Florence – North Jetty End of the Road Parking Lot

The north jetty on the Siuslaw River at Florence is a great place to do some diving on the Oregon Coast.  At the west parking lot near the observation tower, a short jetty scramble leads to good spearfishing and crabbing.  If you plan your dive with the tide, you can drift dive this site riding the tide out from the SCUBA Park to the east or head that direction if you ride the tide in.

North Jetty in Florence, Oregon

The western parking lot along the north jetty at Florence is a more difficult entrance and exit than the SCUBA park to the east but is a quieter dive site and often has good spearfishing. “North Jetty in Florence, Oregon” by Rick Obst is licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

Site Highlights:

The main reason we dive this site is to go spearfishing and crabbing.  While Crab Hole further east on the north jetty gets fished all the time, the further west part of the north jetty gets less hunting.  We have done some drift dives here as well where we follow the tide back toward Florence.

Nearest Town:

Florence, Oregon is just up the north jetty.

GPS Coordinates:

44.018318, -124.137102

Special Directions to Site:

From US101, head west on 35th Street.  Take a right on Rhododendron Drive then take a left on North Jetty Drive.  Follow North Jetty Drive all the way to the end.

Parking:

There is usually plenty of free parking right by the jetty.  Check the signs to make sure the situation hasn’t changed, but we’ve never paid for parking here.

Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google.
There are a lot of options to dive this site. You can hop in at the SCUBA Park entrance and ride the tide as a drift dive to an exit at the west parking lot on the Florence north jetty. Or you can stick close to the west parking lot. Or you can head for the ocean and hop out along the jetty and walk back across the sand.

Site Orientation:

The site runs east-west.  Stick close to the jetty rocks.  We haven’t found much of interest out in the channel other than a bunch of sand.

As you get further west, conditions deteriorate.  The dive becomes more advanced the closer to the tip of the jetty you get.

If you run this as a drift dive, you can drift all the way back to Crab Hole.  Watch for the big underwater pipe that marks the exit through the fish ladder.

Entrances and Exits:

The main entrance/exit here is over the jetty at the parking lot.  If you end up out toward the end of the jetty, you can hop out and walk back on the beach.  If you head in toward Crab Hole, you can get out at the fish ladder.  Just watch for the pipe underwater that leads to the exit.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a salt water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a shore dive.

Normal Conditions:

The further to the west you go, the rougher the conditions will get.  At the entrance, you’ll probably find surf and some surge.  Further to the west, you’ll run into much rougher conditions unless the sea is calm.  Breakers routinely crash over the north jetty at the Y-shaped tip.

The current can really rip going into or out of the Siuslaw River.  If you plan your dive right, you can do a great drift dive from the parking lot in toward Crab Hole and then back out again to the parking lot.  If you’re diving around low tide, you could head out on the last ebb of the low tide and then get pushed back into the river by the inrushing tide.  However, this is a more advanced dive.

Normal Visibility:

We usually get 15-20 feet of visibility here.  The bottom is heavy sand and doesn’t easily get stirred up.

Normal Temperature:

We’ve seen anywhere between 45F and 55F depending on the time of year.

Best Time of Year:

The water is usually calmer in the summer and fall here but the site is diveable any time of the year assuming that water conditions aren’t too rough.  If they are too rough, try Crab Hole, or the Woahink west or east boat ramps.

Max Depth:

It’s usually around 35 feet deep at the bottom of the jetty although depending on what the Army Corps of Engineers is doing with dredging the center channel, the depth can vary.

Suggested Special Training:

It would be a good idea to have advanced open water training for this site.  The eastern part of the site is diveable by less experienced divers but the western part of the site requires a lot of experience diving on Oregon jetties.

Difficulty of Dive:

We consider this an intermediate dive as long as you stay far enough inside the jetty.  If you head west toward the tip, this becomes a very advanced and difficult dive.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

You can usually find parking right next to the jetty but sometimes you might have to walk 200 feet.

Surface Swim Length:

No surface swim is needed here.

