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!