Indian Creek Campground

Let’s face it: diving in the high desert of Southeast Oregon gets a bad rap.  It’s a long way from the closest SCUBA shop and compressor to this part of Oregon.  Viz in the summer can be nil.  There are only a few rocks and trout to look at underwater.  The list of complaints goes on and on.

In spite of some of these shortcomings, Indian Creek Campground has some pretty awesome diving because of the island (usually a peninsula when the lake isn’t full) with its steep cliffs.  This is probably the most fun dive site of the car-accessible shore diving sites along Lake Owyhee.  If you get bored of doing these sites, there are 52 miles of dive sites along the lake that are accessible by boat.  And as luck would have it, Indian Creek Campground has a boat ramp.

Indian Creek Campground has some great topography underwater from the steep submerged cliffs of the island (usually a peninsula during low water years) directly north of the store and boat ramp. Imagery ©2018 Google, Map data ©2018 Google.
Indian Creek Campground has some great topography underwater from the steep submerged cliffs of the island (usually a peninsula during low water years) directly north of the store and boat ramp.
Imagery ©2018 Google, Map data ©2018 Google.

There are several other dive sites at Lake Owyhee worth mentioning including:

  • Lake Owyhee Reservoir: At 52 miles long, this reservoir has a huge number of dive sites for those with access to a good boat.  The reservoir sits down in a canyon which makes for interesting wall dives.
  • Owyhee Lake Road Pull-Outs: You can dive at the two pull-outs before the first boat ramp.
  • Gordon Creek Park and Gordon Boat Ramp: There is some interesting topography to the west of the boat ramp.
  • McCormack Campground: This is a great place to base out of to dive the area.  You can walk from your campsite directly to the water.

Nearest Town:

Adrian, Oregon

GPS Coordinates:

43.610502, -117.257036

Parking:

Check with the campground hosts or the store and boat ramp operator before you park.  During busy summer months, parking can be hard to come by.

Site Orientation:

The main attraction here is the island (peninsula during low water times) just north of the store.  The island runs north-south.  The east side has the more dramatic topography to dive but the whole thing is worth a look.

Entrances and Exits:

Watch for slick mud near the waterline when the water level has been falling.  Check with the boat ramp attendant or in the store before using the boat ramp as an entrance.  Watch for boat traffic — boaters aren’t used to seeing divers here.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a fresh water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a shore dive but can also be dived with a boat.  A boat could be useful to get to the very northern tip of the island.

Normal Conditions:

There may be a few waves from boat wakes.  Also currents can crop up when the dam is spilling a lot of water.

Normal Visibility:

At the height of summer, viz can be nil due to algae blooms.  In the late winter and spring, viz can get up to 30 feet when cold, clean water flows into the reservoir.

Normal Temperature:

In the winter, temperatures can dip into the 30s.  In late summer during low water years, temps can be in the 60s.

Best Time of Year:

Try diving here in the spring when the reservoir is the fullest and you have the best chance of good viz at Indian Creek Campground.

Max Depth:

You might find 100 feet in the middle of the channel if the lake is full.

Suggested Special Training:

This is an altitude dive site so be sure to have appropriate training.

Difficulty of Dive:

The dive is rated intermediate because of the altitude requirements.  Also it can be easy to go far enough from your entrance that you might need a lengthy surface swim back.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

If you can park by the store and the reservoir is full, you will only have to go a few feet.  Otherwise, expect a few hundred feet to a thousand foot walk.

Surface Swim Length:

No surface swim is necessary although you might want to swim a few hundred feet north along the island.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

The campground here is a good place to base out of for a few days of exploring Lake Owyhee.  There are a few other campgrounds in the neighborhood as well.

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

 

 

McCormack Campground

The McCormack Campground at Lake Owyhee is a good place to base for a few days of diving in this southeast Oregon high desert reservoir.  This dive site doesn’t have that interesting of topography but it still is worth a look.  You can launch a boat from here to explore the further reaches of the canyon as well.

McCormack Campground is a good place to base out of for a few days of diving in Lake Owyhee. Imagery ©2018 Google, Map data ©2018 Google.
McCormack Campground is a good place to base out of for a few days of diving in Lake Owyhee.
Imagery ©2018 Google, Map data ©2018 Google.

There are several other dive sites in the immediate vicinity including:

Nearest Town:

Adrian, Oregon

GPS Coordinates:

43.615965, -117.253540

Parking:

Before parking here, check with the camp host to see where they want you to park.  They may have you park out by the main road if the campground is full.

 

Site Orientation:

The campground is on a peninsula that is surrounded on three sides by the lake.  The steep submerged cliffs can be interesting to dive although there isn’t that much interesting topography close to shore.

Entrances and Exits:

The entrances/exits are simple walk-ins although they may be muddy and slippery near the water’s edge.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a fresh water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a shore dive.

