Waldport – Yaquina John Point

The Yaquina John Point dive site at Waldport is a good place to go if you want to do some crabbing while on SCUBA.  It is not a good place to go if you are looking for decent visibility and benign conditions.  This dive site is best tackled at low tide so that you will be sucked up into the bay rather than pushed out to sea.  Be mindful to not bother the seals that sometimes haul out on the tidal flats.

Imagery ©2018 Google, Map data ©2018 Google.
The Yaquina John Point dive site at Waldport is a good place to go crabbing but the viz is never good. Only dive this site at low tide.

Nearest Town:

Waldport, Oregon

GPS Coordinates:

44.427569N, -124.077189W

Special Directions to Site:

There are four places that you can access the Yaquina John Point dive site in Waldport.

To get to the parking area near Alsi Resort, go west on Bayshore Drive north of the US 101 bridge.  Bayshore Drive curves to the south.  Follow it all the way until it dead ends next to the Alsi Resort and the gravel parking area by the water.

To get to the parking area in downtown Waldport, turn west on Spring Street just south of the US 101 bridge.  The parking area is along Maple Street.

To get to the parking area south of Waldport, look for the small pull-out just as US101 heads south and leaves the bay.

To get to the drop off point at the southwest side of the dive site, go west on Bayshore Drive north of the US 101 bridge.  Bayshore Drive curves to the south.  Follow Bayshore Drive to turn west on Westward Ho Drive.  Then turn south on Oceania Drive.  Follow Oceania Drive all the way south until it curves around and starts heading north.  The road becomes Alsea Bay Drive as it turns north.  The drop off point is between the two houses on the east side of the road where you can see the bay and there are some small paths to the water.

Parking:

The three parking areas to access the Yaquina John Point dive site in Waldport surround the site.  On the north side, there’s a gravel lot that, when we last checked, is free to park in next to the Alsi Resort.  On the east side, there is parking in downtown Waldport.  Be sure to check the signs — the last time we parked here, it was three hour parking.  The south side has a small pull-out on US101 where one or two cars can fit.  There is no parking at the southwest entrance/exit but this is a good place for a friend to drop you and your gear off.

Site Orientation:

The dive site is always changing because the Alsea River is not managed by the Army Corps of Engineers like the improved ports in Oregon.  You want to dive in the channel where the water is deepest to hunt for crabs.  A few years ago, there was a small channel near the south side of the bay but lately the main and deep channel hugs the north side of the bay.  Between the main channel and downtown Waldport is a big tidal mud flat.  You will have to slog across the expanse of mud to get to the water.

Entrances and Exits:

The entrances and exits on the south and east side of this dive site require long slogs across tidal mud flats.  It’s not enjoyable but it is one way to get into the water.  The entrance/exit for the pull-out area at the southeast side of the dive site is back up US101 where there is a small path down to the tidal mud flats.

On the north and west side, the entrances and exits are somewhat easier.  You can walk down to the water along some small paths.  Then it is a short trip across the tidal area to get into the channel.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a salt water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a shore dive.  The water is usually too shallow to take a boat out to use as a dive platform.

Normal Conditions:

When diving at low tide, the dive will quickly become a drift dive as you get pushed up into the bay.  It is a bad idea to dive this site at high tide because it is quite easy to get sucked out to sea if you aren’t paying close attention to your location.  Unless you go out over the bar, waves and surf usually don’t penetrate into the bay.  There can be some boat traffic going through the bay to do some crabbing or fishing.  It’s a good idea to have a dive float that you tow behind you.

Normal Visibility:

Expect three to five feet on a very good day.  You may find there to be zero viz on bad days.  It’s par for the course at Waldport.

Normal Temperature:

48-52F is the typical temperature here.

Best Time of Year:

Winter and spring are good times to dive this site although any time of the year it’s possible to get in the water.

Max Depth:

Depending on what the channel is doing and recent storm activity, you might find water no deeper than 10 feet or water as deep as 35 feet where potholes form.  The potholes are often where the crabs hang out.

Suggested Special Training:

It’s a good idea to have rescue diver training.  This can be a difficult dive.

Difficulty of Dive:

We rate this an advanced dive because of the low viz and the likely drift nature of the dive.  You don’t necessarily have to dive it as a drift dive but it’s easier.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

The entrances on the south and east side can be up to 2000 feet from the water across the tidal mud flats.  It’s not a very fun walk.  On the north and west sides, the entrances are only about 50-100 feet from where your car will be.

Surface Swim Length:

No surface swim is necessary once you get into the channel.

Special Site Notes:

We highly recommend that you only dive this site at low tide.  There is a significant risk of being sucked out to sea if you dive at high tide due to the tidal exchange.  This is an exposed dive site at high tide because there is no jetty structure for you to grab onto or take refuge behind.

The slog across the tidal mud flats is a real challenge.  Watch for holes in the sand where it is easy to fall.

