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!

Foster Reservoir – Calkins Park

Calkins Park on the top end of Foster Reservoir is a decent place to do training dives or to explore for things that fall overboard from boats being put into the water at the boat ramp.  We have done some training dives here for a rescue diver class.  The dives were pretty miserable but it was excellent training for all of the students.  If you’re looking for a site to dive in the central Oregon Cascades, this could be just the ticket.

Foster Reservoir (Linn County, Oregon scenic images) (linnDA0050a)
Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons. Calkins Park can be beautiful in the summer and fall but can be a wet, miserable place in the winter and spring.

Site Highlights:

You can probably already tell that this isn’t our favorite dive site.  The bottom is muddy and will cause complete blackout conditions if you touch it.  In the winter and spring when snowmelt is pumping down into the reservoir, the water can be right at freezing.  In the summer and fall, boaters crowd the boat ramp and make this site not very safe for SCUBA divers.

That being said, Calkins Park is a great place to go train in sometimes challenging conditions.  We have participated in and seen several rescue diver classes take place here.  The conditions are demanding and the site is challenging enough to be useful for training but not so challenging as to be bad for teaching a class.

If you go to dive here for fun, more power to you.  You might find a lost wallet or fishing gear that fell off of a boat getting put into the water.

On one particular day, we did several training dives at this site.  The water temperature was cold enough that we were quite unhappy with our drysuits because they weren’t keeping us particularly warm.  We could see ice crystals flowing by in the water.  The bottom conditions instantly turned into blackout at the slightest fin touch.  The current was strong and unrelenting.  One student dropped his face mask and it instantly vanished in five feet of water.  No amount of scouring the bottom revealed where the mask had gone.  But the students learned a lot and are much better divers for the experience.

Nearest Town:

Sweethome, Oregon is just down the road.

GPS Coordinates:

44.413542, -122.626049

Special Directions to Site:

Head east from Sweethome on US 20 (Santiam Highway) and look for signs to Calkins Park and Quartzville Road.  Right after you turn left onto Quartzville Road, take another left into Calkins Park.

Parking:

We went diving here in the late winter and had the place to ourselves.  In the summer and fall, parking is packed.

calkins par
Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google. Calkins Park is a good place for training dives in challenging conditions but otherwise is not something that we dive regularly.

Site Orientation:

The shore runs more or less east west.  Deeper water is to the north.  Steer clear of the boat ramp when people are actively loading and unloading boats.  We suggest taking a dive flag along if there are boaters in the area.  We have a dive flag that we love and use listed on our Gear We Use page.

Entrances and Exits:

If there isn’t any boat traffic, you can use the boat ramp.  Otherwise, the beach to the west of the boat ramp is usually a good entrance even when the water is very low.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a fresh water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a shore dive although you could practice boat diving here.

Normal Conditions:

Conditions vary widely based on the time of year and water level in the reservoir.  In the summer and fall, there is very little current and the site gets a bit stagnant from the water not moving.  In the winter, icebergs can flow into the lake with the water level so low that the site is not diveable.

Normal Visibility:

The best we have ever seen here is about five feet of viz.  If you even so much as look at the bottom the wrong way, you will have instant blackout conditions that will not clear if there isn’t enough current.

Normal Temperature:

32F during snowmelt all the way up to 65F at the end of a hot, dry summer.

Best Time of Year:

There isn’t any boat traffic here in the winter which is desirable.  Otherwise this site can be dived any time that the water is high enough and you are bold enough to do so.

Max Depth:

The max depth really varies based on how much water is in the reservoir.  When we went diving here in the winter, we never went below 30 feet but in the summer when the reservoir is full, you could see 60-70 foot depths.

Suggested Special Training:

Open water divers can dive this site.  It would be a good place to practice your neutral buoyancy skills and navigation.

Difficulty of Dive:

This is an easy dive with an easy entrance.  The only difficulty is when the water is freezing cold and when you get blackout conditions because you stir up the silt.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

Depending on parking and water level, 50-500 feet.

Surface Swim Length:

No surface swim is needed usually.

Special Site Notes:

Ask yourself if you really want to dive here before you bother setting up your gear.  We think this is a pretty miserable dive site in the winter and spring.  In the summer and fall there is a lot of boat traffic.  The bottom stirs up and reduces visibility to absolutely nil.

When the water level is low, the lake bed becomes a series of morasses and mud flats where people sometimes get stuck up to their waists in the mud.  Go gingerly through the mud and turn back if you start to hit quicksand.

[Underwater Map of Dive Site Coming Soon!]

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

There isn’t any dive shop around Calkins Park.  The closest shops are in Salem and Eugene.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

Sweethome has a couple decent restaurants.  Let us know if you have a favorite that we should try!

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

There is plenty of camping in the area at federal campgrounds, private campgrounds, and off forest roads where you can do primitive camping.  We haven’t tried any hotels or cabins in the area.  Let us know if you know of a good hotel that is SCUBA diver friendly in the area!

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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