Normal Conditions:

There may be a few waves from passing boats.  Occasionally there can be some current when the dam is spilling a lot of water.

Normal Visibility:

In the late summer, visibility can be 3 inches due to algae blooms and stagnant water.  In the late winter and spring when water flows are high, viz can be up to 30 feet.

Normal Temperature:

Depending on the time of year and how bad drought conditions are, temperatures might be in the mid 30s or the mid 60s.

Best Time of Year:

Spring has the best opportunity for good visibility.

Max Depth:

You might be able to find 100 feet of water when the reservoir is completely full.

Suggested Special Training:

This is an altitude dive site and requires the training to make sure you are within recreational scuba limits.

Difficulty of Dive:

We rate this an intermediate dive site because of the altitude.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

Depending on where you park and how high the reservoir is, McCormack Campground might be only a few feet from the water or you might have to hike more than 1000 feet to reach the water’s edge.

Surface Swim Length:

No surface swim is necessary.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

The campground at McCormack Campground is a good choice.  There are a couple other campgrounds in the immediate area as well.

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

 

 

Gordon Creek Park and Gordon Boat Ramp

Gordon Creek Park and the Gordon Boat Ramp is a good place to check out Lake Owyhee with a nice shore dive.  Southeast Oregon lakes aren’t that great for SCUBA diving but if you’re coming from Boise or want to do something different than a dive along the Oregon Coast, this dive site is a reasonable choice.  The lake is high enough that altitude diving restrictions apply so do make sure to plan ahead.

Gordon Creek Park and the Gordon Boat Ramp is a good place to go do some diving in Southeast Oregon. Just be mindful of boat traffic and don't forget that this is an altitude dive. Imagery ©2018 Google, Map data ©2018 Google.
Gordon Creek Park and the Gordon Boat Ramp is a good place to go do some diving in Southeast Oregon. Just be mindful of boat traffic and don’t forget that this is an altitude dive.
Imagery ©2018 Google, Map data ©2018 Google.

 

When diving this site, be sure to steer clear of the boat ramp unless there isn’t any boat traffic.  On busy summer weekends, boaters will not expect to see a SCUBA diver at Gordon Creek Park.  It would be a very good idea to have a dive float flag to tow behind you.

There are several dive sites around Lake Owyhee including:

  • Lake Owyhee Reservoir: At 52 miles long, this reservoir has a huge number of dive sites for those with access to a good boat.  The reservoir sits down in a canyon which makes for interesting wall dives.
  • Owyhee Lake Road Pull-Outs: You can dive at the two pull-outs before the first boat ramp.
  • McCormack Campground: This is a great place to base out of to dive the area.  You can walk from your campsite directly to the water.
  • Indian Creek Campground: There is some cool topography to dive around on the point north of the boat ramp.

Nearest Town:

Adrian, Oregon

GPS Coordinates:

43.622937, -117.240246

Parking:

There is car parking up by the road and the park.  The parking along the boat ramp is meant for trucks with boat trailers.  Talk to someone who works at the boat ramp or park before parking a car in a boat trailer spot.

 

Site Orientation:

The dive site unfolds along the southeast rim of the canyon.  Head north to get to the deepest part of the lake.  Head west or east to go along the canyon walls.  Be sure to watch for boat traffic.  Boaters won’t be expecting to see SCUBA divers at Gordon Creek Park.

Entrances and Exits:

Depending on the water levels in the reservoir, you may only have to walk a few feet to reach the water or it may be a significant slog to get down to the water.  Watch for slick mud near the water line if the reservoir has been drawn down quickly in recent days.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a fresh water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a shore dive but you can also do a boat dive or launch a boat from here to do boat diving elsewhere in Lake Owyhee.

Normal Conditions:

There can be some waves from boat wakes but otherwise the only other potential underwater hazard is the current that can sometimes run along the very bottom of the lake.

Normal Visibility:

In the late winter and spring when the water flow rate into the lake is the highest, you will have the best chance of decent visibility.  30 feet is not unheard of here.  During the late summer, algae blooms and stagnant water can make for 3 inches of viz.

Normal Temperature:

In the winter, water temperature can be near the freezing point.  In the late summer in a drought year, water temps can get up into the 60s especially in the top 15 or so feet of water.

Best Time of Year:

You have the best chance of decent viz in the spring.  There also is usually a little less boat traffic then.

Max Depth:

You might hit 110 feet at the absolute deepest part of the submerged canyon if the reservoir is completely full.

Suggested Special Training:

This is an altitude dive site.  You will need to have altitude training to do this dive.

Difficulty of Dive:

We rate this an intermediate dive site because of the altitude dive requirement.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

When the reservoir is full, you’ll only need to walk a few feet.  If water levels are low, you might need to walk up to 1000 feet from the parking lot.