This is a good site to do a drift dive where you ride the incoming tide up the bay.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

There are a number of good restaurants both in Waldport and Bayshore.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

The Waldport KOA campground near the northwest entrance is a good place to base from if you plan to do multiple dives at this site.  Otherwise, there are Siuslaw National Forest campgrounds up the Alsea River.

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

 

 

Coos Bay North Jetty

The Coos Bay north jetty is a bit difficult to access but is worth the drive.  There are places for freshly certified open water divers to dive and for battle hardened veteran divers to have a challenging day.  The inside eastern side of the dive site curls around along a partially-submerged jetty structure and provides generally tranquil waters for diving in almost any weather conditions.  The outer western part of the dive site is fully exposed to the wrath of the Pacific Ocean and is only diveable in favorable sea conditions.  Off the tip of the above-water part of the jetty, a long submerged part of the jetty keeps heading west.  Sometimes you can find interesting debris among those western rocks.  If you have the training, doing a drift dive here can be pretty fun.

coos bay north jetty
Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google. The Coos Bay north jetty is a fun place to do a dive if you’re willing to drive across the sand to access the site. The further west you go, the more challenging the dive becomes. If you stay on the inner eastern part of the jetty, conditions are usually much better.

 

Site Highlights:

This site has a little of everything.  You can do an awesome drift dive here, riding the current in from the western part of the jetty to the northeastern part.  You can do some great spearfishing and crabbing anywhere along the jetty.  You can explore the sunken part of the western jetty looking for forgotten relics of wrecked ships.  You can practice your SCUBA skills in the protected waters on the north side of the inner part of the jetty.  You can hone your navigational skills in the triangle-shaped area of the inner jetty to see if you can successfully traverse between the two tips of the inner jetty.  There is a lot going for this dive site and it really warrants multiple dives to explore each part of the site.  The site is too big to fully cover except if you’re doing a drift dive.  And even then, it’s still pretty big.

Nearest Town:

If you were to swim due south from this dive site, you would run into Charleston, Oregon.  However, you’ll be coming from the north along the sand spit to get here.  In that case, the towns of Glasgow, North Bend, Empire, and Coos Bay are what you’ll come across first.

GPS Coordinates:

43.356317, -124.333814

Special Directions to Site:

Access to this area is via some sand roads across the sand spit.  From US101 just north of the Coos Bay Bridge, turn onto Trans Pacific Lane.  Follow the road until you get to the Southport Lumber Mill.  Just before the mill, turn right onto the sand road (it is called South Dike Road but sometimes the sign is missing).  Keep going until you’re almost on the beach and then turn left (sometimes this is signed as Foredune Road).  Follow along this road south past the FAA tower and the former home of the wreck of the New Carissa.  As you get toward the bottom of the sand spit, there is a road that cuts back into the dunes.  This goes to the northeast side of the dive site.  The road that keeps heading south ends up on the western part of the dive site.

Since this is all sand, you need to be prepared to drive in the sand.  If you get stuck, the tow bill will be very large.

Parking:

This is a BLM site.  Check with the BLM to see what permits you need.  We think that you need to have an Oregon OHV permit for your street legal vehicle these days.  Note that the whole area is closed to vehicles from mid-March to mid-September.  Be sure to check locally before driving onto the sand.

 

Site Orientation:

The outer (western) part of the dive site along the Coos Bay north jetty heads mostly west.  The jetty dives under the waves as it heads further west.  The rubble on the bottom sometimes holds little secrets to be found.

As you move into Coos Bay, the jetty curls up to the north.  On the western side of the curved part of the jetty there is a fairly calm pool that is a good bet to go diving in rough sea conditions.  It’s shallower here but you might find some crabs along this part of the jetty.

On the south side of the jetty between the middle of the site and the north prat of the dive site, the site slowly gets shallower.  Around the area where the jetty splits into two, there are a few scattered underwater ruins to discover.

Entrances and Exits:

The entrances on the north east side of the Coos Bay north jetty are much easier to get in and out of the water.  Toward the west side of the dive site, you will be scrambling over jetty rocks.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a salt water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a shore dive.

Normal Conditions:

In the protected area to the west of the Coos Bay north jetty where it curls to the north, you will usually have fairly calm water.  Out in the river channel, you will almost certainly encounter current.  As you head further west along the jetty, conditions will get progressively rougher with surf, surge, waves, and current almost certainly waiting for you.

Normal Visibility:

Depending on ocean and river conditions, you may encounter 5 feet of viz or up to 25 feet of visibility.

Normal Temperature:

Except in the shallow protected area behind the Coos Bay north jetty where water can get up into the low 60s in the summer, the rest of the site ranges from 45 to 55F.

Best Time of Year:

Most of the dunes and sand roads are closed between mid March and mid September.  Unless you walk in on foot or take a boat in, it’s best to wait to dive this site when there aren’t seasonal closures due to nesting seabirds.