Special Site Notes:

Conditions can deteriorate rapidly at this dive site.  The further west you go, the worse it can get.  Be sure you know what you’re doing here.  Don’t get sucked out to sea or pushed way up in the bay.

We suggest flying a dive flag while you’re diving case anyone with a small boat ventures over toward the jetty to check out your bubbles.  We have a dive flag we love and use all the time around Oregon over on our Gear We Use page.

[Underwater Map of Dive Site Coming Soon!]

Closest Local Dive Shops to Get Air Fills and SCUBA Gear:

There used to be an air fill station in Florence but we heard that it is now closed.  The closest place to get a full service on SCUBA gear and air fills is now Eugene.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

Florence’s old town on the waterfront has a lot of great restaurants.  River otters along the Siuslaw River provide some great entertainment, too.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

There are several state campgrounds in the area that we have stayed at.  We haven’t tried any of the local hotels so please let us know if you know of a good place for divers to stay the night.

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

Please write in the comments below your experiences with this dive site!

Woahink Lake West Boat Ramp and Bridge

The west boat ramp by the bridge on Woahink Lake is a dive that just about every one of our SCUBA friends in Oregon has done at least once.  It is a popular place for training dives and a fun place to rinse gear in fresh water after diving at the SCUBA park on the Florence jetty.  While the site is relatively small and visibility can be poor, people keep coming back here because of the quirky things left underwater by other divers.  Everyone always seems to mention the KISS concert whenever they talk about this site.

Site Highlights:

The reason that we come to this site is to see what new things have been added to the treasure trove of random stuff that divers have left underwater.  Someone posed figurines of the band KISS into a mini concert on the north side of the dive site.  There’s a toilet or two with funny things in the bowls.  On the south end, we heard there might be a sunken model submarine.

Nearest Town:

Florence, Oregon is just up the road from the dive site.

GPS Coordinates:

43.929335, -124.102980

Special Directions to Site:

Look for the signs for Jessie M. Honeyman State Park.  Turn east onto Canary Road.  Immediately after the first small bridge, park on the right.

Parking:

There is minimal parking at this site.  One big dive group will take up all the space.  The site is often popular with SCUBA classes for Open Water courses so it’s a good idea to have some backup sites in mind like the East Boat Ramp at Woahink or the SCUBA Park on the North Jetty.

Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google.
The little SCUBA park that has been made at the old west boat ramp at Woahink Lake is a fun spot to spend a dive or two looking at all of the odd things people have left underwater.

Site Orientation:

The site runs more or less north-south.  There are a few things just north of the bridge but heading further up this finger of Woahink Lake won’t lead to anything interesting other than a few fallen trees.  To the south past the submarine, you will find deeper water but not much else.

Entrances and Exits:

The old boat ramp at the southeast corner of the bridge is an easy entrance.  The last time we were here, there was a bit of a step down from the asphalt to the water but it wasn’t too bad.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a fresh water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a shore dive.

Normal Conditions:

Conditions here are usually very benign.  If an open water SCUBA class just got out of the water, visibility will be lousy though.

Normal Visibility:

If no one has gone diving at the site in the last day, we usually get 10-15 feet of viz at the west boat ramp in Woahink Lake.  However, the bottom stirs up very easily and can reduce visibility to less than 5 feet.  This is a good place to practice neutral buoyancy.

Normal Temperature:

Usually it’s between 48 and 56F here although we have seen it a little colder and a little warmer depending on the time of year.

Best Time of Year:

Any time of the year is a good time to go diving at Woahink Lake.

Max Depth:

We’ve hit 30 feet on the south side of this dive site but most of the site is a bit shallower.

Suggested Special Training:

You can dive this site as soon as you have your open water diving certification.

Difficulty of Dive:

This is a pretty easy dive.  There are a few submerged trees that you could get tangled in at the edges of the dive site but otherwise there aren’t any significant hazards that we’re aware of.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

If you have to park at the farthest parking spot, you might have to walk 200 feet.  At the closest spot, you’ll need to walk about 50 feet.

Surface Swim Length:

No surface swim is needed at this Woahink Lake dive site.