Surface Swim Length:

No surface swim is needed here.  The submerged canyon walls are steep.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

There are several state park campgrounds in the immediate area that make for a good base to do some diving around the lake.

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

 

 

Owyhee Lake Road Pull-Outs

The two pullouts along Owyhee Lake Road south of the dam are a good place to get wet in Southeast Oregon.  While lake diving isn’t amazing and the sometimes stagnant water of Owyhee Lake can have very low viz in summer, there aren’t many options in this part of the world to go SCUBA diving.  The submerged canyon walls fall away from the shore quickly which makes for interesting topography to dive.

There can be a lot of boat traffic in the summer.  Be sure to fly a dive flag.  Boaters aren’t used to seeing divers in this lake.

This is one of a series of dive sites in Lake Owyhee.  The other sites include:

  • Lake Owyhee Reservoir: At 52 miles long, this reservoir has a huge number of dive sites for those with access to a good boat.  The reservoir sits down in a canyon which makes for interesting wall dives.
  • Gordon Creek Park and Gordon Boat Ramp: There is some interesting topography to the west of the boat ramp.
  • McCormack Campground: This is a great place to base out of to dive the area.  You can walk from your campsite directly to the water.
  • Indian Creek Campground: There is some cool topography to dive around on the point north of the boat ramp.
Owyhee Lake Road Pull-Outs are a good place to go SCUBA diving in southeast Oregon. Be mindful of boat traffic.
Imagery ©20178 Google, Map data ©2018 Google.

Nearest Town:

Adrian, Oregon

GPS Coordinates:

43.626550, -117.234423

Parking:

The pull-outs usually have a decent amount of parking except on popular, busy summer weekends.

 

Site Orientation:

The dive site unfolds along a couple thousand feet of the southeast canyon wall.  There is a particularly interesting cliff along the finger of ridge that heads out from the southern parking area.

Entrances and Exits:

Depending on the height of the water in Lake Owyhee, entrances and exits might be easy or a scramble.  It’s a good idea to walk the entrance before attempting it.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a fresh water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a shore dive although you can dive here with a boat, too.

Normal Conditions:

The only waves you’ll see are from passing boats.  Be sure to have a good dive float.

Normal Visibility:

Depending on the time of year and how much water is flowing into the reservoir, viz could be 30 feet or 3 inches.  In the late winter and spring, cold clean water flows into the lake and improves visibility.  In the late summer, algae blooms can happen that causes viz to go practically to zero.

Normal Temperature:

In the winter and early spring, water temperatures can be in the mid 30s while in the late summer, water temperature can be 60 Fahrenheit.

Best Time of Year:

Spring is a good time to go diving here for better viz and for a fuller lake.

Max Depth:

You won’t go past about 110 feet here.

Suggested Special Training:

This is an altitude dive site.

Difficulty of Dive:

We rate this as an intermediate dive because of the potential for a long entrance hike and for the need of altitude training.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

If the reservoir is full, a SCUBA diver might only need to walk 100 feet.  Otherwise, it might be a 1000 foot hike down the canyon wall.

Surface Swim Length:

No surface swim is needed here.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

There are several state park campgrounds in this area of Owyhee Lake.

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

 

 

Lake Owyhee Reservoir

Lake Owyhee Reservoir is a 52 mile long lake in the high desert of Southeast Oregon where hundreds of potential dive sites have never been explored by divers.  The canyon walls and valley make for interesting terrain to check out.  This is an altitude dive due to the elevation of the reservoir.  While diving in fresh water isn’t as interesting as all of the life in the ocean, Lake Owyhee is worthwhile to visit and dive if for no other reason than you may be the very first person to dive on a specific part of the lake.  Very few divers ever make it to this part of Southeast Oregon.

In addition to the boat-accessible 52 mile reservoir, there are four sites that are accessible to car-based shore divers.  They include:

 

Lake Owyhee Reservoir is 52 miles of non-stop freshwater high desert dive sites. Someone with a pontoon boat and plenty of gas plus a compressor could spend weeks diving here and never see everything.
Imagery ©2018 Google, Map data ©2018 Google.

 

Special Site Notes:

This is an altitude dive.  Please plan accordingly.

There is a lot of boat traffic on the lake especially in the summer.  Because divers are so rare at this lake, boaters will not be looking for or expecting divers.  It’s a very good idea to have a dive flag with you and be careful as you surface.

Nearest Town:

Adrian, Oregon

GPS Coordinates:

43.561392, -117.352786

Parking:

There are several parking areas at the boat ramps at Gordon Creek Boat Ramp, McCormack Campground, and Indian Creek Campground.  The Owyhee Lake Road Pull-Outs do not have boat parking but there is car parking.  Be sure to check with the campground and park hosts before parking to verify where they want you to park a car or a boat trailer.