Max Depth:

Depth varies widely at this site.  At the far western tip of the Coos Bay north jetty, you’ll hit 50 feet.  Heading inland, the bottom rises up to be about 20 feet deep where the rocks come out of the water.  Near where the jetty and sand meet, you will find the bottom at around 40 feet.  Further up into Coos Bay, the water gets shallower.  On the northwest side of the Coos Bay north jetty in the protected area, water can be very shallow.

Suggested Special Training:

If you stay in the protected area, a freshly certified open water diver is capable of diving this site.  If you head out toward the tip jetty, you need to be an experienced diver.  For drift diving, you should have experience with it already and the proper training.  Conditions out on the jetty tip are almost always lousy so be prepared.

Difficulty of Dive:

We rate this as an intermediate dive although the western tip of the Coos Bay north jetty is usually an extremely advanced dive due to rough ocean conditions (if it’s diveable at all).  The protected area is a beginner dive.  The parts in between are more in the intermediate range.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

Depending on where you drive and park, you might have a 50 foot walk or a multi mile walk.  Just be careful with driving in the sand.  Make sure you know how to drive in it and be ready to self-recover.

Surface Swim Length:

There isn’t any need for a surface swim here.

Special Site Notes:

Remember that road access is closed mid-March through mid-September.  When the weather is rough, we don’t recommend going out on the western tip of the jetty.

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

There used to be a dive shop in Coos Bay but it appears to have closed recently.  Down in Port Orford there is an air fill station at the harbor.  Up in Depoe Bay there might still be an air fill station available by appointment.  Otherwise you need to head inland toward Eugene or Grants Pass where there are full service SCUBA shops.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

There is a lot of good food around Coos Bay.  You have to drive a ways from the dive site to get it but it’s worth it.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

We’ve never stayed overnight in Coos Bay so we can’t give any recommendations.  If you have some, 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!

Florence South Jetty Middle Area

Along the Siuslaw River in Florence the south jetty middle area is a good place to check out for some drift diving.  You can also do out-and-back dives but the current that often rips along the jetty wall is more appropriate for drift dives.  If you bring your mesh bag and a crab gauge, you probably can limit out on crabs here if you’re doing a longer drift dive.  This is a pretty good place to spend a lazy afternoon underwater on the Oregon coast.

 

Site Highlights:

This is a great drift dive.  Hopping in the water when you’re a little ahead of high tide is like riding a freight train.  You’ll zip right along the jetty heading up into Siuslaw Bay.  If you try to do this dive with the tide racing out to sea, you need to be very experienced and ready to exit over any part of the jetty so that you don’t end up outside the jetty out in the ocean.

There are a lot of crabs and fish along the jetty wall.  Bring your crab collection equipment and spear gun, and you’ll probably catch something good.

Nearest Town:

Florence, Oregon is just over the bridge on the north side of the Siuslaw River.

GPS Coordinates:

44.013354, -124.133215

Special Directions to Site:

Turn onto South Jetty Road from US101.  Bear right onto Sand Dunes Road by the Odd Fellows Hall.  Be sure to pick up a parking pass for the day by the entrance to the county park.  Drive all the way down Sand Dunes Road to the end.  You are now in the middle of the south jetty middle area dive site.

Parking:

This is a county park so be sure to get a day parking permit.  There usually is plenty of parking in several different areas.  Parking out along the jetty in the sand might be allowed with an OHV pass.  In the past we saw people do this.  However, inquire locally before you drive into the sand to make sure you won’t come back to a ticket on your car.

 

Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google.
The south jetty middle area at Florence can be done as a drift dive. The southernmost entrance is the easiest with a sandy cove where you can walk into the water. The other entrances are classic Oregon jetty scrambles.

Site Orientation:

You want to stick close to the jetty at this dive site.  From the base to the half-way point, the dive site runs more or less to the north.  Then the jetty hooks toward the west.  If you want a navigational challenge and you have someone on the other side to meet you, you could navigate underwater across the channel and come up at the SCUBA Park.  We know someone who did this a few years ago.

The south end of the site has a protected area where you can make an easy entrance/exit.  We suggest exiting here.  Get in at the top of the dive site and ride the current into the bay before high tide.

Entrances and Exits:

The easiest entrance/exit is at the very southern end of the dive site.  The south jetty middle area is accessible anywhere along Sand Dunes Road.  The jetty entrances are a scramble (are there any that aren’t in Oregon?!).  The sandy beach entrance at the southern end of the site is nice enough that you might want to only explore around this area rather than try the drift dive and have to scramble over jetty rocks.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a salt water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a shore dive.

Normal Conditions:

The further out toward the ocean you go on this site, the more surf, surge, and general nastiness you might encounter.  There is almost always current on this site.  Right at high tide, everything slacks off for a few minutes and the water is calm.  The rest of the time, the water is really ripping and you’ll be taken where the tide is headed.

