the channel has the most traffic. For example, the main channel of the Ohio averages 22 feet deep in the stretch where I usually dive (Huntington, WV), while the areas nearer the banks average 8 to 10 feet. River tugs and the barges they push can have a draft of ten feet and sometimes 15 feet and their props can suck a diver right off the bottom if they pass directly overhead, hence the warning to stay closer to the banks.
Currents vary. Smaller rivers tend to have stronger currents than larger ones because they are narrower. Just like visibility, the current is affected by rain, both local and upstream. The Ohio River is sluggish (1 knot or less) after a dry spell but can easily hit 5 to 8 knots after a heavy, protracted rain. The Coal River, my most common haunt, can have 1 to 3 ft. visibility and the current averages 2 to 3 knots below Lower Falls and 1 to 2 knots above the falls. Again, this is dependent on rainfall. In extreme conditions, such as flooding, the current can be very fast.
The Kanawha River, where it passes by my house, is the pits for anything but the most necessary of diving (search and recovery, for example). Visibility goes from 8 inches to zero and the bottom is very silty.
In navigable rivers, the artifacts lying on the bottom are shoved to the sides by heavy traffic, so that is where you want to look anyway. The Ohio, Kanawha and Coal Rivers are rich in artifacts dating way back to Pre-Columbian times. These rivers have been important arteries for travel and commerce for thousands of years and untold numbers of travelers have lost things in the water. Just creep along the bottom and keep your eyes open.
River diving can be an adventure, just keeps your eyes (and ears) open, fly a very visible dive flag and take care when surfacing in high traffic areas.
I've been drift diving in the Clutha river in NZ, was great!
The Clutha is a nice river, flag definitely a good idea considering the amount of river traffic she gets at times!
We fairly often do drift dives down the Waikato River in the north island - it's great fun, and generally the most you get on the surface is the odd kayak. We were down there a couple of weeks ago, and one of our guys shot this video: