Indian Creek Campground

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

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

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

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

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

Nearest Town:

Adrian, Oregon

GPS Coordinates:

43.610502, -117.257036

Parking:

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

Site Orientation:

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

Entrances and Exits:

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

Salt/Fresh:

This is a fresh water dive.

Shore/Boat:

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

Normal Conditions:

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

Normal Visibility:

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

Normal Temperature:

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

Best Time of Year:

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

Max Depth:

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

Suggested Special Training:

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

Difficulty of Dive:

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

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

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

Surface Swim Length:

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

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

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

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

 

 

McCormack Campground

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

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

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

Nearest Town:

Adrian, Oregon

GPS Coordinates:

43.615965, -117.253540

Parking:

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

 

Site Orientation:

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

Entrances and Exits:

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

Salt/Fresh:

This is a fresh water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a shore dive.

Normal Conditions:

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

Normal Visibility:

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

Normal Temperature:

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

Best Time of Year:

Spring has the best opportunity for good visibility.

Max Depth:

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

Suggested Special Training:

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

Difficulty of Dive:

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

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

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

Surface Swim Length:

No surface swim is necessary.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

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

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

 

 

Gordon Creek Park and Gordon Boat Ramp

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

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

 

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

There are several dive sites around Lake Owyhee including:

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

Nearest Town:

Adrian, Oregon

GPS Coordinates:

43.622937, -117.240246

Parking:

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

 

Site Orientation:

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

Entrances and Exits:

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

Salt/Fresh:

This is a fresh water dive.

Shore/Boat:

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

Normal Conditions:

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

Normal Visibility:

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

Normal Temperature:

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

Best Time of Year:

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

Max Depth:

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

Suggested Special Training:

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

Difficulty of Dive:

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

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

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

Surface Swim Length:

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

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

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

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

 

 

Owyhee Lake Road Pull-Outs

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

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

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

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

Nearest Town:

Adrian, Oregon

GPS Coordinates:

43.626550, -117.234423

Parking:

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

 

Site Orientation:

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

Entrances and Exits:

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

Salt/Fresh:

This is a fresh water dive.

Shore/Boat:

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

Normal Conditions:

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

Normal Visibility:

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

Normal Temperature:

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

Best Time of Year:

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

Max Depth:

You won’t go past about 110 feet here.

Suggested Special Training:

This is an altitude dive site.

Difficulty of Dive:

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

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

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

Surface Swim Length:

No surface swim is needed here.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

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

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

 

 

Lake Owyhee Reservoir

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

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

 

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

 

Special Site Notes:

This is an altitude dive.  Please plan accordingly.

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

Nearest Town:

Adrian, Oregon

GPS Coordinates:

43.561392, -117.352786

Parking:

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

 

Site Orientation:

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

Entrances and Exits:

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

Salt/Fresh:

This is a fresh water dive site.

Shore/Boat:

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

Normal Conditions:

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

Normal Visibility:

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

Normal Temperature:

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

Best Time of Year:

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

Max Depth:

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

Suggested Special Training:

This dive site requires altitude diver training.

Difficulty of Dive:

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

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

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

Surface Swim Length:

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

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

There are several campgrounds around Lake Owyhee.

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

 

 

Hammond Boat Basin South Jetty

The south jetty at the Hammond Boat Basin is a good place to go diving if you’re in the general Astoria area and are interested in doing a little underwater hunting.  There is decent crabbing and spear fishing here.  The north and east sides of the jetty are exposed to the full force of the Columbia River where the current can really rip.  While the water is shallow near the base of the jetty, head north and things suddenly get deeper as you approach the main shipping channel.

Hammond Boat Basin South Jetty SCUBA Map.
Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google.
The south jetty at Hammond Boat Basin is a good place to go crabbing and spearfishing.

 

 

Nearest Town:

Hammond, Oregon is just south of the Hammond Boat Basin South Jetty.

GPS Coordinates:

46.201513, -123.947773

Special Directions to Site:

Head north on Iredale Street from downtown Hammond.  Just past 5th Avenue there are some dirt tracks taking off to the right (east).  These go down to the beach.  Where Iredale Street turns west there is a pull-out.

Parking:

Most divers will probably park at the pull-out where Iredale Street turns west.  Some people also park down on the beach by the entrance/exit.

 

Site Orientation:

The dive site at Hammond Boat Basin south jetty runs north-south along the jetty.  If you stray too far north or east from the jetty, you’ll end up in the shipping lanes and in an area with a LOT of current.

Entrances and Exits:

The easiest entrance/exit is at the beach on the east side of the base of the Hammond Boat Basin south jetty.  It’s a nice walk in and out.  On the west side of the jetty, there aren’t many good places to get in and out but you can do it in a pinch.