Normal Visibility:

Except during storms, viz here should be around 15-20 feet.

Normal Temperature:

Temperature can vary between 45 and 55F depending on the time of the year.

Best Time of Year:

We like diving this site in the spring and fall although it is accessible at any time.

Max Depth:

At the southern end of the site, you’ll probably find 30 feet of water where the channel swings close into the jetty.  At the northern end, you’re more likely to find around 20 feet although these numbers are dependent on when the shipping channel was last dredged and if there have been any big storms recently.  We’ve heard that sometimes you can find potholes along the jetty that get to be 45 feet deep although we can’t confirm that.

Suggested Special Training:

It’s a good idea to have advanced open water training and drift diver specialty training before attempting to do a drift dive here.

Difficulty of Dive:

We rate this as an intermediate dive as long as you’re heading into Siuslaw Bay rather than out to sea.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

It all depends on where you park.  If you’re lucky, you’ll walk 50 feet.  If not, you will walk 1000+ feet.  If you have two cars, then you can shuttle gear and people.  Otherwise, you’ll have to walk back to your car after a drift dive (2000+ feet is possible).

Surface Swim Length:

No surface swim is necessary here.

Special Site Notes:

This is a drift dive so plan accordingly.  It’s a good idea to carry a good dive knife to cut yourself out of any monofilament you might encounter and a dive flag so that boats know where you are at.

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

There used to be a shop with an air fill station in Florence but it closed a long time ago.  Now you have to go down to Port Orford or up to Depoe Bay for an air fill station (both by appointment only) or inland to Eugene for a full service SCUBA shop.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

The waterfront in old town Florence has a lot of good places to eat.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

There are a pile of county, state, and federal campgrounds in the area plus a few private ones.  We haven’t tried any of the local hotels so please get in touch with us if you know of a good one where divers are welcome.

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

The South Jetty Crab Dock at Florence

The south jetty crab dock at Florence is a good place to go diving if you’re bored of the north jetty dive sites along the Siuslaw, don’t want to go play in the mud at Woahink Lake, and aren’t feeling like doing the outer parts of the south jetty.  Crabs are usually pretty plentiful here although crabbers and fishermen up on the dock don’t usually enjoy divers underneath them when they’re trying to get some fish or crabs. You can link this dive site up with the other dive sites along the south jetty if you want to do some drift diving and this site is very protected from storms out in the ocean meaning that, as long as you’re okay with bad viz, this site is accessible most of the time.


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Site Highlights:

This is a great site for SCUBA divers when the conditions are lousy on the north jetty or further out on the south jetty.  Being so far into the Siuslaw Bay, it makes for a well-protected dive site from the worst of the winter storms that often blow out the other dive sites along the Siuslaw.  The south jetty crab dock is also a good place to go crabbing and fishing although you should steer clear of fishermen and crabbers on the surface.  It’s not a bad idea to have a friend stay on the surface to help smooth over any tensions with top-side anglers and crabbers.

Nearest Town:

Florence, Oregon is just over the bridge.

GPS Coordinates:

44.007688, -124.131897

Special Directions to Site:

Heading south from Florence, after you cross the bridge over the Siuslaw River, turn right (west) onto South Jetty Road.  There should be signs for the south jetty county park and day use areas.  Bear to the right onto Sand Dunes Road and follow it until you see signs for the crab dock and south jetty beach 6 day use area.

Parking:

There is some parking right by the dock.  If this is full, just up the road there is a much larger parking area.  There is a day use fee here so be sure to pay it or get the appropriate yearly pass before parking.

Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google.
The south jetty crab dock along the Siuslaw River is a great site to go dive when conditions are rough further out on the jetty or if you’re looking for a very easy jetty to dive.

Site Orientation:

The jetty runs roughly north-south with a very calm inner bay area to the west of the jetty and a mostly calm southern area south of the jetty.  To the east and north, the jetty is exposed to the Siuslaw River so current becomes much more of a factor.  If you hit this site at the wrong time, you can get sucked out along the jetty or pushed up into the bay.  However, if you’re smart about it, you can turn this into an awesome drift dive.

Be mindful of other users of the site.  Recreational crabbers and anglers can get pretty mad if they think you’re stealing their catch underwater.

Entrances and Exits:

There are a lot of really good entrances and exits at this site.  On the map above, we starred the absolute easiest entrances and exits.  However, you can hop into the water just about anywhere you want.  If you really want a jetty scramble, you can do that.  Otherwise, there are plenty of easy entrances on sandy beaches.  If you enter from the northern parking lot, you’ll be in very shallow water for a while but otherwise all of these entrances and exits are in deeper water.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a salt water dive

Shore/Boat:

This is a shore dive.

Normal Conditions:

Except at high and low tide, the current can really rip along the eastern side of the jetty where the deepest part of the Siuslaw River channel is located.  If you’re doing a drift dive, this is great.  If not, it’s a good idea to stay on the west side of the jetty so you’re not getting pushed around by the water.

