Buried treasure is all around us in Detroit Lakes, but only a few are willing to dig for it.
That's because the trinkets and valuables are buried not in the earth, but under water.
"People would be so surprised at the things they can find in the lakes around here," said Gary Thompson, otherwise known as "Seal," a nickname he earned because of the amount of time he's spent in the water.
That's about 3,500 recreational and commercial dives over his 44-year diving career.
Thompson is the owner of Discovery Dives in Detroit Lakes. He started out his operation 24 years ago in DL as a store called Tri-State Diving, which sells and rents diving equipment.
"People were always coming in telling me they didn't have a dive buddy or didn't know the good places to dive around here, so I decided to start adding these trips where we take people out and help them just enjoy a day diving," said Thompson.
Thompson's Discovery Dives has been taking certified divers around area lakes for 20 years.
Now, "Seal" is again getting his crew (which consists of five other divers) geared up for another summer full of underwater adventure with weekend trips starting the first weekend in June and going until Labor Day.
Although Tri-State Diving and Discovery Dives operates from Carmen Lake, (located near Little Floyd Lake), the weekend excursions happen all over the area.
"We'll take about eight to 10 people out on the boat for two tank dives," said Thompson, "We'll take a dive in the morning, then take a break and eat something, and then another dive after a while -- it ends up being about three quarters of a day."
Thompson says divers can expect to "discover" an array of things in area lakes, including very old, valuable tools, fishing gear, boats, anchors, old soda and beer bottles, and even 30,000-year-old bison bones.
"I have a collection of about 100 bottles," Thompson says, "One of them is an 1897 whiskey bottle, and another one says 'Diamond Bottling Works, Detroit, Minnesota' -- from back when the town was just 'Detroit.'"
Although Thompson and his fellow divers are fortunate enough to discover these historical artifacts, he encourages divers to leave them in the water for others to one day find.
In addition to old (and sometimes valuable) treasures, Thompson says the freshwater fish are fantastic to see ... all 300 different species of them.
"Walleye, northern, croppies, sunfish, you'll see everything down there. I had a guy come down from Canada who had been diving all over the world and he said he'd never seen so many fish in his whole life than what we had here," said Thompson.
Thompson says the 412 lakes that lie within a 20-mile radius of Detroit Lakes are some of the best fresh water diving in the world.
"We have fantastic visibility in these lakes; in most places throughout the U.S. divers will get an average of about four feet of visibility. If we get 10 feet here, it's bad."
In fact, Thompson says depending on the lake and the time of year, divers can see 25 to 30 feet in the area's glacier-formed lakes.
Discovery Dives only takes certified divers along on these weekend trips, but does offer training for newbies wanting to climb aboard.
To find out more on these underwater adventures, call Tri-State Diving at 218-847-4868, 1-888-SCUBA DO, or log on to www.tri-statediving.com. -- Paula Quam