The South Jetty at Nehalem

The south jetty at the mouth of the Nehalem river is a fun place to dive that is a little off the beaten track for many divers.  The walk to the entrance dissuades many people from attempting this dive but it is well worth the hike if you want to try out a new site.  Crabbing and spearfishing are both usually pretty good along the outer part of the jetty.  On the inner part of the jetty, it is possible to drift dive way up into the Nehalem river system.

The south jetty as seen from Nedonna Beach.

 

Site Highlights:

The things people come here for are spearfishing and crabbing, and drift diving.  During crabbing season, the deep water along the south jetty is packed with boats that people rent from the marinas up the Nehalem River.  Sport fishing is a little less common than crabbing but is just as good for those in boats or sitting on the jetty.  Underwater there are ample opportunities to catch your limit of just about everything that the law allows you to take while diving.

For the more adventurous, you can drift dive from the entrance on the jetty all the way back up into the Nehalem River.  The first marina up the river is where you want to shoot to exit unless you want to spend several hours lazily drifting along upstream with the incoming tide.

Nearest Town:

The little town of Nedonna Beach is the closest to the dive site.  Further north is the town of Nehalem and several other small settlements.  To the south, the bigger towns of Garibaldi and Tillamook await.  Smaller villages and towns are also just south of the dive site.

GPS Coordinates:

45.655438, -123.939354

Special Directions to Site:

From US101 turn onto Beach Street (follow signs for Nedonna Beach).  Beach Street will turn to the right (north).  Follow it all the way to the end of the road were Section Line Street intersects.  There is a public parking area here.

The first marina upriver from the south jetty on the Nehalem River is just off US101 and is well-signed.

Parking:

The last time we were here, the parking was free and public at Nedonna Beach.  On busy beach days, you might have trouble finding a place to park.  Be sure to check the signs when you get to the parking area to make sure it’s still free.

The parking at the marina upriver from the jetty may be free but you need to talk with the marina before you park.  You also need to talk with the marina to make sure they’re okay with you using it as an exit point.

nehalem jetty south
Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google.
The south jetty at Nehalem is a good place to dive a little off the beaten path and there are some great drift diving opportunities if you are here off-tide.

Site Orientation:

The primary dive site runs east-west along the jetty structure.  Toward the jetty tip, conditions get rougher.  If the weather is bad, stay on the inner part of the primary dive site.  If conditions are good, you can dive around the tip of the jetty and a little inward toward the beach.  You could even do a surf exit if you really wanted to.  However, water gets shallow fast on the south side of the jetty.

The drift dive part of the site follows the Nehalem River up into the Nehalem Bay.  We start our dives a few hours before high tide so there is sufficient water still to come into the bay to propel us upstream.  You will still have to do some swimming.  It’s the best to do this when there is a large exchange between low and high tides to increase the speed at which you go upriver and decrease the need for swimming.

Entrances and Exits:

The primary site entrance/exit and the drift dive entrance are along the jetty.  Be sure to scout out where you want to enter based on local conditions.  Where the beach grass and jetty intersect is a good place to start looking.

If you’re drift diving, the exit is up at the first marina as you go up the Nehalem River.  Be sure to plan your dive well before you try a drift dive here because it is easy to either under or over shoot your exit.  You don’t want to be floating along the surface for an hour waiting to exit or end up in the town of Nehalem and have to hitch hike back.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a salt water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is usually done as a shore dive although if you have a boat to put in at one of the many private marinas or public boat ramps, you can do this site from a boat.  If you are doing a drift dive, a support boat can be pretty useful in case you want to exit the water earlier than the first marina.

Normal Conditions:

Out on the jetty tip, conditions are often rough.  Surf, surge, current, waves, and other nastiness can be expected most of the time.  As you go further in the Nehalem River, conditions steadily improve until all you are really concerned about is boat wakes and fishing line.

Normal Visibility:

Visibility can vary wildly at this site.  If you do this site on a calm day in good conditions, you can get 20 feet of viz on the jetty.  If a bunch of silt and sediment has been pumping down the river lately, you can end up with very low visibility.

Normal Temperature:

Out on the end of the jetty, expect Pacific Ocean temperatures (45-55F depending on the time of year).  Inland, the river starts to influence conditions more.  In the summer you might see 60F and in the winter maybe 40F depending on upriver snow melt.

Best Time of Year:

This site is accessible any time of the year due to how large it is.  Plan what part of the site you dive based on local conditions.

Max Depth:

Along the outer jetty, you will find 30 feet of water.  As you go upriver on the Nehalem, expect 20-25 feet of water depending on how high of a tide you’re riding.

Suggested Special Training:

If you are staying in the primary dive site, open water divers with experience diving Oregon jetties can do the dive.  As you go toward the jetty tip in rougher conditions, you will want advanced training and experience in those conditions.  If you are doing a drift dive, you should have a drift diver specialty and experience with drift diving on a river system.

Difficulty of Dive:

We rate this as an intermediate dive although the drift dive can get a little more tricky and the jetty tip can be very challenging.  If you stay in the primary dive site though, we think this is an intermediate-level dive.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

You’re in for a 1000+ foot walk to the jetty from the parking area in Nedonna Beach.  A cart capable of travel over the sand and some friends who will watch your stuff while you’re diving are both a good idea.

If you do the drift dive, you will either need two cars, a friend to shuttle your car, or be willing to hitch hike to get back to your car.  There may be limited taxi service in the area but we suspect they won’t take kindly to wet SCUBA gear in their van.

Surface Swim Length:

No surface swim is needed on the primary dive site.  The drift dive could end up with a very lengthy surface swim if conditions are not good for doing a drift dive.  There aren’t really any exits between Nedonna Beach and the marina.  The distance between the drift dive entrance and drift dive exit is about 3500 feet.  Be sure to plan accordingly.

Special Site Notes:

If you’re diving the primary site, do it at high tide.  If you’re doing the drift dive, do it only when conditions are right (big tidal exchange) and start your dive an hour or two before high tide so that you’re riding the tide up the river.  We don’t recommend trying to do the drift dive in reverse because you could easily overshoot your exit on the jetty and end up getting sucked out to sea which would be unpleasant indeed.

Be sure to talk to the people at the marina before doing a drift dive both about the parking situation and to double-check that they will allow SCUBA divers to exit there.  You might be able to talk them into transporting you and your gear back to Nedonna Beach in one of their pickups if it’s a slow day.

It’s a VERY good idea to fly a dive flag both at the primary and the drift dive portions of this site.  There is a surprising amount of small boat traffic along the Nehalem River and jetty.  A good dive knife is also a good idea in case you encounter fishing line and get tangled.

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

There used to be a place you could get air fills at the Port of Garibaldi although we can’t confirm if it is still in operation.  Otherwise, Astoria has a full service SCUBA shop.  In Depoe Bay there is an air fill station that is by appointment only.  After that, you’re looking at going inland to Portland or Salem for an air fill or gear service.  It’s a good idea to be self-sufficient if you’re diving out on this section of the Oregon coast.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

There is a lot of good food up and down the coast in this area.  You are spoiled for choices here.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

There are a lot of local campgrounds, vacation house rentals, and hotels in the area.  We haven’t tried any of the hotels or vacation house rentals so please let us know if you have a favorite 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!