There never is much surf or surge here.  We haven’t seen any big waves except when a boat passes by.  In general, this is a pretty benign dive site, and especially when considering that this is on an Oregon coast jetty!

Normal Visibility:

In good conditions at high tide, you can hit 20 feet of viz on the south jetty crab dock.  However, if there is a bunch of silt coming down the Siuslaw River or if there’s a big storm out in the ocean, viz can go down to 5 feet at times.  Usually it’s around 15 feet here.

Normal Temperature:

The south jetty crab dock is impacted by both the water pumping out of the Siuslaw River and by the water out in the Pacific Ocean.  If there is a big spring runoff event with a bunch of snow melt, then you might see 40 degrees.  It can get up to about 60 F on the western little bay area in the summer when the weather is warm and the sun has been out for a few days.  Normally you’ll probably find around 50-55F water temps here.

Best Time of Year:

Any time of year is a good time to check out the south jetty crab dock.

Max Depth:

On the east side of the jetty and near the northern tip of the jetty you’ll sometimes find 25-30 feet of water.  On the west side of the jetty, you’ll be in around 15 feet of water at high tide.

Suggested Special Training:

Recently certified open water divers can successfully dive this site.  If you’re going to do a drift dive, you should have drift diver specialty training.

Difficulty of Dive:

We rate this as an easy dive unless you’re doing drift diving or if you hit the site when the tide is ripping.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

Depending on where you park and where you enter, you might have between a 5 foot and a 500 foot walk to your entrance.

Surface Swim Length:

If you enter up by the north parking lot, you’ll end up with a 200 foot surface swim to get to deeper water.  Otherwise, the other entrances don’t really need any surface swims to get to the good diving.

Special Site Notes:

Dive this site at high tide for the deepest water you can get at this site.  Especially on the west and south sides, it gets rather shallow.  Be careful of the current in the river channel.  It can go from zero to ripping in just a few seconds.

Be courteous to other users of this site.  There are a lot of people who go crabbing and fishing here.  It’s not a bad idea to have a friend stay on the surface and smooth over any tensions with above-water site users.

It’s a good idea to carry a good dive knife or line cutter.  There can be quite a bit of lost monofilament at this site.  Getting tangled in fishing line sucks but if you have a good knife, you can get yourself free.

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

You have a long way to go for a dive shop or air fill.  There is a by-appointment-only air fill station up in Depoe Bay and another down in Port Orford.  Otherwise, head over the coast range mountains to Eugene where there’s a full service dive shop.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

There is a lot of good food in old town Florence along the waterfront.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

There are a lot of county, state, and federal campgrounds in the area that are great for tent camping or for an RV.  We’ve based out of a few of the campgrounds around here to go diving and haven’t been disappointed.

We haven’t tried out any of the hotels in the area so please let us know if there’s a SCUBA diver friendly hotel nearby that you like.

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

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!

Ice Cap Creek at Carmen Reservoir

The Ice Cap Creek Day Use Area at Carmen Reservoir is a fun place to play around in a submerged creek bed to practice your drift diving skills.  Since this is an altitude dive, it’s a good place to practice using the altitude dive tables.  The water is usually quite cold but not as cold (usually) as Clear Lake can be at the bottom of Clear Lake’s underwater springs.

old metal pot
We found an old metal pot the last time we were at this dive site.

 

Site Highlights:

There are a couple reasons that SCUBA folks like diving the Ice Cap Creek Day Use Area.  The site has very easy access to get into and out of the water.  You can practice drift diving in the submerged riverbed.  The site is mostly easy to dive making it accessible to even freshly certified open water divers, assuming you have proper altitude diver training.  In short: this is a good site to play around at and practice your skills.  You might also discover some old pots and pans, logging equipment, and other odds and ends tossed into the reservoir.

Nearest Town:

This dive site is pretty remote.  There are very limited services at the resort at Clear Lake.  Otherwise slightly bigger towns within an hour drive are Detroit, Rainbow, and Sisters.  Bigger towns with services are Eugene, Salem, and Bend although they are all more than an hour away.

GPS Coordinates:

44.340039, -122.002339

Special Directions to Site:

The forest road NF-750 gives access to the Ice Cap Creek Day Use Area.  The road is a mile and a half or so south (down river) from the bottom of Clear Lake.  Watch carefully for the signs because it is easy to miss the turn.

Parking:

The last time we were here, there was ample free parking and several locations.  Double check when you arrive to make sure that the parking is still free.  It’s possible the National Forest might turn this into a fee pay site.

 

carmen reservoir ice cap creek
Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google.
The Ice Cap Creek Day Use Area at Carmen Reservoir is a good place to do some high altitude diving in Oregon. The river coming into the reservoir can be fun to explore.