Salt/Fresh:

Depending on the tidal flows, this is either a salt or a brackish dive.

Shore/Boat:

Hammond Boat Basin south jetty is a shore dive.

Normal Conditions:

You will likely encounter current on the east side of the jetty.  The full force of the Columbia River roars through here.  Occasional big waves come through the area that could cause some surge and surf as big ships pass.

Normal Visibility:

Depending on ocean conditions, river conditions, and the tide, you might get up to 10 feet of viz but usually it’s less.

Normal Temperature:

Expect between 45 and 55F water.

Best Time of Year:

Fall is a good time to check this dive site out although it’s accessible any time of the year.

Max Depth:

Along the jetty at high tide you will find 10-15 feet of water.  If you head north or east away from the jetty, the shipping channel drops to 50 feet or more.

Suggested Special Training:

Advanced open water training is a good idea to dive the Hammond Boat Basin south jetty.  Experience with diving in a high current area is also a good idea.

Difficulty of Dive:

We rate this as an intermediate dive because of the current and potential for low viz.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

Depending on where you park, 20 to 300 feet of walking is in your future.

Surface Swim Length:

No surface swim is needed.

Special Site Notes:

Remember that the Columbia River has a roaring current during tide changes.  Be prepared for that.  Also viz can be very low here.  Be mindful of fishermen on the jetty and stay out of their fishing lines.

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

Astoria has a full service SCUBA shop.  We keep an updated list of dive shops and air fill stations at our Local Dive Shops page.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

There are some good places to eat in Astoria.  We like the fish and chips place that operates out of an old boat in downtown.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

There are many campgrounds in the general area that have yurts, tent sites, and RV sites.  All are SCUBA diver friendly.  We haven’t tried any of the hotels around here so please let us know if there is one in particular that you know 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!

 

 

Skull Creek Reservoir

Skull Creek Reservoir is about halfway between and east of Andrew and Fields, Oregon.  It holds the distinction as the (most likely… let us know if you know of a different place!) furthest south and east place in the state of Oregon where a SCUBA diver can go diving.  Aside from that distinction, there is not much reason to haul SCUBA gear out to southeast Oregon south of Steens Mountain and east of the Alvord Desert.  The best time of year to go dive here is in the spring just after the spring snow melt.

It should be noted that this reservoir is on private land owned by Roaring Springs Ranch.  Be sure to call the ranch manager and ask for permission before you go out here.  You don’t want to make the long drive only to find gates closed.  You don’t want to start your dive only to have a ranch hand to ask you to leave.

Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google.
Skull Creek Reservoir holds the distinction of the furthest south and east body of water in Oregon that you can go SCUBA diving. It’s not very good diving though.

Nearest Town:

The closest places with more than one or two people are Andrews and Fields.  Further south on the Nevada border is Denio.

GPS Coordinates:

42.398239, -118.752221

Special Directions to Site:

Call the Roaring Springs Ranch for special directions to Skull Creek Reservoir.  There are a lot of different roads out in the sagebrush and it’s easy to get lost out here.

Parking:

The folks at Roaring Springs Ranch will tell you where to park at Skull Creek Reservoir to be out of the way of ranch operations.

Site Orientation:

The two dams on the north and south sides of Skull Creek Reservoir are probably the best places for you to try diving.  There is a small boat ramp near the north dam that might make it a little easier of a dive.

Entrances and Exits:

You can pretty much walk in anywhere along the road although it is a steep hill.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a fresh water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a shore dive.

Normal Conditions:

When there is water in the reservoir, it is usually pretty calm.  However, high winds in the area can cause some small whitecaps.

Normal Visibility:

This is a high altitude reservoir in the high desert.  Expect very murky water with zero visibility a very real possibility.

Normal Temperature:

If there is still snow on the ground, water temperature won’t be much above freezing.  Toward the end of the summer, expect more like 55-60F at the upper part of the (rather small) water column.

Best Time of Year:

Spring is when you will find water the deepest and clearest.  Call the Roaring Springs Ranch well in advance before you want to go dive here.

Max Depth:

You’ll probably find about 25 feet of water.

Suggested Special Training:

This site is at about 5000 feet.  Be sure that you have altitude diver training.

Difficulty of Dive:

We rate this as an intermediate dive because of the altitude component.  Also remember this is a very remote dive site.  You aren’t getting any help out here if you have an accident.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

Unless Roaring Springs Ranch asks you to park elsewhere, you should be able to park very close to the water’s edge.

Surface Swim Length:

You might want to kick out 100-200 feet to get deep enough water so that you can submerge.