Lower Deschutes Boat Ramp at Lake Billy Chinook

The lower Deschutes boat ramp on Lake Billy Chinook is a good place to go diving in Central Oregon.  You can go very deep here if you want or you can stay more shallow to check out the underwater cliff faces, the underwater rock formations, and search for things lost by boaters.

Cove Palisades SP Oregon 2002.03.31
The lower Deschutes boat ramp at Cove Palisades State Park is on the west side of the “Island” in the middle of this picture. Ipoellet at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Site Highlights:

The lower Deschutes boat ramp is an exciting place to dive because of the underwater cliffs and rock formations.  Much like some of the other sites on Lake Billy Chinook, this site has a variety of terrain from relatively shallow sandy areas near the roped-off swimming spots to sheer vertical underwater cliffs.  You can often find things that fell off boats around the boat ramp and other random odds and ends that went overboard in the general dive site area.

Nearest Town:

There are a few small towns nearby including Culver, Metolius, and Madras.  To the south, Bend and Redmond have some dive shops.

GPS Coordinates:

44.547443, -121.279279

Special Directions to Site:

There are signs on US 97 for Cove Palisades State Park.  Follow them through a series of roads until you descend down into the canyon.  Look for signs for the lower Deschutes boat ramp once you’ve crossed the bridge over the Crooked River finger of the lake.

Parking:

There is usually ample parking although on busy summer weekends, it can be completely full.  The last time we were here, we had to pay a day use fee to park.  Your Oregon State Parks Pass might work here but double-check when you go to park to see what you need to do.  You can drop your gear off down by the boat ramp after you have your equipment setup and then go park in the car parking area.  If it’s a quiet day with not many boat trailers, you can usually get away with leaving your car in the boat trailer parking.

 

Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google.
The lower Deschutes boat ramp is a good place to dive in Lake Billy Chinook. The underwater terrain is varied and you can go very deep if you want or you can stay shallower in a few areas.

Site Orientation:

This site runs more or less north-south.  There is a little bay in the middle of the site that heads east and is where the boat ramp is located.  The little bay and the area around the roped off swimming spot are the shallowest and gentlest places to dive.  If you go further west, north, or south, things get deep very quickly and also very steep.  There are some vertical underwater cliffs as well.  If you head west and don’t watch your gauges, you can go beyond recreational scuba depth limits so pay attention!

Entrances and Exits:

If there isn’t much boat traffic, you can hop in at the boat ramp.  Otherwise, the swimming beach is an easy entrance with a nice and sandy spot to walk in.  To the west and south, there are a couple swim ladders you can climb in on from the wall where boats sometimes tie up.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a fresh water dive.

Shore/Boat:

We have done this as a shore dive but you can also do boat diving here.  If you’re spending a long weekend on Lake Billy Chinook with your pontoon boat, this is a good dive site to check out your gear and practice your boat entrances and exits before motoring out into other parts of the lake.

Normal Conditions:

Usually there isn’t much current unless you get deep enough and usually there aren’t many naturally occurring waves.  There can be waves and wake from boats passing by though.  This lake is very popular with many different types of boaters so it’s important to fly a dive flag, even if you’re diving from a boat.

Normal Visibility:

Except in the swimming area and right around the boat ramp, visibility is usually pretty good with viz often being 40-60 feet or better.  Where the water gets stirred up, it can be quite a bit lower.  The bottom doesn’t have much to stir up.

Normal Temperature:

The deeper you go, the colder it usually gets at the lower Deschutes boat ramp.  On the surface in late summer, we’ve seen in the 70s at this SCUBA site while at depth it can still be in the low 40s.

Best Time of Year:

This site is diveable any time of the year although we prefer summer and fall.

Max Depth:

We’ve gone down as far as 80 feet here but you can exceed the maximum recreational SCUBA depth limits if you aren’t careful.

Suggested Special Training:

This is an altitude diving site.  We suggest having at least advanced open water training because of the potential to go very deep very quickly.

Difficulty of Dive:

We rate this as an intermediate dive because of the depth.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

Depending on how close you can get your car, you may have to walk only a few feet or a couple thousand feet.

Surface Swim Length:

No surface swim is necessary at the lower Deschutes boat ramp.

Special Site Notes:

This site has a lot of boat traffic during high season (summer and fall).  Fly a dive flag!

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

There are a few SCUBA shops in Bend that offer full service.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

We haven’t tried any of the restaurants right by the lake so please let us know if you have a favorite.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

There are several state and federal-run campsites in the area as well as a private resort with cabins for rent.

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

Shea Viewpoint at Foster Reservoir

If you’re looking for an easily accessible dive site at Foster Reservoir where you can go deep or stay shallow and have a good time, check out Shea Viewpoint.  The topography at this site starts shallow on the right but gets really deep on the left.  This is a good place to do training dives as well.

 

Site Highlights:

This site has a variety of terrain that keeps it interesting for a fresh water reservoir in the Cascades.  We have spent a few afternoons doing training dives here.  One summer the water was so warm in the shallows while we were running a knot skills station, we had to ditch our thermal undergarments, hoods, and gloves, and we were STILL sweating in our suits just sitting on the bottom.  Going deeper, we found chilly 45 degree water.  The thermoclines are real at this site.

Nearest Town:

Sweethome, Oregon is just below the dam.

GPS Coordinates:

44.410477, -122.653649

 

Special Directions to Site:

Just head east on the Santiam Highway out of Sweethome toward Bend.  You’ll find the Shea Viewpoint along the reservoir.

Parking:

Usually there is plenty of parking at Shea Viewpoint.  The last time we went diving here, the parking was free.  Double-check when you arrive that it still is though.

shea viewpoint
Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google.
Shea Viewpoint is a pretty good dive site on Foster Reservoir. We like this site for its varied underwater terrain and easy entry and exit.

Site Orientation:

This site is pretty easy to navigate.  Shore is to the south.  Shallow water is to the east.  Deep water is to the west and north.  Off the north and west sides of Shaw Viewpoint there is a large underwater sloped boulder field that is fun to explore.  The boulder field keeps going down, down, down.  We never found the bottom because it got too deep for our dive plans.

Entrances and Exits:

There is an easy entrance/exit where we think there used to be a boat ramp at the east side of Shaw Viewpoint.  You can walk right down into the water.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a fresh water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a shore dive although you could do a boat dive here, too, if you wanted.

Normal Conditions:

Unless a storm comes up over the lake, the only real issues at this site are boats going by and making wakes.  There can be some pretty big thermoclines here, too.

Normal Visibility:

We’ve had as little as 5 feet of visibility and as much as 40 feet of viz here.  The bottom can be stirred up pretty easily and spring snowmelt can decrease viz.  We’ve found better visibility the deeper we go at this site.