Site Orientation:

The site is roughly oriented to the cardinal directions (north-south-east-west).  The Ice Cap Creek Day Use Area is at the north end of the site and with the McKenzie River’s sunken channel coming in at the top end of the dive site.  The river channel runs from the northeast to the southwest where it terminates at the dam’s spillway.  Don’t get too close to the spillway structure!  You don’t want to end up downriver of the dam or getting sucked into the water intake.  You can swim up the river channel under the bridge quite a ways.  This makes for a good spot to practice drift diving.

On the east side of the site, we usually use the finger-like jetty structure on the dam to the south and the parking area to the north as our site boundary.  Further to the east is the other dive site at Carmen Reservoir.

On the northwest side of the dive site, the water gets very shallow.  We don’t think there’s much reason to explore that area.

Entrances and Exits:

The two easiest entrances/exits are at the parking areas.  There is a bit of a scramble step or two to get down to the water but it isn’t too bad.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a fresh water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a shore dive.

Normal Conditions:

Normally the water is cold and clear.  There is always a current around the sunken river channel.  Boats can occasionally be in the lake so it’s a good idea to fly a dive flag.  Note that this is an altitude dive.

Normal Visibility:

Usually visibility is quite good since the majority of the water is coming almost directly out of Clear Lake.  Expect 20-40 feet of viz depending on how much surface runoff is coming into the lake.  Close to the Ice Cap Creek Day Use Area you can run into silt on the bottom that can be stirred up but as long as you’re near the sunken river channel, any silt that is stirred up clears quickly.

Normal Temperature:

We’ve seen water temperatures in the river channel as cold as 38F and temps away from the channel near the surface as high as 60F depending on the time of the year.

Best Time of Year:

This site is best in the summer and fall.  Once the snow melts enough for the road to open in the spring, the water is usually very cold.  In the winter, you can’t get to the lake because of the snow.

Max Depth:

We once found 60 feet near the dam in the old river channel but most of the site is more in the 20-40 foot range.

Suggested Special Training:

This is an altitude site where you should have altitude diver training.  Open water divers can successfully dive this site as long as you stay away from the dam intake structure.  This is a great place to practice your dive skills and do training.

Difficulty of Dive:

We think this is a pretty easy dive for the most part so we rate it as a beginner skill level site.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

Unless there are a lot of people parked at the parking areas, you shouldn’t have to walk more than 50 feet.

Surface Swim Length:

No surface swim is needed.

Special Site Notes:

Because of how cold the water here can be, you should make sure your equipment is rated for cold water.  We have had a regulator free flow up at Clear Lake just up the river.  Be sure to remember your training in case you have that situation happen to you.

The dam intake structure can suck you in, chew you up, kill you very dead, and leave a hefty bill for your next of kin to recover your sliced and diced body.  Steer clear of it!

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

The closest dive shops are located in Bend, Salem, and Eugene.  Each is quite a ways away (1.5+ hours) so you need to be self-sufficient at the Ice Cap Creek Day Use Area.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

The closest food is up at Clear Lake’s resort where very limited food service is available.  Otherwise, in Detroit, Camp Sherman, and Rainbow (all towns within an hour of the site) you can find a few restaurants.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

If you want to sleep in a cabin, the resort at Clear Lake does rent cabins to divers.  Be sure to ask when you make your reservation about how you can store your gear.  Otherwise, there are plenty of National Forest campgrounds and lots of primitive camping in the forest.

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

Florence – North Jetty End of the Road Parking Lot

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

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

 

Site Highlights:

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

Nearest Town:

Florence, Oregon is just up the north jetty.

GPS Coordinates:

44.018318, -124.137102

Special Directions to Site:

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

Parking:

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

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

Site Orientation:

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

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

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

Entrances and Exits:

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

Salt/Fresh:

This is a salt water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a shore dive.

Normal Conditions:

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

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

Normal Visibility:

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

Normal Temperature:

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

Best Time of Year:

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

Max Depth:

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

Suggested Special Training:

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

Difficulty of Dive:

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

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

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

Surface Swim Length:

No surface swim is needed here.

Special Site Notes:

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

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

[Underwater Map of Dive Site Coming Soon!]

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

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

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

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

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

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

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

Big Cliff Reservoir – Old Boat Ramp by the Transmission Tower

The dive site by the old boat ramp at the electrical transmission tower at Big Cliff Reservoir is an interesting place to go SCUBA diving.  It is not as scary of a dive site as the upper river bottom but it is still a serious dive site due to the current and the ease of which you can go too deep.  This is an interesting site for the steep submerged cliffs and the flooded river bottom.

Big Cliff Dam
Copyright 2013 Robert Ashworth. Big Cliff Dam at the bottom of the reservoir regulates water flow coming out of Detroit Dam.