 

Site Orientation:

With 52 miles of reservoir to cover, Lake Owyhee is a massive site that can’t be captured in one simple description.  Our only advice is to be careful of unexpected currents, boat traffic, and stay away from the intake structures on the dam.

Entrances and Exits:

Depending on the water height behind the dam on Lake Owyhee, SCUBA divers may find water very close to the parking areas and lapping at the top of the boat ramps.  On the other hand, during a drought year, the water might be 50 or even 75 feet below the top of the reservoir.  In low water times, it can be quite the scramble to get down to the water.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a fresh water dive site.

Shore/Boat:

While there are a few shore diving sites, the vast bulk of this dive site is boat-only.

Normal Conditions:

The only waves you will see at this dive site come from boat traffic.  There can be some unusual currents in certain areas so do be careful.

Normal Visibility:

Depending on the time of year and how much water is flowing into the reservoir, you might find 30 feet of viz or 3 inches of viz.  SCUBA divers may find algae blooms in the summer and early fall.  In the late winter and early spring, a large amount of cold, clean water flows into the lake and usually provides better visibility.

Normal Temperature:

In the late summer, temperatures can get up into the low 60s.  In exceptionally low water years, it can get even warmer.  In the winter and early spring when cold snow melt flows into the lake, the temperature may be down in the mid 30s.

Best Time of Year:

Spring has the best chance for both good viz and a full lake.

Max Depth:

Unless you bring a shovel, you shouldn’t be able to find any deeper spots than about 115 feet.  As you move up the Lake Owyhee Reservoir, the bottom comes up to meet the surface of the water.

Suggested Special Training:

This dive site requires altitude diver training.

Difficulty of Dive:

We rate this as an intermediate dive site due to needing altitude diver training.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

Depending on where you go diving and how full the reservoir is, you might only have a few feet to walk to the water or several thousand feet down a steep slope.

Surface Swim Length:

No surface swimming is needed.  The submerged canyon walls are quite steep.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

There are several campgrounds around Lake Owyhee.

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

 

 

Antelope Reservoir

If you’re looking for a remote dive site on the edge of the Oregon high desert, then Antelope Reservoir might be exactly what you’re looking for.  This dive site won’t win any awards for having interesting stuff to see underwater or for being deep (at its max depth, the reservoir is 25 feet deep!).  The water is not very clear and is stagnant in the summer.  There are a few trout in the lake but otherwise there isn’t much going on here.

So why would you bother going all the way out to the Jordan Valley by Jean Baptiste Charbonneau’s grave to do some SCUBA diving?  Good question!  The only real draw for this site is that it’s a little bit of water in a great big desert where you can do a little SCUBA diving to check it off the list of places to go diving in Oregon.

antelope reservoir
Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google.
Antelope Reservoir is way out in the Jordan Valley on the eastern fringe of Oregon. You can’t get much farther away from the ocean in the Beaver State. The dive site is pretty boring but that’s not really the point of diving here. The reason you would haul all your gear out here is because this dive site is in the middle of the desert. Why not check out a dive site off the beaten path?

 

Nearest Town:

GPS Coordinates:

42.909122, -117.236012

Special Directions to Site:

From the Ion Highway, look for signs for Antelope Reservoir.  The road is called Antelope Reservoir Road although sometimes the road sign is missing.  Head up the hill until you see the lake.  The parking area is just north of the dam.

Parking:

The last time we were here, the parking was free.  There are four free campsites here, too.

 

Site Orientation:

Let’s get this out of the way: this is a lousy dive site.  We wouldn’t bother coming out here to do a dive except for the novelty of diving in the middle of the Oregon high desert.  The reservoir is shallow and often has less than ideal water conditions.  The drive is very long from any major population centers.  There really isn’t anything to see under the lake.

If you go to dive this site, we suggest going out and doing some compass skills (trench patterns, box patterns, etc.) to give you something to do.  Who knows?  You might find an abandoned sunken car or a lost fishing rod.

The main thing to watch out for here is getting too close to the water intake structure on the dam.  You don’t want to get sucked through and end up downstream in small pieces.

Entrances and Exits:

Just walk down the boat ramp until you get to the water.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a fresh water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a shore dive although you could bring a boat and do a little boat diving here, too.

Normal Conditions:

The lake can get a few waves from the wind occasionally.  In the winter, the lake ices over sometimes.  In the summer, the water gets very low as you get closer to the fall.

Normal Visibility:

You’ll be lucky to get 10 feet of viz here.  The bottom can be stirred up so stay clear of it.

Normal Temperature:

During spring snow melt, the water temperature will be near freezing.  At the end of a long hot summer, water temps can be up in the 60s although usually will be in the 50s.

Best Time of Year:

Late spring or early summer is the best time of year to dive this site.  Later in the summer and fall, the water level will be very low and the water will get nasty from being stagnant all summer.  In the winter, this is usually a bitterly cold place to be.