Normal Temperature:

At depth, the temperature is usually around 45F.  At the surface in late summer, it can be in the high 70s or even low 80s near the surface in the shallows.  Early in the spring during peak snowmelt, there can be a layer of 37F water here.

Best Time of Year:

We like diving this site in the late summer to enjoy that warm surface layer of water before going deep into the dark and cold.  Depending on when you dive this site, the water level in Foster Reservoir can be very low which makes for a longer walk to get to the water.

Max Depth:

We’ve been down as far as 95 feet deep here but the bottom keeps going down.  We suspect that you can easily hit 130 feet if you keep heading north and west.

Suggested Special Training:

Open water divers can easily dive the shallower parts of this site.  The deeper parts warrant having advanced open water training and deep diver specialty training.

Difficulty of Dive:

The shallower parts of this site are easy to dive.  The deeper parts of the site become progressively more challenging.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

Depending on the water level in the reservoir, you might have to walk 100 feet or 500 feet to get to the water’s edge.

Surface Swim Length:

No surface swim is necessary here normally.

Special Site Notes:

We suggest flying a dive flag here because of boat traffic.  We have our favorite dive flag that we use when we go SCUBA diving in Oregon over on our Gear We Use page.

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

There are dive shops in Eugene and Salem with

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

There are some decent places to eat in Sweethome.  We usually eat at the A&W Drive-In for the nostalgia vibe.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

There are a few campgrounds nearby and there is primitive camping in the national forest.  We haven’t tried any of the hotels in the area so please let us know if you have a good recommendations.

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

Fort Stevens – South Jetty of the Columbia River

The South Jetty at the mouth of the Columbia River is a dive site that has escaped us for many years.  We have never managed to be here during the right conditions to make this dive.  However, we are pretty sure that you can dive the jetty in perfect conditions.  Someday we’re going to get this dive.  Maybe you will beat us to it!

The South Jetty at the mouth of the Columbia River is almost always a rotten place to dive but every once in a while the weather is just right and this is an enticing place to dive. Someday we’ll manage to dive here.

 

Site Highlights:

The main drive for us to dive here is the novelty of diving on the most northwesterly point of Oregon.  Because conditions here are almost always rough, we have never managed to get in the water.  We expect that there is good spearfishing on the jetty.  There may also be some pieces of old shipwrecks but we aren’t sure.

Nearest Town:

Warrenton, Oregon

 

GPS Coordinates:

46.228340, -124.019644

Special Directions to Site:

Head to Fort Stevens State Park and then follow signs for the Columbia River.  Look for Parking Lot C signs.  If you are going to drive on the beach, check locally for what permits you need (probably an Oregon OHV permit) and where access is available to get onto the beach.

If you’re accessing the jetty from a boat, the Hammond Boat Basin on the Columbia River is the closest place to put in a small boat.  Make sure you have a good captain who knows the Columbia Bar.  We know of someone who died on the bar in his small open boat.  His body was never found.  There’s a reason that the Columbia River’s mouth is part of the Graveyard of the Pacific.

Parking:

There is a big parking lot right at the base of the jetty.  Otherwise, you can drive on the beach with proper permits (Oregon OHV permit) and at the right time of year.  This will get you closer to the site.

We have not had to pay for parking at Lot C but this could change.  Make sure before you park if you need to pay or not.

fort stevens columbia river south jetty
Imagery ©2017 Google, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, TerraMetrics. Map data ©2017 Google.
You have to dive this in perfect conditions or you will probably get smashed on the jetty rocks, sucked out to sea, drowned by massive breakers, or worse.

Site Orientation:

The site is mostly west-east.  You want to stick close to the rocks and not stray far away.  There can be a lot of strange currents in the area that change frequently.  The south side of the jetty is deeper than the north side close into the shore.  Farther west on the jetty, it gets deeper on both sides.

Entrances and Exits:

If you’re doing a shore entrance or exit, right at the base of the jetty is where you want to hop in.  If you drive onto the beach on either side of the jetty, the entrance will be easier than climbing on the massive jetty rocks.

If you’re doing this as a boat dive, it’s worth heading toward the tip of the jetty for deeper water.  Make sure you check out the proper nautical chart and have a good boat captain.  The tip of the jetty goes underwater and can be hazardous even in good conditions.

north side of jetty
The beach on the north of the Columbia RIver’s south jetty is very long. You will have to walk through a lot of shallow water before you find a place worthwhile to go underwater.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a salt water dive.

Shore/Boat:

The south jetty on the Columbia River can be done either as a boat or a shore dive.  When the conditions finally align with our plans, we expect we’ll do this as a shore dive.

Normal Conditions:

Normally it’s way too rough to dive here.  Every time we have tried, the conditions are rotten.  In absolutely ideal conditions, you will still have to contend with surf, surge, and current.

Normal Visibility:

Based on what we have been told by other divers and our own experience on nearby jetties, we expect visibility to range from 5 to 15 feet depending on conditions.

Normal Temperature:

This site is exposed directly to the open ocean so water temperature tracks ocean temperature.  Expect to see temperatures between 45F and 55F.

lot c
Parking Lot C is the closest you can get on pavement to the jetty. It’s a good place to stage before making the climb over the jetty or the long walk to the north beach.

Best Time of Year:

Summer and early fall when no storms are predicted is the best time to try your luck at getting a calm day at the mouth of the Columbia River.

Max Depth:

At the very tip, nautical charts show about 65 feet of water.  Along the jetty where you can dive from shore, the north side won’t get much below 15-20 feet at high tide while the south side can get up to about 30 feet.

Suggested Special Training:

You really should have rescue diver training and a lot of experience diving jetties in Oregon before you attempt this.  Even then, this can be a dangerous site.

Difficulty of Dive:

This is an advanced dive that requires lots of planning and good conditions.  Diving in anything less than ideal conditions is just asking for trouble.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

If you park in C Lot, you’ll be walking about 300 feet plus a jetty scramble for the south side of the jetty or about 1500 feet plus a long slog through shallow water (up to 2000 feet!) for the north side of the jetty.  It’s possible the north side might have quicksand in the shallows so be very careful.

Surface Swim Length:

No surface swim is necessary on most of the south side unless you’re starting from the beach in which case you might have to swim 1000 feet for deep enough water.  On the north side, you’re looking at 1000+ feet of swimming to get to deep water.

Special Site Notes:

To dive on the beach, you need a permit (Oregon OHV).  Check locally to see what the rules are.

This site is not one that you can just go and do any day of the week.  Weather needs to be good and ocean conditions need to be calm.  Even then, the Columbia River pumps out a LOT of water and there are a lot of strange and unpredictable currents around the jetty.

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

There is a full service SCUBA shop in Astoria with air fills.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

Look for the little tugboat on the back of a trailer in downtown Astoria for really good fish and chips.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

The state park has camping available.  We haven’t tried any of the hotels in the area.  Please let us know if you are aware of diver-friendly lodging in greater Astoria.

