What lurks in the depths of Sand Hollow?

SAND HOLLOW STATE PARK — Sand Hollow State Park outside of Hurricane is home to Sand Hollow Reservoir, a man-made body of water completed in March 2002. The reservoir sits at an elevation of 3,000 feet and has a maximum depth of 95 feet. Hidden in the depths below are a variety of unusual objects that attract divers from Utah and beyond.

The obstacle course and sunken objects are becoming more popular every year,  Tony Mackun, co-owner of the Dive Shack, said. Mackun is also a Washington County Search and Rescue Dive Team volunteer.  

“Divers are attracted to underwater wrecks,” he said. “We just like to see them in the water.”

Air tank that was modified with wings welded to the sides to make resemble a bomb, 30 feet below the surface on the reservoir floor, Sand Hollow State Park, Hurricane, Utah, Sept. 4, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Tony Mackun, St. George News
An air tank modified with wings welded to the sides to make it resemble a bomb can be found 30 feet below the surface on the reservoir floor, Sand Hollow State Park, Hurricane, Utah, Sept. 4, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Tony Mackun, St. George News

Those wrecks and underwater objects include an old Volkswagen bus that has been submerged approximately 40 feet underwater in Sand Hollow for about seven years. Less than 80 yards away lies a Cessna 320 twin-engine airplane that, according to Mackun, originally crashed on St. George Boulevard many years ago.

The Cessna was then placed on the reservoir floor in 2006 by a local dive shop.

The “bomb,” which is actually an air tank that looks like a bomb with fins welded on the side, was found at the bottom during one of the dives.

“It just showed up on the bottom of the lake one day,” Mackun said, “and we have no idea who put it there.”

In deeper water, divers can find a 26-foot Renell Cruiser, a boat that was sunk in the reservoir in 2014 for a Washington County Search and Rescue training. Today it rests at a depth of 60 feet at the base of Birthday Rock.

In shallower waters – approximately 30 feet – sits a white toilet, along with signs pointing to various locations, a buoyancy course and an obstacle course that includes varying pipes and hoops that divers can swim though.

Sunken toilet seat 30 feet below the water in Sand Hollow Reservoir, Sand Hollow State Park, Hurricane, Utah, Sept. 9, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Tony Mackun | St. George News
Sunken toilet seat 30 feet below the water in Sand Hollow Reservoir, Sand Hollow State Park, Hurricane, Utah, Sept. 4, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Tony Mackun | St. George News

It appears that the dive park is gaining popularity, Mackun said, and receives more visitors every year.

“We just had some divers here from Colorado on Friday who told me they specifically came to see the underwater wrecks.”

Sand Hollow State Park Manager Laura Melling confirmed that Sand Hollow has seen an increase in visitors who are there primarily for the dive park and to see the submerged objects.

“I’ve seen more dive clubs come through the park from Salt Lake and other areas,” Melling said, “and that traffic through the sunken objects has increased significantly over the number of individuals or families visiting the park.”

In addition to the sunken objects, Melling said, Sand Hollow also has the added attraction of diving in clear, warm water that is suitable for diving year round.

Despite warm temperatures and clear water, the underwater objects cannot be reached without diving gear. A 35-foot dive would require that the person hold their breath the entire time, even with snorkeling gear. This is not only difficult but could be dangerous, Mackun said, as a condition known as “shallow water blackout” can occur.

underwaterwheel
Steering wheel of sunken Volkswagen bus in Sand Hollow Reservoir, Sand Hollow State Park, Hurricane, Utah, Sept. 4, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Tony Mackun, St. George News

Shallow water blackout can affect even the physically fit swimmer and has been seen in anyone from snorkelers and spear fisherman to Navy Seals and competitive swimmers. It can occur in any body of water, regardless of depth.

As opposed to regular drowning, when brain damage or death can occur in 6-8 minutes, with shallow water blackout, the victim only has approximately 2 1/2 minutes before brain damage and death occur because the brain has already been deprived of oxygen as a result of the person holding their breath.

Anyone interested in diving at Sand Hollow State Park is required to have an open water dive certification card, Melling said, and if a visitor has any questions or inquiries about becoming certified, they are sent to the Dive Shack.

“They can answer any questions and are certified instructors,” Melling said, “and they are right here on the premises.”

The process includes attending classes, completing practice dives and then certification, she said, and in order to rent scuba tanks or equipment, open water certification is required.

Divers also need to remember to use caution if they venture into the Volkswagen or the plane, Mackun said, as they are confined spaces with metal edges.

Email: cblowers@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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3 Comments

  • Bob September 6, 2016 at 12:49 am

    seems kinda odd to purposely dump junk in there. Is it used for tap water or no?

    • Anejo September 6, 2016 at 9:22 am

      Depends on the junk… Strategic dropping, of objects, increases fish harborage. Sand Hollow is a pretty popular bass spot, I’ve heard.

      • .... September 6, 2016 at 3:11 pm

        Anejo .exactly but Bob only sees what he wants to see

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