Max Depth:

If the reservoir is completely full and you really search for it, you will be able to hit 25 feet.  Expect more in the neighborhood of 15 feet.

Suggested Special Training:

This is an altitude dive.  The lake is at about 4300 feet.  Plan accordingly.

Difficulty of Dive:

We rate this as an intermediate dive because of needing altitude training to dive this site.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

Depending on the water level, you might need to walk several hundred feet.

Surface Swim Length:

You’ll want to kick away from shore at least 200 feet to get a little depth in the water column.

Special Site Notes:

Avoid the water intake structure on the dam.  Don’t become fish food!

There are other potential places to explore on Antelope Reservoir although we don’t know why you would spend the time and resources to do so.  Take a quick dip at the boat ramp and check this site off your list of Southeast Oregon SCUBA diving sites.

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

The closest place for any sort of services is in Boise, Idaho a few hours away.  This is a very remote site.  The last time we were here, there was very patchy cellphone service.  You need to be fully self-sufficient.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

There might still be a restaurant in Jordan Valley, Oregon.  Otherwise you have several hours to go to find any sort of services or food.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

There are a couple free campsites right at the boat ramp.  Otherwise there is a LOT of BLM land out in Southeast Oregon where you can camp for free.  We don’t know of any hotels nearby.

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

Zwag Island and Diver Rock / Mill Beach

Mill Beach, located between Zwagg Island and Diver Rock on one side and Chetco Point on the other, is a good place to do a surf entry dive in Brookings, Oregon.  The scattered kelp makes for a fun area to play and explore, and the rocky cliffs and underwater mounts are a good place to go spearfishing.  If you have a boat, the outer kelp forest is easily accessible.  Otherwise, a surf-launched kayak SCUBA diving platform would be pretty useful to get further out on this dive site.

 

Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google.
After a surf entry from Mill Beach, the small cove between Zwag Island and Chetco Point is a good place to play in some kelp. If you have a boat or a shore-launched kaya dive platform, some of the farther out rocks are worth the trip for spearfishing or crabbing.

 

Nearest Town:

The road down to the parking area for Mill Beach goes right through Brookings, Oregon.

GPS Coordinates:

42.048907, -124.292677

 

Special Directions to Site:

Accessing the site is a little challenging.  The way we know to get to the little hidden parking lot is as follows: From US101 turn onto Mill Beach Road.  You’ll go behind Fred Meyer, past the old mill site, and then it gets a little tricky.  Look for Macklyn Cove Drive taking off to the left and turn onto it.  You’ve gone too far on Mill Beach Road if you end up in a cul de sac.  On Macklyn Cove Drive, look for a left turn driveway.  If you end up in front of an apartment complex, you went too far.  At the end of the driveway there is a very small parking lot.

Parking:

The last time we were here, parking was free but very limited.  Be sure to check the signs and be sure to not block anyone in.  If it’s a popular weekend for SCUBA diving, it’s a good idea to show up a few hours before the tide to snag a parking space.

 

Site Orientation:

The site is centered around Macklyn Cove and anchored between Zwagg Island and Diver Rock on one side, and Chetco Point on the other.  Table Rock is in the middle of the beach.  navigation here is a little more complex than diving on jetties in Oregon.  You need to pay attention to where you are in the site.  The beach spans the north and north-northeast portions of the site.  This is where you do your surf entrance/exit.  If you’re on a boat, then be sure to know where you are in relation to your boat.

If you’re shore diving this site, generally we’d suggest you stick between Diver Rock and Chetco Point, and not go outside of the cove.  The swim is lengthy otherwise and there is plenty to see inside the cove.

The site is big enough that it takes 2-4 dives to cover the whole place unless you’re going on a speed tour.  There are plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities and we’ve seen people spearfishing here.

Entrances and Exits:

If you’re shore diving, you have a surf entrance to deal with.  Be sure you have surf entrance/exit training and it’s not a bad idea to practice the drills before you head out.  Down in California at Monastery Beach near Monterey, SCUBA divers die every few years because they panic during rough surf exits and drown within 20 feet of dry land.

If you’re boat diving, you will probably be anchoring at the southern or western edge of this dive site.  In that case, you’ll be dealing with a boat entry and exit.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a salt water dive.

Shore/Boat:

You can dive this site either from shore or from a boat.

Normal Conditions:

While the cove is fairly protected, you need to be ready to deal with surf, surge, and a little current.  If a storm is coming in, don’t bother with this site.  Be prepared to do an army crawl out of the surf if conditions deteriorate while you’re diving.  It’s not a bad idea to survey the whole beach when you surface to see if there is one area that is less rough than the rest of the beach.  We generally try to surface with plenty of reserve air in our tanks in case we have to army crawl on our bellies through the surf zone to safely exit.