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

Lake Billy Chinook – The Cove Palisades State Park – Upper Deschutes Boat Launch

The Upper Deschutes Boat Launch at Lake Billy Chinook is a fun place to go diving in central Oregon.  There are some interesting underwater rock formations along the submerged cliff walls but the site also has good areas for shallower diving depending on what you’re looking for in a SCUBA adventure.

029_view_odfw
Lake BIlly Chinook. Photo by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Copyright 2009.

Site Highlights:

We like this site for the interesting submerged cliffs and underwater rock formations.  There are also some good areas to practice SCUBA skills near the shore.  Diving in Lake Billy Chinook is not something most people from the west side of the Cascades would usually but it is worth the drive to Central Oregon to test the waters.

Nearest Town:

The nearest large town is Bend with Redmond in between.  Culver and Metolius are both closer although they are smaller towns.

GPS Coordinates:

44.532684, -121.291513

Special Directions to Site:

Follow the signs to The Cove Palisades State Park and then look for the turn-off for the Upper Descutes Boat Launch and Day Use Area.

Parking:

There is ample parking at this site.  The last time we were here, we did need to pay for parking although this may change based on the time of year.  There are two parking areas to choose from.  One is designated for boat trailer parking and the other is for car parking.  The Upper Deschutes Boat Launch is right by the trailer parking while the day use area is by the car parking.

deschutes upper boat launch
Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google.
The Deschutes upper boat launch and day use area is a big dive site that could be explored across multiple dives.

 

Site Orientation:

The Deschutes Upper Boat Launch and day use area could be considered two sites.  Certainly there is enough underwater ground to cover that the site merits at least two dives.  On the southwest side of the dive site where the boat launch is located, the submerged cliffs fall away rapidly from the bank.  At the northeastern part of this dive site, SCUBA divers will find a more gently sloping bottom around the roped off swimming area.

We found this site to be the most fun by starting at the southwest entrance and swimming along the submerged canyon walls until we came out at the northeast exit.  Swimming the opposite way you may encounter a very gentle current from the Deschutes River.

Entrances and Exits:

The three easiest places to enter and exit are at the boat ramp (one entrance/exit) and by the day use swimming area (two entrances/exits).  Around the boat ramp, be sure to watch for boat traffic and give way to other users of the upper Deschutes boat launch area.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a fresh water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a shore dive although we have SCUBA buddies who have done this as a boat dive.

Normal Conditions:

There can be some waves from boat wakes but otherwise conditions are usually pretty mild at the upper Deschutes boat launch.  Water level in the lake can vary throughout the year so be prepared for low or high water.  Depending on when you go, the amount of boat traffic at the boat launch might be too great for you to safely enter or exit the water there.

Normal Visibility:

Visibility is usually in the 20-30 foot range except around the swimming area where it can be much less when swimmers stir up the bottom.

Normal Temperature:

Temperature varies throughout the year based on snow melt feeding into the reservoir and how much energy the sun has pumped into the lake.  We have found a surface thermocline at this site of 60F and deeper water temperatures of 40F.

Best Time of Year:

We like diving this site in the early fall after most of the weekend boat traffic has left the lake and before snow starts falling in the Cascades.  However, the site is accessible most of the year (although sometimes parking is not).

Max Depth:

We never went past 75 feet here but you can go much deeper if you head out toward the old Deschutes river bed at the bottom of the flooded canyon.  Watch your depth gauge and remember that this is an altitude dive.

Suggested Special Training:

Open water divers with experience diving walls can do this site.  However, this is an altitude dive so you should have altitude diver training.

Difficulty of Dive:

We rate this as an intermediate dive for a few different reasons.  First, the boat traffic in the area makes it more challenging to stay safe.  Second, the underwater rock walls that you will be diving along can be tricky to dive if you haven’t had that experience before because you can easily go too deep or accidentally surface.  Third, this is an altitude dive and requires altitude diver training.  Fourth, the walks to entrances and exits can potentially be very long.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

Depending on the time of year and how much boat traffic there is at the upper Deschutes boat launch, you may be walking from a long way away.  Expect at least a 200 foot walk from the closest parking to the boat ramp and plan for possibly 800 feet of walking.  One approach is to assemble your gear in one of the parking areas, drive it as close as possible to the entrance you want to use, drop your gear off, go park, walk back, don your gear, and enter the water.  Upon surfacing, doff your gear where you can pull up a car, go walk to your car and bring it to your gear, load up your gear, and take it somewhere else to break down.

The lengthy walks convince some people to dive this site using a boat.

Surface Swim Length:

No surface swim is needed here.

Special Site Notes:

Be mindful of boaters using the boat ramp.  We always give boaters priority when we use a boat ramp as an entrance or exit.  Several times at different boat ramps across Oregon, we have made friends by helping boaters recover lost equipment that took a swim after falling overboard at the ramp.

Because of all of the boat traffic in this area, it is a very good idea to have a dive flag and use it.  We have a dive flag that we highly recommend on our Gear We Use page.

Remember that this is an altitude diving site and you should have training to dive at altitude.

It is easy to go too deep at this site.  Watch your depth gauges carefully.

[Underwater Map of Dive Site Coming Soon!]

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

There is a dive shop in Bend that does air fills, services gear, and has gear for sale.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

We haven’t tried any of the restaurants in the area although we know there are some places to eat in the nearby towns.  Please let us know if you have a favorite place to get food!

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

There are some state and federal campgrounds in the area, and over on the Crooked River branch of Lake Billy Chinook there is a resort with cabins for rent.  Please let us know if you have a favorite place to camp around the upper Deschutes boat launch 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!

Waldo Lake Shadow Bay Day Use Area Boat Ramp

The Shadow Bay Day Use Area Boat Ramp on Waldo Lake is a fun and easy place to go diving on the lake.  This is a big, clear body of water that has excellent visibility although at this particular site there isn’t that much to see.  We like diving here with SCUBA friends to take photos of one another goofing around underwater.  It is also neat to watch sailboats pass overhead on the surface from 50 feet down.

Waldo Lake
Photo by Coulee at English Wikipedia (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Waldo Lake is a fun place to go diving because of the great visibility and easy diving conditions.

Site Highlights:

The main thing we like about this dive site is the visibility.  Aside from Clear Lake, there aren’t that many places in Oregon where you can go diving so easily and get such great viz.  We like taking photos of each other underwater here and we also enjoy watching the hulls of sailboats glide past from the bottom.

Nearest Town:

Oakridge, Oregon is down the highway by a half hour or so from Waldo Lake.

GPS Coordinates:

43.691354, -122.042806

Special Directions to Site:

Look for signs to Waldo Lake on Highway 58.  National Forest Road 5897 is the road you want.  Follow the road for a few miles until you reach National Forest Road 5896.  There should be a Shadow Bay sign at the left turn.  Follow signs for the boat ramp.

Parking:

Parking usually isn’t a problem at the boat ramp area.  On really busy summer days, you may have to park over in the campground day use area.

 

shadow bay
Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google. Shadow Bay starts shallow but gets very deep when you exit the little bay by the boat ramp.