Special Site Notes:

This site gets a LOT of use from regional SCUBA shops.  If a class is using the west boat ramp on Woahink Lake, go try the east boat ramp or the SCUBA park on the north jetty.

[Underwater Map of Dive Site Coming Soon!]

Closest Local Dive Shops to Get Air Fills and SCUBA Gear:

There used to be a fill station in Florence but we recently heard (February 2017) that it is no longer operating.  The closest place to get an air fill or gear service is in Eugene.  Port Orford to the south or Depoe Bay to the north also may still have air fill stations.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

There are a lot of good places to eat along the old waterfront in Florence.  We usually see river otters playing on the riverbank there, too!

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

There are several state campgrounds in the area that are a good place to base yourself for a few days of diving in Florence.  We haven’t tried any of the hotels so please let us know if you have a favorite that is good for divers.

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

Please write in the comments below your experiences with this dive site!

Depoe Bay Boat Ramp

The boat ramp at Depoe Bay is a good place to check gear out before diving offshore.  If conditions are lousy, you can spend an enjoyable hour searching around underwater for cast off junk from the industries that have occupied the world’s smallest harbor.

depoe bay

The boat ramp in Depoe Bay is a good place to check your gear out before going for a dive offshore.

Site Highlights:

Even though the site is shallow, you can enjoy some time underwater here testing out gear.  There is a fair amount of junk underwater left from the old businesses that used to be around the harbor.

Nearest Town:

The boat ramp is right in the middle of Depoe Bay.

GPS Coordinates:

44.808141, -124.060102

Special Directions to Site:

From US101, take  Schoolhouse Street east and then then turn left onto Shell Avenue.  The boat ramp and parking are right at the end of the road.

Parking:

There usually is plenty of parking here.  Just make sure not to occupy boat trailer parking.  We haven’t had to pay here before but double check the signs to make sure something hasn’t changed.

depoe bay boat ramp

Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google.
The boat ramp is a bit cramped and shallow. You could explore more to the north although there is a lot of junk underwater and some old line.

Site Orientation:

Head south to get out of the water.  Head north in search of deeper water.  We suggest you stay out from underneath the boats.  Along the western edge of the harbor there is a lot of junk underwater.  Don’t get entangled in anything!

Entrances and Exits:

You can get in right at the boat ramp or over the little jetty to the right of the boat ramp.  It’s an easy entrance/exit.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a salt water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a shore dive.

Normal Conditions:

Depoe Bay is very protected once you’re inside the channel.  Watch out for boat traffic.  It isn’t a bad idea to have someone on the shore to let boaters know you’re underwater.  This harbor is pretty tight to fly a dive flag but it isn’t a bad idea.  We have a favorite flag we use all over Oregon on our Gear We Use page.

Normal Visibility:

Usually you’ll get 5-10 feet of viz here.  The bottom can get stirred up especially on the right side of the dive site where the little creek comes into the harbor.

Normal Temperature:

It can be between 45 and 65F depending on the time of year and how shallow you go.

Best Time of Year:

Water conditions are usually better in the winter than summer but you can dive this site at any time of year.

Max Depth:

If you go north far enough, you might find 20 feet of water but usually you’re going to be in about 10 feet of water.  Buoyancy control is critical here.

Suggested Special Training:

Open water divers can dive here but be careful with underwater entanglement hazards and sunken machinery.  It’s a good idea to carry a good dive knife and line cutter.

Difficulty of Dive:

This is a pretty easy dive but be careful of entanglement hazards.  Boat traffic can also be an issue.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

50 feet is usual but 150 feet could happen if you have to park a ways away.

Surface Swim Length:

No real surface swim is necessary here.

Special Site Notes:

Be careful of underwater entanglement hazards.  Also watch for boat traffic.

Closest Local Dive Shops to Get Air Fills and SCUBA Gear:

There used to be a dive shop in Depoe Bay but it was in the process of closing when we were last at this site (February 2017).  However, they may still be giving air fills.