Site Highlights:

The main draw for this site is the interesting submerged cliffs and river bottom.  Even though visibility is usually not great, it is still interesting to explore along the cliff faces and practice drift diving.  If you come to dive the upper river channel and get cold feet, this is an alternative place to dive.

Nearest Town:

Detroit, Oregon is just up the Santiam Highway.

GPS Coordinates:

44.731105, -122.262966

Special Directions to Site:

The turn-off to this dive site should have a sign for the Detroit Dam but the sign might be missing depending upon homeland security threats.  Look for the right turn along the reservoir.

Parking:

Park by the old boat ramp next to the big metal electrical transmission tower.

Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google. The dive site accessible from the old boat ramp at the top end of Big Cliff Reservoir has some interesting submerged cliffs to check out.

Site Orientation:

We suggest sticking along the north shore of Big Cliff Reservoir.  We haven’t explored much on the southern shore so we can’t provide many details about it.  Sticking to the north shore also makes it much easier to get to an exit and back to your car.

We like to enter just upstream from the big metal electric transmission tower and drift down underwater.  Keep to the right and hug the cliffs at a depth that you want to stay at.  This dive site can go below the maximum recreational SCUBA depth.

Sometimes there is an eddy that will slowly push upstream right along the bank.  If the eddy is running, you can drift down with the current a little deeper and farther away from the bank, and then drift back up toward the exit closest to your car at a shallower depth.

There are potential underwater obstructions on this dive site.  It isn’t as bad, in our experience, as the upper riverbed dive site but the risk is still there.  There may also be potholes in the deep old riverbed that could have pinch points and caverns that could trap and drown you.  Be careful and dive within your personal limits!

Entrances and Exits:

We like to enter just above the electrical transmission tower and float down to the main part of the dive site.  The old boat ramp is another place to enter.  The last time we were here, the boat ramp was blocked off for boat traffic but you could still walk down to the water easily.  This boat ramp could reopen in the future or be more closed off than before.

The old boat ramp is also a good place to exit if your dive takes you back to this point.  Otherwise, there are a few places along the northern shore where you can exit and scramble up the bank to the road.  The scramble is difficult.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a fresh water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a shore dive although a boat could help if you want to drift much farther down the reservoir.

Normal Conditions:

There is always a strong current here.  Underwater obstructions and hazards are probably present.  Be careful and dive within your personal limits.  You could get hung up underwater and drown, and be very dead.

Normal Visibility:

Usually we get around 10 feet of visibility here.

Normal Temperature:

Water temperature varies based on what Detroit Dam is doing.  It can be down around 38F or up to about 65F depending on the time of year and upstream conditions.

Best Time of Year:

We have only gone diving here in the winter and spring.  It was fine during those times.  The rest of the year is also probably fine although in the summer and fall, there may be worse visibility due to poor water conditions.

Max Depth:

You can surpass 130 feet at this site if you try.  Be mindful of your depth and plan your dive.

Suggested Special Training:

We suggest rescue diver training and drift diver training for this site.

Difficulty of Dive:

The old boat ramp at Big Cliff is an intermediate level of difficulty dive site.  The main challenges are the current and potential surface swim or scramble up the bank, and the potential for underwater obstructions to catch and drown you.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

100 feet or less.  But coming back from the lower exit is about a 600 foot walk.

Surface Swim Length:

Depending on how well you navigate and what the current is doing, none up to 600 or so feet to get to an exit.

Special Site Notes:

As we have already mentioned several times, this site has the potential for underwater obstructions of various types that could catch a diver and drown you until you are completely dead.  The current can be tricky here and we treat this site as a drift dive.

We suggest taking a good dive light so you can see your gauges and see where you are going.  When you get deep here, it becomes very dark.  We have several dive lights that we trust and use all the time when we go diving in Oregon that we list over on our Gear We Use page.

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

The closest dive shop is in Salem.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

Up in the town of Detroit, there are several decent restaurants.  Let us know if you have a favorite that we should check out.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

There are many state and federal campgrounds in the area as well as a few private campgrounds.  Check at the USFS ranger station in Detroit for primitive camping options on the forest roads.

We haven’t tried any of the hotels or cabin rentals in the area yet.  Please get in touch with us if you know of a place 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!

Big Cliff Reservoir – Upper River Bottom

The upper river bottom of Big Cliff Reservoir just below Detroit Dam on the Santiam River in the central Oregon Cascades is a serious business, no screwing around SCUBA diving site.  Don’t get us wrong, this is a fun site to drift dive, but it is also a very demanding site where you can easily get caught in an underwater obstruction and drown.  For this reason, this is a site that you need to be prepared to dive and be willing to accept the risks of the site.

Site Highlights

The main highlight of this site is doing a high speed drift dive down the river bottom.  There aren’t many places that are deep enough to blast down a river at breakneck speed.  Dodging sunken trees and huge boulders is great fun (although quite dangerous).  There are some deep potholes that you will most likely get sucked into and spit out the other side after swirling around inside a few times.  We don’t know if there are any underwater caves or pinch points that you might get stuck in but we would not be surprised if there are.  This site has some significant risks that you need to be aware of and willing to accept.