Site Orientation:

The little bay next to the boat ramp is shallow.  Depending on your inclination, you can start diving here or you can surface swim out to the deeper water.  The larger part of the dive site can get very deep.  We went as deep as 70 feet here before.  It is important to use a compass and have good navigation skills because it is easy to get disoriented in the deeper water where there are no underwater landmarks.

Entrances and Exits:

We usually walk right in at the boat ramp but you can also enter from the shore along the lake if you don’t mind a little bit of a scramble to get in.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a fresh water dive.

Shore/Boat:

While we usually dive this site as a shore dive, you can also dive the entire lake as a boat dive.  Recently the Forest Service has begun allowing electric motors on the lake after many years of banning all engines.  Even with electric motors being allowed, most people still use sailboats here.

Normal Conditions:

Conditions here are usually good.  There isn’t any current to speak of.  Just watch for boat traffic when you surface.  We suggest taking along a dive flag so that boats can spot and avoid you.  We recommend the dive flag that we use on our Gear We Use page.

Normal Visibility:

Visibility is usually at least 40 feet and sometimes in excess of 100 feet.

Normal Temperature:

In the summer, water temperature around the boat ramp can be 65F.  At greater depths, expect water temperatures around 40-45F.

Best Time of Year:

This site is only accessible in the summer and fall.  Snow in the winter and spring blocks the road.

Max Depth:

We have not gone past 70 feet here although it appears you can easily go below the maximum recreational SCUBA diving depth limit on the western side of the Shadow Bay dive site.

Suggested Special Training:

This lake is an altitude dive.  Shadow Bay is at 5400 feet above sea level making it one of the higher lakes that you can dive in Oregon.  Be sure to know what you’re doing with your altitude tables and be sure your computer compensates for altitude before diving here.

Aside from the altitude diver training requirement, this dive site is very accessible to just-certified open water divers.

Difficulty of Dive:

This dive is very easy aside from needing to remember about altitude considerations.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

Depending on where you park and where you enter, you will walk between 50 and 500 feet.

Surface Swim Length:

You don’t strictly need to surface swim here although swimming out of the little bay where the boat ramp is will conserve air for the deeper areas further to the west.  You might want to surface swim about 300 feet.

Special Site Notes:

Remember that this is an altitude dive.  The bottom on the western side of the site slowly drops deeper and deeper.  Watch your gauges and your depth.  It is very easy to be lured deeper than you intended to go because there aren’t any visual cues.

[Underwater Map of Dive Site Coming Soon!]

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

The closest dive shops are in Eugene and Bend.  This site is in the middle of nowhere and you need to be self sufficient to dive here.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

There aren’t any restaurants nearby.  Bring your own food!

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

There are many National Forest campgrounds and many opportunities for primitive camping in the area.

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

Lake Billy Chinook – The Cove Palisades State Park – Crooked River Boat Ramp

The Crooked River Boat Ramp at Lake Billy Chinook is a good place to go get wet in Central Oregon.  You can either do this as a shore dive or a boat dive depending on if you bring a pontoon or motorboat with you.  The site varies from a fairly shallow and sandy bottom to deep, steep, and rocky.  There is a fair amount of boat traffic in the summer around the boat ramp but there are plenty of other places to enter and exit the water nearby for shore diving.  We have had a good time searching for objects lost by boaters at the boat ramp.  More often than not, it seems that there is a boater with something that just fell overboard who is very happy to see a couple SCUBA divers in the parking lot.

Lake Billy Chinook and Mt. Jefferson
Copyright 2009 Sarah McDevitt. Lake Billy Chinook has a lot of potential for SCUBA diving if you have a boat. The Crooked River Boat Ramp is a good place to put your boat in or to shore dive.

Site Highlights:

The draw for us to dive around the Crooked River Boat Ramp is the underwater topography.  While the swimming area and directly around it are relatively shallow and sandy, going to either the north or south you will encounter steep underwater cliffs that are fun to explore.  Taking a boat farther out into the lake opens up many potential dive sites that we haven’t been able to explore yet.

Nearest Town:

Culver and Metolius, Oregon are the two closest small towns.  Redmond and Bend are further south and have more services.

GPS Coordinates:

44.554023, -121.262217

Special Directions to Site:

From US 97, follow signs for Lake Billy Chinook and The Cove Palisades State Park.  You’ll end up on SW Jordan Road as you descend into the canyon.  Right after the switchback at the bottom, the marina is on the right and clearly signed as the Crooked River Boat Ramp.

Parking:

Parking is plentiful although it fills up on weekends in the summer.  Be sure to park in the lot that is appropriate for your vehicle.  Don’t take up a boat trailer spot with your car.  The last time we were here, we paid to park but that may have changed.

Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google. The Crooked River Boat Ramp has a lot of good entrances and exits, and varied terrain that keeps this dive site interesting.

 

Site Orientation:

The site runs roughly north-south.  The further to the west you go, the deeper it gets.  We haven’t gone beyond 75 feet deep at this site although the depth finder on our boat indicated that out in the old river channel, you can surpass the maximum recreational SCUBA diver depth limit.

Around the boat ramp and swimming area, the bottom is mostly flat and sandy.  This is a shallower area that is appropriate for practicing your SCUBA skills.  To the north and south, the water gets deeper and the terrain gets more rugged and rocky.  We have found big boulders underwater that must have plunged down centuries ago from the basalt cap rocks on the mesas high above.

Be sure to steer clear of the boat ramp and docks when boaters are present unless you’re helping a boater retrieve lost gear.

Entrances and Exits:

There is an entrance and an exit for everyone here.  Most of the entrances are easy walk-ins.  A few you have to do some big steps down to the water.  At the boat ramp, someone with limited ability can walk right into the water.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a fresh water dive.

Shore/Boat:

The Crooked River Boat Ramp can be dived as a shore dive or a boat dive depending on what you want to do.  If you’re doing a boat dive, we suggest you head further north along the lake and check out some of the cliffs up in that direction.  The entire lake is diveable although you need to check with local regulations to see if SCUBA divers are allowed everywhere.

Normal Conditions:

You sometimes can get a little wake from boaters coming into the marina too fast.  Otherwise, there can be a little current to the west of this dive site if the Crooked River is running high during the spring snow melt.  Beyond that, this is a pretty benign dive site compared to diving on the Oregon coast.

Normal Visibility:

The last time we went diving here, we easily had 50 feet of visibility although during the end of the summer when water quality can be very poor, the viz can go much lower.

Normal Temperature:

We have seen water temperatures as cold as 38F at depth and as warm as 60F in the shallows here.

Best Time of Year:

In the summer, the lake is packed with boats which makes it a little more tricky to dive around the Crooked River Boat Ramp.  However, the air and water are warmer and all of the concessions along the lake are open.

In the winter, we have heard that the gate to this site sometimes is closed although we have not had that problem ourselves.

This site is diveable all year round.  Choose your favorite time of year to go to Central Oregon and head to Lake Billy Chinook!