Otherwise, you need to head up to Astoria, down to Port Orford, or inland to Portland, Salem, or Eugene to get an air fill and have gear serviced.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

Tidal Raves has absolutely outstanding food and a great ocean view. Gracie’s Sea Hag has the best clam chowder on the entire Oregon coast.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

South of Depoe Bay is Beverly Beach State Park where there is good camping.  We haven’t tried any of the hotels in the area so please let us know if you have stayed at one that is SCUBA friendly!

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

Please write in the comments below your experiences with this dive site!

Oregon Coast Aquarium – Orford Reef

If you get the opportunity, definitely go dive the Orford Reef tank at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.  Aside from being a unique SCUBA diving experience in Oregon, it is a lot of fun to wave at people who are inside the underwater tube.  Some divers have friends visit the aquarium when they’re diving so they have someone to wave at in the tube and the person in the tube can take photos of them diving.  This is an outstanding way to share your passion for and love of SCUBA diving with friends who don’t dive.

orford reef tank

The Orford Reef tank is the most challenging of the tanks at the Oregon Coast Aquarium to dive. Only very skilled divers are allowed to go in this tank. The tank is tight compared to the others.

Site Highlights

The biggest highlight for us is to wave at people on the other side of the glass.  This tank used to be where Keiko the killer whale from Free Willie fame lived for several years before heading to Iceland.  Now Keiko’s big tank has been broken up into several smaller tanks that each represent an ecosystem found off the Oregon coast.

There are a lot of interesting fish in this tank.  The water is so clear that it is very easy to watch the fish lazily go by.  These tanks have divers in them at least once a week for cleaning so the marine life is used to seeing people on SCUBA.

Nearest Town:

Newport, Oregon is right outside the door.

GPS Coordinates:

44.616561, -124.045709

Special Directions to Site:

When you schedule your diving experience at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, they will give you details on where to go and who to talk with so that you can get in the tank.

Parking:

The aquarium will tell you where to park.  When we went, we parked in the normal parking lot although our friends who regularly dive the tanks as volunteer cleaners park elsewhere.

Site Orientation:

The tank is divided into two parts by the big clear tube that runs across the middle.  This is a tiny tank compared to what we are used to out in the open water.  You can see the whole tank in a couple minutes but playing around waving at people in the tube can occupy at least a half hour.

Entrances and Exits:

We used a ladder to get into the tank.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a salt water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a shore dive.

Normal Conditions:

There are never really waves or surge in this tank.  It’s very benign.

Normal Visibility:

You can see all the way from one side of the tank to the other side of the tank.  That’s about 30-40 feet.

Normal Temperature:

Water temperature is usually close to the temperature in Yaquina Bay.  When we went diving, it was about 45F.

Best Time of Year:

It used to be that you could only dive the Orford Reef tank when a DUI Drysuit Days event was going on as a private individual.  That usually happens once per year although we haven’t seen an announcement for an upcoming DUI event at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in a couple years.

A Eugene-based shop now works with the aquarium to arrange private diving events in the tanks.  We have not gone on one of these events but we did dive through one of the regional shops that used to participate in the DUI Drysuit Days events in the past.  Note that they currently do not advertise being able to dive in the Orford Reef tank.  When we went with the DUI Drysuit Days program a few years ago, due to our extensive diving experience in Oregon and around the world, the aquarium staff and volunteers put us in the Orford Reef tank because the other tanks were full of people.  Perhaps if you ask nicely, you can pay to dive Orford Reef.

Otherwise, you can volunteer as a tank cleaning and maintenance diver.  We know a couple people who do this and head out to Newport about once a month for a weekend of cleaning tanks.  They both have been doing it for years so it must be fun!

Max Depth:

Our gauges read 25 feet at one point.  Most of the time you’ll be between 10 and 20 feet.

Suggested Special Training:

Open water divers can do this dive.  However, we only got the chance to do this dive because we have extensive training in both recreational and scientific diving, and have thousands of dives under our weight belts in a wide range of conditions all around the world.