Normal Visibility:

Depending on ocean conditions, you’ll have anywhere from almost no visibility up to 25+ feet of viz.  The further away from shore you go, generally the clearer it gets.

Normal Temperature:

Water temperature here can vary from 45F at the extreme cold end to 57 or 58F on the extreme hot end.

Best Time of Year:

You can dive Mill Beach almost any time of the year although storms and ocean conditions really dictate when you can dive here.

Max Depth:

At the deepest part of the site in the middle of the cove, you could find about 60 feet of water.  Along the edges, expect more in the 25-30 foot range.

Suggested Special Training:

Be sure you have surf entry and exit training.  Be sure you’re confident in your navigational skills.  Advanced open water training is a good idea here.

Difficulty of Dive:

We rate this as an intermediate dive as far as shore dives go but if conditions are bad, this can be a very advanced dive.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

Assuming you can find parking in the parking lot, you’re looking at between 200 and 1000 feet of walking to get to a good place on the beach to enter.

Surface Swim Length:

You will want to kick out 200-300 feet to get beyond the surf zone and into deeper water before you descend.

Special Site Notes:

This site is exposed to the Pacific Ocean.  Especially as you get to the tips of the points of land jutting into the ocean, you will be exposed to whatever the ocean is doing that day.  Be sure you know how to dive in these conditions.

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

We aren’t aware of any reasonably close dive shops to this site.  There is an air fill station up in Depoe Bay and the Medford area has a dive shop but otherwise we haven’t found any nearby shops in Brookings or further south in California.  Let us know if you know of one.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

We have never eaten in Brookings so we can’t comment on the restaurants.  Please let us know if you know of somewhere good to eat.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

We haven’t stayed in Brookings before.  Let us know if you know of a good campground or a SCUBA diver friendly hotel near Mill Beach.

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

Fossil Point Sunken Jetty

The sunken jetty off of Fossil Point in Coos Bay is a good place to go hunt for crabs or go spearfishing.  Access is a little tricky here.  While it looks like you could shore dive this site, we haven’t found anywhere with public access nearby to get into the water.  Instead, you need to use a boat to access the Fossil Point sunken jetty.  Current can really move along at this site from all of the water draining out of the bay so be prepared.  When you anchor your boat before your dive, be sure to do it out of the channel.  This is an active shipping area for the various industries in Coos Bay and a small fishing fleet regularly comes through.

The jetty itself is rather small but it’s there underwater.  This is not a big site by any means but very few people dive here so you will have plenty of opportunities to go hunt crabs or spearfish.

fossil point sunken jetty
Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google. The Fossil Point sunken jetty is a good place to hunt for crabs and spearfish. We haven’t found any reasonable shore access here so plan to access the site using a boat.

 

Nearest Town:

The little towns of Barview and Charleston are very close to the Fossil Point sunken jetty.  Just up the road/bay are Empire, North Bend, and Coos Bay.

GPS Coordinates:

43.355437, -124.317040

Special Directions to Site:

The only access to this site is via boat.  Charleston has a good place to put boats in.  Otherwise, there are many other boat launches in the area.

Parking:

 

See above.  This site is only accessible via boat.

Site Orientation:

The Fossil Point sunken jetty runs more or less east-west with a little bit of a southerly bend.  As you go farther west, you’ll find somewhat deeper water.

Entrances and Exits:

This is a boat dive so be ready to do your proper boat entries and exits.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a salt water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a boat dive.

Normal Conditions:

There usually is a current around here.  It can really rip if you don’t dive at high tide.  Rarely surf, surge, and waves can make their way in from the ocean.  Usually though it’s fairly calm aside from the current.

Normal Visibility:

Viz is usually around 15 feet although it can get worse during storms or when there is a lot of water pumping through Coos Bay.

Normal Temperature:

Water temp is usually in the 45-55F range here.

Best Time of Year:

You can go diving on the Fossil Point sunken jetty any time of the year although you should line up your dive with crabbing season if you’re crabbing.

Max Depth:

At the shallowest point, you’ll find only 10-15 feet of water at high tide.  However, at the deepest point you can find up to 45 feet of water where the jetty ends and the shipping channel begins.

Suggested Special Training:

Open water divers with a few boat dives under their belts can dive this site.  The two tricky things are entering/exiting from a boat and the current.

Difficulty of Dive:

We rate this as an intermediate dive.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

No walk since you’re diving from a boat.

Surface Swim Length:

No surface swim unless you surface far away from your boat.  Be sure your navigation skills are up to snuff!

Special Site Notes:

Please be mindful of anchoring anywhere close to the shipping channel.  Big ocean-going freighters routinely come in and out of the bay.