Max Depth:

We haven’t gone past 75 feet at this site although you should be able to touch 130 feet without too much effort to the west of the site.

Suggested Special Training:

Open water divers can dive this site after taking an altitude specialty class.  The lake elevation is usually around 1900 feet above sea level making this an altitude dive.

Difficulty of Dive:

This is an easy dive site that can be enjoyed by everyone assuming that you have altitude diver training.  Entrances and exits are very easy.  There is even handicapped parking right next to the boat ramp.  If you want a little more challenge, go either north or south along the canyon walls to find underwater cliffs and deep water.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

Depending on where you park, it can be between a 50 foot and a 500 foot walk to the entrance.

Surface Swim Length:

If you enter in the swimming area, you’ll want to kick out 100 feet or so in order to find some deeper water.  Otherwise the other entrances don’t require much of a surface swim.

Special Site Notes:

Steer clear of the boat ramp if boaters are actively putting in or taking out boats.  We suggest flying a dive flag to let boaters know where you are.  We have one we use all the time when we go diving in Oregon that we highly recommend.  Check out our Gear We Use page for details.

[Underwater Map of Dive Site Coming Soon!]

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

There is a full service SCUBA shop in Bend.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

There are a few restaurants in Culver and more up north on US 97 in Madras.  If you have a favorite, please let us know!

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

There are several state and federal-run campgrounds nearby.  There is also a private resort just down the road with cabins.  If you know of any hotels in the area that are SCUBA diver friendly, please let us know!

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

South Jetty on Tillamook Bay

The south jetty of Tillamook Bay does not see very many SCUBA divers because of the difficulty of access.  The road out to the jetty is almost always gated and locked.  With a boat launched from one of the marinas in Tillamook Bay, you can easily reach the site.  We have heard of a few people surface swimming from the north shore at the Inner North Jetty dive site but that is an epic surface swim where you have to fight the current and dodge boat traffic.  With a hand cart and patience, you can lug all of your dive gear from the parking area along the gravel road to the jetty a few miles away.

The main reason people go dive the south jetty is to spearfish.  Because so few people dive along the jetty, the fish tend to be bigger and more plentiful than on the north jetty (at least in our experience).  You also get to put the feather in your SCUBA cap of diving a site that not many people ever get to dive.

USACE Tillamook Bay Oregon
By Bill Johnson, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. The south jetty (on the right) doesn’t get many SCUBA visitors but it is worth the difficulty of accessing the dive site if you want do some good spearfishing.
The old abandoned town of Bayocean is what drove the construction of the jetties on the mouth of Tillamook Bay.  Depending on what path or road you take through the Tillamook County Bayocean Peninsula Park, you might catch a glimpse of a few foundations and the memorial sign at the old town square.  Most of the town fell into the ocean due to coastal erosion.

Bayodancenata
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. The old natatorium and dance hall at Bayocean before they fell into the sea.

Site Highlights:

The reason anyone dives here is for the spearfishing.  Otherwise this is a pretty typical Oregon jetty dive that has really difficult access.

Nearest Town:

The little unincorporated town of Barview is across the channel.  The town of Garibaldi is just up the bay and on the other side.  Tillamook is further south.

GPS Coordinates:

45.565360, -123.948930

Special Directions to Site:

If you’re going to access this site via boat, go to Garibaldi and put your boat in at the marina there.

If you’re going to do the long hike to the dive site, in Tillamook take the Netarts Highway to the west from downtown and then turn onto Bayocean Road just after you cross over the bridge.  Follow Bayocean Road all the way to the parking area at the Tillamook County Bayocean Peninsula Park.

If you’re going to do the surface swim because you’re practicing for an Iron Man or because you like punishing yourself, the parking area for the Inner North Jetty dive site is the best place to park.

Parking:

In Garibaldi at the boat launch, there is plenty of parking.  At the Bayocean Peninsula Park parking lot, there usually is plenty of parking.

Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google.
It is a challenge to get to the south jetty on the Tillamook Bay but the spear fishing is good.

Site Orientation:

The site hugs the jetty wall from southeast to northwest on the inner part and then after a bend in the jetty, from east to west.  The western area is deeper than the eastern area.  You could theoretically dive the jetty tip if you wanted but the conditions out there are almost always very rough and not something that would be all that fun to do.

close up of barview jetty south site
Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google.
The south jetty on the Tillamook Bay is a good place to spearfish. There is one area on the jetty wall that is easier to climb over than others but most of the jetty is pretty accessible.

Entrances and Exits:

There is one area on the jetty wall near where the jetty hooks to the west that is a little lower and easier to scramble over.  However, you can enter or exit just about anywhere along the wall.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a salt water dive.

Shore/Boat:

The south jetty can be done either as a shore dive or a boat dive.  A boat dive is significantly less physically demanding although a competent captain is needed to navigate dropping off SCUBA divers along the jetty wall.

If you do this as a shore dive, prepare for a several mile long hike towing a cart with all of your gear in it.

Normal Conditions:

This site almost always has a wicked ripping current along the south jetty.  The tidal exchange into and out of Tillamook Bay is pretty huge and there is very little slack tide.  Stay close to the jetty rocks and plan your dive to stay safe.  You don’t want to get sucked out to sea or pushed way up into the bay.

There can be surf and surge, especially the farther out you go on the jetty toward the ocean.  We strongly suggest you assess the conditions and only dive where you feel comfortable diving.

Normal Visibility:

Viz here is usually around 15 feet although it can be better in fair weather.  The bottom is mostly sand so you don’t need to worry too much about stirring up mud.

Normal Temperature:

Water temperature usually is around 42-55F.

Best Time of Year:

The best time of the year to dive here depends on if you are doing the long walk from the parking area or if you are taking a boat.  If you’re taking a boat, just about any time is decent to dive here as long as conditions aren’t too rough.  If you’re hiking, we suggest doing it in the fall or spring when it isn’t too sunny or warm so that you don’t roast on the long slog to the dive site.

Max Depth:

On the westerly part of the jetty, you can find 40 feet sometimes.  On the inside eastern part of the south jetty, the depth is more like 15-20 feet.

Suggested Special Training:

We suggest having advanced open water training and experience diving other jetties in Oregon, such as the Florence north jetty SCUBA park and “crab hole” where there is an easy entrance and exit and more forgiving conditions.

If you are doing this as a boat dive, you need experience on how to safely enter and exit a boat.

If you’re planning to go more toward the jetty tip, rescue diver training, drift diver training, and a lot of experience in very rough conditions is necessary.

Difficulty of Dive:

The dive itself is an intermediate difficulty site because of the jetty entrance and exit, and the current.  However, the huge hike from the parking area makes this a shore dive for only the most fit of people.  If you’re doing this from a boat, weekend warriors shouldn’t have much issue.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

If you do the long walk from the parking area, you have several miles to lug all your gear.  A wheeled cart will make your life much easier.

Surface Swim Length:

There isn’t any need to surface swim unless you are accessing this site from the inner north jetty dive site.  If that’s the case, then you are looking at a 1000 foot surface swim with current and shipping traffic to dodge.

