What it’s like to dive in the Mississippi River: A peek inside Baton Rouge’s murky waters



The average diver from Baton Rouge travels off-shore for the sport. The Mississippi River’s waters, after all, are too cloudy and full of hazardous debris.

But some don’t get to choose which waters they swim in, as they search for lost items or even bodies. Public safety divers across the state swim in these murky depths. They perform their jobs based off the feel of the ground and the sand around them. These divers have special equipment that allows them to communicate with those on land.

On land, members of police departments and government agencies analyze images from the divers. Those in Louisiana have a central place to train: the Shell Training Center in Robert. There, divers like Rebecca Melson coach those who have an aversion to diving in these waters, teaching them to cope with the visibility changes.

“If you have something that bothers you, it’s going to be multiplied ten-fold in a no visibility environment,” Melson says.

Most Baton Rouge officials start their training somewhere clearer: Seven Seas Diving Shop on Essen Lane. Kelly Cohagan and his family run Seven Seas, where they train anyone willing to learn. Their indoor training facility is the only one of its kind in Baton Rouge.

“We try to keep our classes between eight to 10 people and one instructor,” Cohagan says.

He adds that this clear environment is the only type of water that a novice diver should touch.

Despite all its challenges, there’s nothing like breathing and seeing underwater. In a safe environment, diving is an experience that draws people in again and again—even in our state’s city on the river. Watch the first video in 225‘s new Between the Lines series for more.