Snorkeling Destinations: The Homestead Crater
When you google places to snorkel, you probably aren’t searching for some small town in the middle of the Western United States. There aren’t that many snorkeling destinations in the continental US, let alone in landlocked states in mountainous locations like Utah. Don’t let any preconceived notions fool you; the world famous Homestead Crater located in Midway, Utah on the back side of the Wasatch Mountains is a remarkable destination worth visiting.
The Homestead Resort where the Crater is located came to exist because of the hot springs located in the Midway region. This geologic feature in this geothermal area has attracted attention for at least the past 120 years is continuously fed by a hot spring which dumps heated water from the earth’s interior at a rate of 135,000 gallons per day. The mound over the crater was created by a build-up of mineral rich water which deposited enough sediment to eventually result in a sloping mound of travertine–a distinct landmark in the area.
The 10,000 year old hot spring used to attract miners and travelers passing through or working locally who would soak in the spring to ease their aches and pains. What once served as a refuge from the rough life of an early 20th century laborer has now become a popular destination for snorkelers and scuba divers because of the perpetually warm and beautiful water.
Although used for 100 plus years, it was only available for those who wanted to get a permit to rappel down from the opening above the geo-thermal well. The crater became accessible to the general public on July 12, 1996 after the completion of an extensive project that opened up a 110 foot tunnel along the north side of the rock formation so people could walk through–a fair alternative to having to risk life and limb by rappelling from the exposed rooftop. The dome itself is about 55 feet high and has a 400 foot wide diameter at the base.
The water inside of the Crater is incredible—a stunning sapphire shade of blue which stays at a remarkable year-round temperature of at least 90 degrees despite the frigid and snow-filled Utah winters. This trait means that scuba divers, snorkelers, or just swimmers are constantly flocking to the geothermal hot spring. I visited on what I thought would be a quiet afternoon but was surprised to see a steady and significant stream of bathers and scuba divers throughout the weekday afternoon.
The interior of the Crater is something spectacular. The opening of the travertine formation sits about 45 feet above the azure water. The warm mineral water is so blue and deep that you can’t see the bottom which is about 65 feet below the surface. You can watch scuba divers disappear into the dark abyss as you stand on the wooden deck and enjoy the warm air heated by the thermal water.
Dr. Jerry Simons of Midway conceived, designed, an financed the Crater project that included opening the Crater to the public, an ongoing archeological research project, as well as making it a scuba destination for divers all across the nation.
The archaeological project under direction of Dr. Simons explores the 8-14 foot layer of silt on the bottom of the crater floor. They have since found thousands of artifacts including coins and firearms.
Dr. Simons invested a lot of time and money into giving the public access to the Crater because of its unique nature. An experienced scuba instructor, he said “there exists no other warm-water scuba site as unique as The Homestead Crater in the interior of the US and possibly the world where divers also have the amenities of a resort with lodging, excellent food, and other recreational activities.”
Visiting the Crater
If you’re planning to enjoy the warm water at The Homestead Crater, it’ll take a little prior planning. Just give them a call to book a 40 minute time slot (435-657-3840) and arrive 10-15 minutes prior to your appointment. You won’t want to go straight to the Crater itself, but will need to check in at the Crater Activities Center first. Here, you’ll sign a waiver, pay your fee, and then you’re good to go!
You have a few activity options during your visit: snorkel, scuba, or just an old fashioned soak—I spent most of my time snorkeling.
You might wonder what there is to see in 90 degree crater water. The answer? Not a whole lot. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really glad I hauled my snorkeling gear with me to Midway, but it’s not as if there’s an inordinate amount to see. I did get a kick out of watching the scuba divers submerge down, down, down, until all that remained as evidence of their presence was surfacing bubbles. I also enjoyed snorkeling around the perimeter of the Crater and seeing all the ancient-looking rock formations. Other than that, there’s not too much you can see. Let me be clear, though, I DID think it was worth it to snorkel. There’s something about getting that perspective with your head under water that is unique and memorable.
There are two separate built-in soaking areas where people can just enjoy the water, similar to a hot tub. If you don’t leave this area, you won’t have to wear a life vest. If you are a regular swimmer however, you’ll need to wear one as you swim around. Bring your own if you don’t want to have to borrow one from the Crater.
The water itself is really wonderful. Upon first entering the water, I felt immediately relaxed. The temperature is relative to a really warm tub, not uncomfortable for long periods of time like a hot tub. Not to mention how great it makes your skin feel. After exiting, I couldn’t help but feel like the mineral-rich water had made my skin soft and refreshed.
You don’t have to be a guest at The Homestead Resort to gain access to the Crater. You can visit any day of the week, although the rates do vary depending on the activity you’re interested in or and when you’d like to visit. If you do plan on making a weekend of it, you may want to check out some of the seasonal packages offered from the resort which include golf, scuba, horseback riding, or skiing.
Hours and Rates
*You MUST have a reservation, no matter the activity. They ask that you arrive 10-15 minutes before your appointment.
- Monday-Thursday: 12:00 PM-8:00 PM
- Friday-Saturday: 10:00 AM-8:00 PM
- Sunday: 10:00 AM-6:00 PM
- Crater Tour: Open to the public every hour on the half hour.
Each activity (soak, swim, snorkel) can be enjoyed for 40 minutes at a time and the prices vary depending on the day of the week.
- Monday-Thursday: $11
- Friday-Sunday: $16
- Snorkel equipment rental: $5
- Scuba Experience (one hour instruction w/equipment): $100 any day of the week.
Certified scuba divers can enjoy the water for 35 minutes at a time.
- Monday-Thursday: $22
- Friday-Sunday: $27
- Equipment Rental: $25
- Tank Only Rental: $7.50
- Scuba Refresher Course (bring your diving skills up to date with an instructor): $100
You can also get scuba certified through the crater. The course includes classroom study and in-water instruction. After passing the certification test, students will receive four crater dives over a two day period. Prices for this begin at $395 a person.
A special thank you to Craig Simons and Eddie Zite for their help at the Crater! Two very helpful and knowledgeable guys–you’re in good hands at The Homestead Crater.
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