Special Site Notes:

We suggest you contact the Tillamook County Parks Department to see if you can arrange to have the gate opened to drive out to the jetty rather than having to walk.  We have not been successful with this approach yet but if enough people start asking, perhaps the parks department will start opening up the gate more often for SCUBA divers.

[Underwater Map of Dive Site Coming Soon!]

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

There used to be a shop in Tillamook that did air fills although we can’t confirm if it is still open.  Please let us know if you know of a local shop!

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

Tillamook has a lot of good food.  Oceanside and Netarts just down the road have good food as well.  If you’re coming in from Garibaldi on a boat, there are also some restaurants there.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

There aren’t any close campgrounds although Tillamook County Parks operate several in the area as does Oregon State Parks.

We have not tried any of the local hotels.  Please let us know if you have tried one and found it to be diver friendly!

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

Newport – South Beach Reef

The South Beach Reef in Newport, Oregon is an outstanding place to go for a dive if you have a good boat and captain, and some calm weather.  Visibility is outstanding in the ocean.  When we went diving on the South Beach Reef, we saw many species of cold water coral, huge fish of all different species, and a ton of other marine life that you just don’t see on the jetties around Oregon.

south beach in Newport
Some friends of ours checking out the breakers rolling over the South Beach Reef on an ordinary day in December from South Beach State Park. The South Jetty is visible on the right.

Site Highlights

The South Beach Reef has an absolute explosion of underwater life.  We have seen cold water corals, huge fish of many different species, strange giant crabs (we wish we had a picture so we could do a species ID!) and a really cool reef wall.  If you’re used to diving along the low viz jetties on the Oregon coast, you’ll be absolutely blown away by this dive site.  It is one of the best dive sites we’ve had the privilege of diving in Oregon.

Nearest Town:

Newport, Oregon

GPS Coordinates:

44.603259, -124.084236

 

Special Directions to Site:

Take the aquarium exit from US101 and head to the marina.  This is where you can put your boat in and park your car.

Parking:

There is plenty of free parking at the marina.

south beach reef dive site
Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google.
South Beach Reef is accessible by boat or a MASSIVE surface swim and LONG hike. This site can only be accessed in calm conditions.

 

Site Orientation:

The reef runs roughly north-south offshore from South Beach State Park.  The further south you go along the reef, the deeper the bottom gets.  The marine chart for this area is very useful to boat captains looking for the best spot to drop divers off at for the best dive.  We suggest that your boat have a depth finder to establish where the reef rises up from the sandy bottom.  You want to enter the water just to the west of where the reef comes up and you will be picked up in the shallow area on top of the reef when your dive is done.

Once you’re in the water, descend to the bottom of the reef and start your dive there.  Depending on what the current is doing, this could turn into a bit of a drift dive.  The last time we went SCUBA diving on the South Beach Reef, we had the boat follow our bubbles which was a good thing because the current carried us along for a ways in one direction when we were below 40 feet and then carried us back the other way above 40 feet.  Be sure to watch your head as you come up to the surface to make sure you don’t have an unpleasant experience with a boat hull or a propeller!

If conditions are good, it is fun to swim back and forth along the reef wall as you come up from the bottom of the South Beach Reef.  The colors on the reef are outstanding and can really be brought out with a good dive light.  We have several that we use every time we go diving in Oregon and that we recommend on our Gear We Use page.

At the top of the water column on the South Beach Reef, you will most likely encounter surge.  The last time we went diving here, we were sloshing back and forth on top of the reef by about five feet in either direction.  Our boat was also moving with the waves which made getting on the boat a bit more of a challenge.  We suggest taking a safety sausage (we ALWAYS dive with one for each of us) in case you surface away from your boat.

Entrances and Exits:

While it would technically be possible to surface swim from South Beach State Park out to this dive site, we haven’t ever heard of someone trying it.  You could also possibly use a kayak setup for SCUBA diving to access the South Beach Reef but going through the breakers (even on a calm day we usually see breakers here) would be a challenge.

Instead, we highly recommend that you take a boat with a good captain out to the reef.  The boat ramp on the south side of Yaquina Bay right next to the US101 Yaquina Bay Bridge is a good place to put in.

Diving from a boat means that you will need to know how to enter and exit with a boat involved.  We usually do a giant stride off the back of the boat that takes us out to the South Beach Reef.  The boat captain usually has a floating line that he throws out when we surface for us to grab onto.  Because of the nature of the reef, the current, and the surf, boats usually do not anchor and instead will hold position near SCUBA diver bubbles.  For this reason, be sure to watch above your head as you come close to the surface.  Running into a boat prop is a good way to die.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a salt water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a boat dive.

Normal Conditions:

Normally this site is not diveable.  You need really calm and flat ocean conditions to make the South Beach Reef a good place to dive.  Watch the surf, marine, and weather forecasts to time your trip.  Don’t dive the South Beach Reef if you have any doubt about the conditions.  There are plenty of other dive sites around Newport that aren’t as impacted by fickle ocean conditions.

At the bottom and on the reef wall, you will probably encounter some current.  We have seen no current at all, a strong current from one direction, and current from one direction at one depth and current from another direction at another depth.

Near the surface, you will probably find some surge.  One time when we went diving here, the surge swished us back and forth over the top of the reef by about five feet in either direction.

People sometimes come out here in boats to go fishing or crabbing so be on the lookout for boats that aren’t your boat.

Normal Visibility:

Visibility at the South Beach Reef is often very good.  The worst that we have had it here is 20 feet of visibility and the best is 35 feet.  Compared to some of the sites in Yaquina Bay, this is amazing viz!  Depending on the time of year, you may encounter even better viz or somewhat worse viz.

Normal Temperature:

Water temperature out here in the ocean usually runs between 48F in January and 57F in September.

Best Time of Year:

We like diving this site in the summer on a sunny, calm day.  The site is diveable anytime throughout the year but it really depends on the ocean conditions to see if the site is safe to dive.

Max Depth:

You can hit 65 feet at the south end of this dive site.  Toward the north, the deepest you’ll find is 40 feet.

Suggested Special Training:

We suggest having advanced open water training and practicing entrances and exits from a boat.  You may be glad you have drift diver training if you encounter current along the reef wall.

Difficulty of Dive:

This is an intermediate dive assuming your boat does a good job of staying with you and the ocean conditions aren’t too rough.  If conditions deteriorate or your boat runs away, it becomes extremely difficult to get back to land.  Swimming through the breakers is something that we do not want to experience.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

No walk assuming you’re using a boat.

Surface Swim Length:

No surface swim assuming the boat comes over to pick you up.

Special Site Notes:

This is a really special dive that not very many Oregon SCUBA divers get to do.  The South Beach Reef has tons of life and color on its rocky walls.  It is accessible for those with a decent boat or for those who pay to have a boat and captain for the day.

Remember: you need very calm ocean conditions to make this site safer to dive.  You should carry a safety sausage to signal your boat or people on the shore if you get into trouble (we have a safety sausage we always carry with us and that we highly recommend).