Nearest Town:

Detroit, Oregon is up the road from Big Cliff at the top end of Detroit Lake.

GPS Coordinates:

44.730873, -122.262835

Special Directions to Site:

Heading east on North Santiam highway, look for the right turn toward the top end of Big Cliff Reservoir.  The last time we went diving here a couple years ago, there was a sign for Detroit Dam but this may have been removed since then.

Parking:

We park at the old boat ramp next to the big metal electrical transmission tower.  There is another parking area up toward Detroit Dam on the access road that we have used to stage gear before leaving the car at the lower exit.

big cliff site plan
Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google. The upper river at Big Cliff Reservoir is an exhilarating dive site but it can kill you.

Site Orientation:

You just follow the river down.  There isn’t much else to it.  Along the way you will encounter rocks, logs, big washtubs and potholes in the rock, and a bunch of other stuff that blazes by in the blink of an eye.

Entrances and Exits:

We usually enter at the entrance farthest up the river just above the bridge.  However, due to national security concerns, this area may now be closed off or could be closed off at any point in time.

There is another good place to enter and a good place to exit early just below the bridge at a pull-out.  If push comes to shove, you can exit just about anywhere along the river if you don’t mind scrambling up a steep bank.  You can also float along the surface until you reach the lower exit and your car.

The lower exit is at the old boat ramp and the big metal electrical transmission tower.  We have tried putting out a line underwater here so that we know when we need to surface but we seem to never manage to see the line.  Instead, watch your depth and surface when you hit around 50 feet (this depends on the Big Cliff Reservoir water level though).  If you blow past 50 feet, you’ll be heading into the lower dive site on Big Cliff Reservoir.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a fresh water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a shore dive.

Normal Conditions:

The whole point of this site is the incredible current.  You cannot fight against it.  All you can do is follow along.

The potential for underwater obstructions that can entangle and drown you is very real at this site.  Be darn sure of your skills and ready to accept the very real risks before you jump in here.  We are very skilled divers with experience diving all over the world and thousands of dives under our collective belts, and this site scares us.

You will almost certainly lose your buddy underwater unless you’re holding onto each other.  Be prepared and have a plan for what to do when you separate.  Taking the time to surface (which you should do unless you are certified to solo dive) will eat up a lot of river distance due to how fast the current is.

Water conditions change rapidly and drastically here based on what Detroit Dam is doing.  There is no warning for changing water conditions.  Although if you hear a big alarm klaxon, that may mean Detroit Dam is suffering some sort of breach or failure and you’re about to be swept way downriver in a flood.  That probably isn’t going to happen while you’re diving here though.

Normal Visibility:

We usually get 5-10 feet of visibility here.  It is dependent on the water quality exiting Detroit Dam upstream.

Normal Temperature:

Water temperature really varies here based on what Detroit Dam is doing.  Usually it seems the water is between 45 and 65F.

Best Time of Year:

We don’t know if there is a better time to dive here or not.  We have only gone to this site a couple of times in the spring and summer.  During those times, conditions were acceptable for the level of risk we were willing to take.

Max Depth:

Most of the way along the river, you will be between 15 and 25 feet deep.  In potholes, you can hit 40 feet briefly.  At the bottom end of the site, you should surface before you hit 50 feet so that you don’t end up way down at the bottom of Detroit Lake.

Suggested Special Training:

Anything less than a rescue diver certification and extensive experience with drift diving and underwater hazards is really asking for trouble at this site.  Even with that training and experience, this site is still risky.

Difficulty of Dive:

If it weren’t for the very real danger of being pinned under a log or against a rock where you will slowly run out of air and then drown, this would be a fairly straight forward and easy dive.  Because of these very real risks, you need to be in peak physical condition and be a very experienced diver.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

Depending on where you park, if you drop your gear off upriver, and if you choose to enter at the middle or upper entrance, you could be walking anywhere from 50 feet to 2400 feet.

Surface Swim Length:

There is no surface swim here.  Swimming against the current is normally impossible.

Special Site Notes:

This is a no screwing around dive site.  There are many things underwater waiting and eager to grab and drown you thoroughly dead.  Get some serious training and serious experience before you attempt this site.

We suggest taking a good dive light so that you can at least read your gauges in some of the deep, black holes.  We have several dive lights that we use every time we dive in Oregon and highly recommend at the Gear We Use page.

[Underwater Map of Dive Site Coming Soon!]

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

There aren’t any close dive shops up here.  The closest shop is in Salem.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

Detroit has a few small restaurants that are decent places for a meal.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

There are several federal and state campgrounds nearby and plenty of primitive camping in the national forest.

We haven’t tried any of the hotels or cabins in the area.  Please let us know if you know of a good place 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!

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!