Special Site Notes:

This reservoir is on private land owned by Roaring Springs Ranch.  Get permission well in advance of your visit to Skull Creek Reservoir.  Remember that this is an altitude dive site.

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

The closest place you can get gear serviced or an air fill is up in Boise or out in Bend.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

There is no food anywhere in the area.  Bring your own.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

There is plenty of BLM land out here where you can camp.

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

Copper Boat Ramp at Applegate Lake

The Copper Boat Ramp on Applegate Lake is a good place to get wet in the Siskiyou mountains in Southern Oregon. It is one of several boat ramps with good access for SCUBA divers along Applegate Lake.  This being a fresh water reservoir, you will see the standard stuff we expect in Oregon’s man-made lakes such as trout, bass, and other fish; old tree stumps; and the occasional lost fishing rod.  Around the boat ramp you’re more likely to find things dropped by boaters.

Applegate Reservoir
Applegate Lake is an excellent place to do some diving in Southern Oregon.

 

 

Nearest Town:

The little town of Ruch is the first place of any size that you will find heading downriver from the lake.  Medford and Grants Pass are just a little further away.

GPS Coordinates:

42.028558, -123.148729

Special Directions to Site:

Once you pass the dam on Upper Applegate Road, keep heading south until you see signs for the Copper Boat Ramp.

Parking:

There is parking near the boat ramp.  Don’t take up spaces for trailers unless you have a trailer.  When we visited last, there was no fee to park but that could change in the future.

applegate lake copper boat ramp
Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google.
The Copper Boat Ramp on Applegate Lake in the Siskiyous is a good place to get wet in Southern Oregon.

Site Orientation:

The dive site is the flooded canyon of the Applegate River.  The land you want to come back to is to the west.  Deeper water is to the east.  If you start going uphill headed east, you’ve passed the deepest part of the dive site and are heading toward the opposite bank.

Entrances and Exits:

There are a lot of easy entrances/exits here depending on what you want to do.  If you want the easiest entry, just walk on in near the car parking area or over the boat ramp.

Salt/Fresh:

Copper Boat Ramp is a fresh water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a shore dive.

Normal Conditions:

In the late summer or early fall the water can get a little stagnant if there hasn’t been rain for a long time and if it was a bad snow year the previous winter.  In the winter, the lake can be drawn very low prepping for spring rains.

Normal Visibility:

Normally you’ll get 10-15 feet of viz here although the bottom can be stirred up so be sure to steer clear of it.

Normal Temperature:

In the early spring when snow melt is pumping into the reservoir, you might find water in the 37F range.  Late in the summer, the Copper Boat Ramp can get a thermocline with temperatures in the upper 60s near the surface and in the low 50s at depth.

Best Time of Year:

This site is good during the summer and sometimes in the fall, depending on lake water levels.

Max Depth:

When the reservoir is full, you can hit around 80-90 feet at this site in the deeper section beyond where we drew the site boundary.

Suggested Special Training:

This is an altitude dive.  You should have altitude diver training to dive this lake.  Open water divers with altitude training can successfully dive this site.

Difficulty of Dive:

We believe this site is suitable for freshly certified open water divers with altitude specialty training.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

Depending on where you park and lake levels, you might walk 50 feet or 500 feet to your entrance/exit.

Surface Swim Length:

No surface swim is needed.

Special Site Notes:

There is a lot of boat traffic at the Copper Boat Ramp and in Applegate Lake during boating season (summer and fall).  Be sure to fly a dive flag.  We have one we use when we go diving in Oregon.

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

There are SCUBA shops in Grants Pass and Medford as well as over in Klamath Falls.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

Jacksonville has some good food.  We haven’t tried any of the closer options so please let us know if you have a favorite place to eat.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

There is a lot of primitive camping and there are a few campgrounds in the area.  We haven’t found a diver-friendly hotel between Ashland and Grants Pass yet.  Please let us know if you know of one that will welcome SCUBA divers and their wet gear.

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

Antelope Reservoir

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

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

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

 

Nearest Town:

GPS Coordinates:

42.909122, -117.236012

Special Directions to Site:

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

Parking:

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

 

Site Orientation:

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

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

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

Entrances and Exits:

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

Salt/Fresh:

This is a fresh water dive.

Shore/Boat:

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

Normal Conditions:

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

Normal Visibility:

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

Normal Temperature:

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

Best Time of Year:

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

Max Depth:

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

Suggested Special Training:

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

Difficulty of Dive:

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

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

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

Surface Swim Length:

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

Special Site Notes:

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

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

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

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

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

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

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

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

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

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!