We have had friends with boats take us to this site in the past.  If you know of a commercial boat operation in Newport that you have used and can recommend to other SCUBA divers, please let us know!

[Underwater Map of Dive Site Coming Soon!]

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

There is a SCUBA shop in the South Beach area of Newport.  They do air fills, service gear, have some gear for sale, and rent gear.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

Both sides of Yaquina Bay have a lot of great restaurants and bars.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

We like staying at the South Beach State Park campground.  They have RV sites, tent sites, and yurts for rent.  The yurts are great in the winter when it’s cold and rainy.

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!

Newport – OSU Research Pyramids

The OSU Research Pyramids are a series of six underwater cinder block structures at three different sites in Yaquina Bay.  While you could technically dive these from shore, the surface swim would be very long and annoying.  This is a great boat dive in the bay.  The pyramids were once used for juvenile rockfish studies around 2008-2010.  We don’t know if they are still being used  for research but the buoys still appear to be maintained.  Not many people dive these structures aside from research scientists attached to Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center.  There isn’t any good spearfishing or crabbing on the pyramids but the pyramids are covered in tiny marine life which makes them an interesting dive for people who like looking at tiny creatures underwater.

Photo from the second finger on the south newport jetty
The first and second pyramids are between the first finger and second finger of the south jetty in Newport.  Look for the orange marker buoys.

Site Highlights:

We love going to dive the OSU Research Pyramids sites to look for juvenile rockfish like the OSU researchers used to do.  Back when the pyramids were actively being used for research, buddy pairs of divers would visit the pyramids regularly to do juvenile rockfish counts.  They would use toilet bowl cleaners or dryer vent cleaners on long wooden poles to push juvenile rockfish out of the cinder blocks and into a big net.  Then they would count how many rockfish and other species they captured.  Genetic samples would be taken from some of the fish and some fish had a small snip taken out of one of their fins so that they could be identified in the future.

Another highlight is the mystery surrounding Pyramid 5.  One day when the OSU research SCUBA divers went out to do their rockfish study, Pyramid 5 had disappeared!  Over the next several months, they searched the entire area in a grid pattern, with ropes, and using several other search techniques but they never could find it.  Even using the GPS coordinates that they had recorded for the pyramid’s location turned up nothing.  You might think that this wouldn’t be that big of a deal.  After all, these aren’t that big of structures, right?  Wrong!  These pyramids are about the size of a love seat and are held to the bottom with about 10,000lbs of lead weights!

The prevailing theories over the disappearance of the fifth OSU Research Pyramid are 1) it sunk into the mud suddenly, 2) someone managed to steal the pyramid which would require a massive crane to get it to break free of the bottom, 3) aliens.  Pyramid 5’s disappearance is still talked about to this day among our group of SCUBA friends who went diving on it before the disappearance.  Maybe you will be the person to find the missing Pyramid 5!

Nearest Town:

Newport, Oregon.

GPS Coordinates:

44.622885, -124.049954

Special Directions to Site:

Take the aquarium exit from US101 and then follow signs to the marina and boat ramp.

Parking:

There is plenty of trailer parking by the boat ramp for your truck and trailer after you’ve put your boat in the water.

OSU research pyramid site plan
Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google.
The three sets of OSU Research Pyramids are interesting dives if you can find them.

Site Orientation:

This site is spread across three different areas all accessible by boat.  All of the pyramids (except for that tricky Pyramid 5!) are supposed to be marked with orange buoys that at very high tides will be 1-2 feet below water.  The buoy markers are supposed to be maintained forever until the research pyramids are removed from the bottom.  Based on how hard it will be to ever get those pyramids up off the bottom, we expect the buoys will remain for many years to come.

Each research pyramid is around the size of a love seat.  There are several rows of cinder blocks that form a sort of pyramid and are held together with metal plates.  The last time we went diving on the pyramids, the lowest set of cinder blocks was already underneath the sand and mud.  By now, the next row up has probably submerged beneath the muck.

Each grouping of research pyramids has the pyramids generally within 100 feet of one another.  We tried navigating between the pyramids a few times but it is difficult hit one pyramid underwater when starting at the other.  We suggest you surface and move with your boat over to the other pyramid rather than try to find it underwater.

Entrances and Exits:

While you could do some epic surface swims to the different OSU Research Pyramid sites, we suggest that you use a boat.  The marina on the south side of the Yaquina Bay Bridge is the best place to put your boat in the water.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a salt water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a boat dive unless you love swimming very long distances in SCUBA gear.

Normal Conditions:

Usually the conditions are pretty decent.  The pyramid sites are all outside of the shipping channels but you may still get some wake occasionally from passing boats.  The pyramids do get some current from the Yaquina River although they are far enough outside of the channel that it isn’t as bad as what you experience out on the third finger on the south jetty.

Normal Visibility:

The first and second pyramids usually have 10-15 feet of visibility.  The bottom here is mostly sand.

The third and fourth pyramids usually have about 10 feet of visibility.  The bottom is mixed sand and mud and can be stirred up.

The fifth and sixth pyramids are in the 5-10 foot range of visibility.  The bottom is mud and will get stirred up easily.

Normal Temperature:

Temperature varies based on where you are in the Yaquina Bay and river conditions.  We have seen 42-55F depending on the time of year.

Best Time of Year:

Summer is a good time to dive these sites.  The water is a little warmer and it’s fun cruising around on a boat in Yaquina Bay when the sun is out.

Max Depth:

At an extremely high tide, you might get 25 feet at the first and second pyramids.  Normally you’ll be between 15 and 20 feet though.

Suggested Special Training:

You will want to know how to dive from the type of boat you are using.  Open water divers can do these dives but we still rate this on the low end of an intermediate dive because of the potential for having zero visibility if the bottom is stirred up and for the current that can sometimes impact these sites.

Difficulty of Dive:

This is an intermediate dive although open water divers can do these dives if they have experience diving from a boat.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

If you are smart with prepping your gear and loading it onto your boat before you go out into the water, you won’t have to walk anywhere.  Motoring along with your boat can take 20-30 minutes to reach the 5th and 6th research pyramids though.

Surface Swim Length:

No surface swim unless you really want to do this as a shore dive.

Special Site Notes:

We suggest you ask for permission from the Heppell Lab at Oregon State University before you dive the OSU Research Pyramids.  The lab owns the pyramids and they may not want divers playing around on their research experiments.

Looking inside of the cinder blocks is fun.  We suggest taking a dive light along to check out what’s inside.  We have the dive lights we use every time we got SCUBA diving in Oregon listed 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 is a local dive shop in the South Beach area of Newport.  They have gear rental, gear repair, air fills, and some gear for sale.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

There are a lot of good restaurants on both sides of the Yaquina Bay.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

South Beach State Park is a good place to go camp or rent a yurt at when you’re diving in Newport.  We have stayed here many times and enjoy the campground and the easy access to the beach.  We have not tried out any of the hotels in town.  Please let us know if you have found a SCUBA diver friendly hotel in Newport!

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!