We suggest that if you wish to pay for the opportunity to dive Orford Reef, you contact the aquarium or the dive shop running the program and see what training and experience you need to be permitted into Orford Reef.  We think it’s worth the extra effort to dive this tank.

Difficulty of Dive:

The dive itself is straight forward and not that difficult if you are aware of your surroundings.  However, we only had the opportunity to hop into this tank because of our extensive training and experience.

There are overhead hazards associated with the clear tube that aquarium visitors walk through.  The tank is also tight and requires finesse in navigating the close-together walls.  If you are claustrophobic, you probably don’t want to hop in this tank.  With three of us in the tank, there wasn’t much room.  The aquarium was very serious about our neutral buoyancy skills and had us demonstrate them in the medical tank behind the Halibut Flats tank before letting us into Orford Reef.

For these reasons, we rate this as an advanced skill level dive.

orford reef tank

The Orford Reef tank is a tight place to dive but it’s quite the fun experience.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

We had to walk about 100 feet from where we geared up, climbed some stairs to the top of the tank, and then descended a ladder into the tank.  You need to be somewhat nimble to get into the tank and out again safely.

Surface Swim Length:

No surface swims here!

Special Site Notes:

Contact the aquarium and the dive shop that supports the aquarium to talk about diving Orford Reef.  It is not normally a tank that divers who are not volunteers at the aquarium get to use.

Be sure to have some friends at the aquarium to take photos of you from outside the tank.  We took a small action video camera in the tank with us to take some videos which was fun to have.  There isn’t much room to maneuver a big camera rig in here so we suggest not bringing anything bigger than a small action cam.

Closest Local Dive Shops to Get Air Fills and SCUBA Gear:

There is a local dive shop in the South Beach area of Newport. When we went diving here, the aquarium supplied us with tanks and weights.  We had to wash all of our gear before we could use it in the tank to make sure we didn’t transport any nasty creatures into the tanks.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

Both sides of the Yaquina Bay in Newport sport a variety of great restaurants.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

South Beach State Park has good camping and yurts for rent.  We stay here when we’re in Newport.  We have not tried any of the local hotels.  Please let us know if you have and you can recommend one that is SCUBA diver friendly!

South Beach State Park has great yurts that SCUBA divers can rent. The heaters in the yurts really are nice after a long day of diving around Newport.

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

Please write in the comments below your experiences with this dive site!

Florence – North Jetty SCUBA Park and Crab Hole

Crab Hole at the Florence north jetty SCUBA park is one of those dives that just about every SCUBA diver in Oregon has done at least once.  Many people do their last one or two open water certification dives at the SCUBA park.  Lots of people come over for an afternoon of diving from Eugene or a weekend of fun in Florence from Portland.  The very easy diver-friendly entrance, the relatively protected inner area of the dive site, and the plentiful crabs out in Crab Hole make it an excellent place to have some fun.  Even when the parking lot is full of divers, the site is big enough to accommodate everyone.

florence entrance

The entrance at the Florence Dive Park and Crab Hole is custom-made for SCUBA divers. Sometimes a little debris gets washed up into the top of the old fish ladder but it usually isn’t too bad.

Site Highlights:

This site has something for everyone.  Most people will first mention Crab Hole, a feature of the jetty construction where there is a small semi-circular hole in the bottom that crabs congregate in by the mesh bag full.  Many people will mention how easy the entrance and exit is.  An old fish ladder was installed at the site specifically to make it easier for SCUBA divers to get into and out of the water.  There isn’t an easier place to reach the water on any of the jetties in Oregon that we know of.  We also love looking at all of the micro marine life at this site.  There are a few protected spots that you can mostly get out of the current to go slow and check out nudibranchs, hermit crabs, barnacles, and other tiny things.

Nearest Town:

Florence, Oregon

GPS Coordinates:

44.016220, -124.131106

Special Directions to Site:

It’s a little tricky finding this site without a GPS or navigation map on your phone.  If you plug in the GPS coordinates listed above, your smart device will take you right to the site.