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

There used to be a shop in Coos Bay but it appears to have closed.  The next closest places for air fills are down in Port Orford at the harbor or up in Depoe Bay (if it’s still open).  Otherwise you need to go inland to Grants Pass or Eugene for air and a full service SCUBA shop.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

There is pretty good food all around the bay.  Check out the Fishermen’s Wharf Seafood Market on the dock in Charleston for some really fresh seafood.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

We haven’t stayed in Coos Bay overnight so please let us know of your hotel and campground recommendations!

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

Florence South Jetty Inner Fingers

The south jetty inner fingers at Florence are seldom visited by SCUBA divers but may be worth the effort if you are looking to do something a little different on the mouth of the Siuslaw River.  This salt water dive site is really four sites that are next to one another.  At the tips of the jetty fingers, currents dig holes in the sand where crabs often congregate.  This isn’t an amazing series of dives but they are interesting dives.  If you have a boat and want to check it out, put your boat in upriver and come down to the inner fingers.

Site Highlights:

The two highlights of this site are 1) the relative inaccessibility of the dive site compared to other sites around Florence and 2) crabs.  As far as jetty dives go, the dive sites along the north jetty in Florence have more micro life and often have more fish.  However, because so few people visit the inner fingers along the south jetty, crabs can sometimes be found here in abundance.  At the least, it’s worth a look if you’re bored with the other sites around Florence or if your attempt at going offshore to one of the reefs is canceled due to rough seas.

Nearest Town:

Florence, Oregon is just on the other side of the Siuslaw River.

GPS Coordinates:

44.001565, -124.127885

Special Directions to Site:

You’ll need a boat to access this site.  There are put-ins further up the Siuslaw River.  Pick your favorite boat launch and motor down river until you come alongside the US Coast Guard pier and boat house.  The four inner fingers are on the other bank of the Siuslaw.

Parking:

The boat launches all have decent parking for your truck and boat trailer.  Unless you fancy a long surface hike from one of the county beach access parking lots across sand and brush, there is no shore access.

south jetty fingers at florence
Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google.
The inner fingers on the south jetty of the Siuslaw River have some interesting holes in the sand where crabs sometimes congregate.

 

Site Orientation:

The four fingers are spread out roughly north to south with the northern-most finger usually having the shallowest hole.  The other three fingers usually have deeper holes but it is very dependent on the season and how the river has been flowing.  If the US Army Corps of Engineers has recently done dredging in the Siuslaw River Channel, conditions will be unpredictable but the holes might get deeper and better for catching crabs.

The fingers themselves are generally pretty shallow heading to the west.  You can check out along the base of the fingers but there isn’t much reason to go beyond the holes at the finger tips.

Entrances and Exits:

This is pretty much strictly a boat dive.  Plan accordingly.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a salt water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a boat dive unless you love a very long hike across soft sand in SCUBA gear.

Normal Conditions:

There is usually current due to the tidal exchange and river conditions.  In the excavated out holes at the end of the fingers, water can swirl around and make a diver confused.  Good compass skills are a must so you don’t end up going the wrong way.  Generally there aren’t waves unless a ship is passing.  We have never seen surge or surf here but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

Normal Visibility:

Vis at the inner fingers on the south jetty usually is around 10-15 feet.  Sometimes it gets a little better and sometimes it’s much worse.  We suggest only diving these sites at high tide so you have the best chance of good viz.

Normal Temperature:

Being so far up into Siuslaw Bay, water temperature is largely driven by river conditions.  If a big slug of cold water from snow melt in the coast range is making its way down the river, you might see temps in the 40s.  Otherwise usually you’ll see the low to mid 50s at this site.

Best Time of Year:

This site can be dived at any time of year.  Do it during crabbing season if you want to catch crabs.

Max Depth:

It’s hard to say what depth you are going to find at the inner finger tips.  It’s not unheard of to find 25 feet of water in the holes.  However, you might only find 10 feet of water at high tide if sand from a recent storm has filled the holes in.  If you have a depth sounder on your boat, you can drive over the area to locate the deepest place to jump in at.

Suggested Special Training:

Advanced open water training is a good idea here.  You also should be skilled at boat diving and be prepared in case you get separated from your boat.

Difficulty of Dive:

This is an intermediate skill dive because of diving from a boat.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

No walk is needed unless you’re braving the loooooong hike from a parking area.

Surface Swim Length:

No surface swim is needed unless you anchor your boat far away from the holes at the jetty tips or if you get separated from your boat.

Special Site Notes:

You’ll have more fun if you dive this site at high tide.  At low tide, there is very little water around the fingers.  It’s a good idea to run a dive flag here because of boat traffic.

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

Gone are the days of easy air fills on the central Oregon coast.  The shop in Florence is long gone.  The shop in Newport moved.  The air fill station in Depoe Bay is by appointment only.  Same goes for the one in Port Orford.  You’ll need to head over the coast mountains to Eugene for the closest local dive shop with air fills and full service.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

The old town waterfront in Florence has lots of good restaurants.  Head there and pick one that looks tasty!

