Handguns in varying states of decay, all removed by the Detroit Police Department dive team from the Detroit River, are seen in this undated photo. photo from Detroit Police via USA Today.

Detroit is a pretty rough and run down place these days. We’ve reported that crime has gotten so bad and the police force has become so small in the nearly abandoned city, that the Detroit Police Chief urged citizens to arm and defend themselves and hundreds of Detroit women are taking gun classes.

But did you know that civilians are banned from diving in the Detroit River—partly because the murky waterway contains so much criminal evidence, including guns?

This story from USA Today says that visibility is so poor, ranging from eight feet on a good day to nothing on a bad day, that scuba divers with the Detroit Police Underwater Recovery Team make many of their discoveries by running their hands along the river bottom.

The story says police have recovered hundreds of guns from the river, including 11 at one time in the span of one archway of the MacArthur bridge connecting Belle Isle to the mainland. In the police dive team heaquarters, there’s a mounted M1 Carbine rifle from between WWII and the 1960s. On the same wall there’s a propeller from a sunken Prohibition-era rum runner boat found near the bridge.

The Detroit River is Full of Guns
Detroit Police officer Donnie Espinoza is seen at the bottom of the Detroit River with a Derringer-style pistol in this undated photo. photo from Detroit Police via USA Today web photo

Some other wild things have been pulled from the water, including a DeLorean in the 1980s, and more recently, a Jeep Cherokee and a Nissan Xterra. In 2009 a police diver found a bronze statue stolen from the Grosse Pointe War Memorial.

Six 1700s-era cannons have been pulled from the river from the 1980s to 2011, with the most recent measuring six feet long and weighing about 1,300 pounds. The story says they’re probably connected to a pre-War of 1812 inventory kept by the British military. An expert suspects there are three more cannons in the same area.

The story also says that because of the sediment and the fresh water of the river, as opposed to rivers located near or fed by bodies of salty water, the artifacts in the Detroit River ware so well preserved that they’re instantly recognizable instead of just being blobs of rust.

According to the story, experts things there might be even more history, and more guns, on the Canadian side of the river, where Detroit police divers aren’t allowed to operate. Individuals must acquire a federal permit to dive there.

For the full story from USA Today, including numerous photos of the recovered items, go here.