Otherwise, take 35th Street west from US101 in Florence.  Turn right onto Rhododendron Drive.  Turn left onto North Jetty Road.

Take the first left off of North Jetty Road into the large parking area.

Parking:

Parking has always been free and plentiful here.  It is not uncommon to see several of the dive shops from the Willamette Valley have their trailers parked here while they run classes at the dive site.

Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google. An easy entrance, a bounty of crabs, and lots of parking — this dive site has it all! Crab Hole and the Florence SCUBA Park is a great place to go diving and get experience on the jetties of Oregon.

 

Site Orientation:

The site runs from southeast to northwest.  The entrance is roughly in the middle of the dive site.  There is a big old pipe underwater that is a good marker for knowing where to surface to take your exit.  Crab hole is roughly south from the entrance.

If you get too far out into the shipping channel not only will you find nothing but sand but you will also potentially find strong current and shipping traffic.

Entrances and Exits:

This is one of the easiest entrance/exit setups on the whole Oregon Coast.  No other jetty has it this easy.  You walk down some stairs into the old fish ladder where there are some benches you can sit on while you do final gear checks.  Then step out of the end of the old fish ladder into the water, put your fins and mask on, and away you go!  Just about anyone can do this dive site.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a salt water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a shore dive.

Normal Conditions:

Conditions here are usually good.  Occasionally there is some surge but it is rare.  Very occasionally a big storm can push wood and other debris up into the entrance area.  We once did not dive here because some big logs were rolling around right where we wanted to dive.

Nine times out of ten, this site is just fine to go diving.

logs in the water

In really bad storms, logs and other debris can find their way into the entrance area at the Florence SCUBA Park and Crab Hole. On days like these, we usually go to a different site in Florence rather than deal with the hassle of logs.

There is some current that you need to deal with especially on the western side of this dive site.  This is a good place to practice dealing with current on a jetty.

In crab hole itself, the current can swirl around in an unexpected way that can be disorienting to some people.  Be sure to watch your compass so that you can stay oriented with the jetty.

Normal Visibility:

Usually we get about 15 feet of visibility when we go diving here.  The bottom is sandy and can’t really be stirred up.  On a rare day with a very big high tide, you might push 20 feet of visibility.

Normal Temperature:

It’s usually between 45 and 55F here.

Best Time of Year:

This site can be dived all year long.  Crab Hole always has crab in it but check local crabbing regulations and make sure you have your permits in order.

Max Depth:

We have hit 55 feet in Crab Hole before.  Most of the site is around 40 feet though.

Suggested Special Training:

We have watched many open water divers finish their training dives here.  This site is accessible to anyone who is certified to go SCUBA diving in open water.

Difficulty of Dive:

This is an easy dive suitable for beginners who are freshly certified and for people who don’t like the physically demanding entries at other jetties on the Oregon Coast.  The only difficult part is the current can kick up and make your dive a little more strenuous.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

20 feet if you get the best parking spot.

Surface Swim Length:

None unless you want to for some reason.

Special Site Notes:

It’s a good idea to fly a dive flag here to let boaters in the area know that you’re underwater.  A flashlight is a good idea when you’re in Crab Hole hunting for crabs and to peer in between the jetty boulders.  A good mesh bag is what you need to put crabs in.  We have our favorites for all of these gear items listed on our Gear We Use page.

The site can get very busy with divers.  Be sure you know what your buddy looks like underwater and stick close together.  We have seen it happen more than once where a buddy pair will surface with different buddies than when they started the dive!

[Underwater Map of Dive Site Coming Soon!]

Closest Local Dive Shops to Get Air Fills and SCUBA Gear:

There used to be a local dive shop in Florence although we haven’t been by in a couple years to confirm if it is still in operation.  The last time we were in, you could get air fills and very limited SCUBA gear.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

The old waterfront in Florence has some great seafood restaurants that we like.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

There are several camping areas around Florence that the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Bureau runs.

We haven’t tried any of the local hotels yet.  Please let us know if there is a good hotel in town that is SCUBA friendly that you have tried!

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

Please write in the comments below your experiences with this dive site!