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

There are a plethora of campgrounds that the county, state, and feds run around Florence.  We’ve stayed at a few and had pleasant experiences.  We haven’t tried any of the hotels so please let us know if you find a hotel that is SCUBA diver friendly!

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

Fogarty Creek Kelp Forest

In just the right conditions, the kelp forest at Fogarty Creek is accessible to SCUBA divers from shore.  There are not very many places in Oregon where divers can access kelp forests without a boat.  The surf entrance can be tricky and conditions can change fast but if it you hit the beach at the right time, you can go dive some great kelp beds.  We have not been able to dive this site yet due to unfavorable conditions when we have tried in the past but we have heard of others diving here and from everything we have observed, it looks like a good spot to check out when the seas are kind and calm.

 

Site Highlights:

The main draw here is the kelp beds just off shore from Fogarty Creek.  There are some interesting rock formations to check out, too.  Someday otters will once again live here but for now, it will only be us SCUBA divers and a few other mammals visiting these kelp beds.

Nearest Town:

Lincoln Beach is just north of Fogarty Creek and just to the south is Depoe Bay.

GPS Coordinates:

44.839318, -124.051719

 

Special Directions to Site:

Watch for the Fogarty Creek State Recreation Area signs on US101 north of Depoe Bay.

Parking:

There is plenty of parking at the state rec area.  You will probably have to pay to park here but double-check the signs.

fogarty creek kelp forest
Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google.
The kelp forest at Fogarty Creek is shore-accessible in calm sea conditions.

 

Site Orientation:

The kelp forest is split into two parts.  The northern kelp forest is larger but a bit more of a surface swim to get to.  The southern kelp forest is smaller and a shorter swim.  There are some interesting rock formations near the southern kelp forest that can also be visited.

One thing to remember here is that surf conditions need to be really good before you try diving at Fogarty Creek.  There aren’t many beach surf entrances in Oregon and it is important to know how to do safe entrances and exits from the beach.  We’re not your mom so make sure you know what you’re doing.

Entrances and Exits:

You can enter or exit just about anywhere along the beach but doing your entrance/exit nearer to the area you want to dive is a good idea.  However, you need to do an entrance and an exit where it is safe to do so.  Surf conditions, current, undertow, and other conditions will dictate where it is best to enter/exit.  If you don’t know how to do an army crawl out of the water, you should get instruction on how to do so.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a salt water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a shore dive although you can also access the site from a boat.  If you wanted to, you could probably put in an inflatable raft with an engine here.  We have not done this yet so be sure to double-check with the relevant state authorities before launching a boat from Fogarty Creek Beach.

Normal Conditions:

Normally the conditions are rotten here.  Surf, surge, current, waves, undertow, and many other bad and nasty things are the norm here.  On a rare calm day, you will have better conditions but there are still dangers here.

Normal Visibility:

Viz can be up to 30 feet here.  Sometimes it’s even better.  The summer upwelling can reduce visibility and right after a storm there will be worse viz.

Normal Temperature:

Depending on the time of year, you will see temperatures between 45 and 55F.

Best Time of Year:

There isn’t really a good time of year to dive here but in the summer and early fall, you have a better shot of having halfway decent conditions to dive Fogarty Creek Kelp Forest.

Max Depth:

This is a fairly shallow site which makes surge much worse here than other deeper kelp beds in Oregon.  You can find 30 feet on the far west side of the kelp beds.

Suggested Special Training:

Advanced open water training is a really good idea before diving this site.  Rescue diver training is a good idea.  Lots of practice and training in surf entrances and exits is needed here.

Difficulty of Dive:

This is an advanced dive.  You need to know what you’re doing before you do a shore dive into the open ocean.  Even people with many dives on the Oregon coast can make mistakes here that can lead to being killed or even worse.  Be sure you know what you’re doing and you’re comfortable with the conditions before you go diving.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

You will have between 500 and 1000 feet to walk to get to the entrance.

Surface Swim Length:

A surface swim between 100 and 200 feet is a good idea to get into some deeper water.

Special Site Notes:

This site is dangerous in all but the best conditions.  In even ideal conditions, the site is still dangerous.  Take a safety sausage.  Have a friend keep track of you from the surface.  Be sure you have plenty of air in your tank in case you have to belly crawl out of the surf.

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

There is an air fill station in Depoe Bay that you can get air at by appointment only.  Otherwise you’ll need to go up to Astoria or in to Portland, Salem, or Eugene for a full service SCUBA shop.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

There is lots of good food on this part of the coast.  Let us know what your favorite place is!

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

There are several state campgrounds in the area as well as many hotels and vacation rentals.  We haven’t tried any of the lodging outside of tent camping around here so please let us know if you have found a good hotel or house that welcomes divers.

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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