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!

 

 

Fogarty Creek Kelp Forest

In just the right conditions, the kelp forest at Fogarty Creek is accessible to SCUBA divers from shore.  There are not very many places in Oregon where divers can access kelp forests without a boat.  The surf entrance can be tricky and conditions can change fast but if it you hit the beach at the right time, you can go dive some great kelp beds.  We have not been able to dive this site yet due to unfavorable conditions when we have tried in the past but we have heard of others diving here and from everything we have observed, it looks like a good spot to check out when the seas are kind and calm.

 

Site Highlights:

The main draw here is the kelp beds just off shore from Fogarty Creek.  There are some interesting rock formations to check out, too.  Someday otters will once again live here but for now, it will only be us SCUBA divers and a few other mammals visiting these kelp beds.

Nearest Town:

Lincoln Beach is just north of Fogarty Creek and just to the south is Depoe Bay.

GPS Coordinates:

44.839318, -124.051719

 

Special Directions to Site:

Watch for the Fogarty Creek State Recreation Area signs on US101 north of Depoe Bay.

Parking:

There is plenty of parking at the state rec area.  You will probably have to pay to park here but double-check the signs.

fogarty creek kelp forest
Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google.
The kelp forest at Fogarty Creek is shore-accessible in calm sea conditions.

 

Site Orientation:

The kelp forest is split into two parts.  The northern kelp forest is larger but a bit more of a surface swim to get to.  The southern kelp forest is smaller and a shorter swim.  There are some interesting rock formations near the southern kelp forest that can also be visited.

One thing to remember here is that surf conditions need to be really good before you try diving at Fogarty Creek.  There aren’t many beach surf entrances in Oregon and it is important to know how to do safe entrances and exits from the beach.  We’re not your mom so make sure you know what you’re doing.

Entrances and Exits:

You can enter or exit just about anywhere along the beach but doing your entrance/exit nearer to the area you want to dive is a good idea.  However, you need to do an entrance and an exit where it is safe to do so.  Surf conditions, current, undertow, and other conditions will dictate where it is best to enter/exit.  If you don’t know how to do an army crawl out of the water, you should get instruction on how to do so.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a salt water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a shore dive although you can also access the site from a boat.  If you wanted to, you could probably put in an inflatable raft with an engine here.  We have not done this yet so be sure to double-check with the relevant state authorities before launching a boat from Fogarty Creek Beach.

Normal Conditions:

Normally the conditions are rotten here.  Surf, surge, current, waves, undertow, and many other bad and nasty things are the norm here.  On a rare calm day, you will have better conditions but there are still dangers here.

Normal Visibility:

Viz can be up to 30 feet here.  Sometimes it’s even better.  The summer upwelling can reduce visibility and right after a storm there will be worse viz.

Normal Temperature:

Depending on the time of year, you will see temperatures between 45 and 55F.

Best Time of Year:

There isn’t really a good time of year to dive here but in the summer and early fall, you have a better shot of having halfway decent conditions to dive Fogarty Creek Kelp Forest.

Max Depth:

This is a fairly shallow site which makes surge much worse here than other deeper kelp beds in Oregon.  You can find 30 feet on the far west side of the kelp beds.

Suggested Special Training:

Advanced open water training is a really good idea before diving this site.  Rescue diver training is a good idea.  Lots of practice and training in surf entrances and exits is needed here.

Difficulty of Dive:

This is an advanced dive.  You need to know what you’re doing before you do a shore dive into the open ocean.  Even people with many dives on the Oregon coast can make mistakes here that can lead to being killed or even worse.  Be sure you know what you’re doing and you’re comfortable with the conditions before you go diving.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

You will have between 500 and 1000 feet to walk to get to the entrance.

Surface Swim Length:

A surface swim between 100 and 200 feet is a good idea to get into some deeper water.

Special Site Notes:

This site is dangerous in all but the best conditions.  In even ideal conditions, the site is still dangerous.  Take a safety sausage.  Have a friend keep track of you from the surface.  Be sure you have plenty of air in your tank in case you have to belly crawl out of the surf.

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

There is an air fill station in Depoe Bay that you can get air at by appointment only.  Otherwise you’ll need to go up to Astoria or in to Portland, Salem, or Eugene for a full service SCUBA shop.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

There is lots of good food on this part of the coast.  Let us know what your favorite place is!

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

There are several state campgrounds in the area as well as many hotels and vacation rentals.  We haven’t tried any of the lodging outside of tent camping around here so please let us know if you have found a good hotel or house that welcomes divers.

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

Fort Stevens – South Jetty of the Columbia River

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

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

 

Site Highlights:

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

Nearest Town:

Warrenton, Oregon

 

GPS Coordinates:

46.228340, -124.019644

Special Directions to Site:

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

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

Parking:

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

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

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

Site Orientation:

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

Entrances and Exits:

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

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

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

Salt/Fresh:

This is a salt water dive.

Shore/Boat:

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

Normal Conditions:

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

Normal Visibility:

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

Normal Temperature:

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

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

Best Time of Year:

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

Max Depth:

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

Suggested Special Training:

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

Difficulty of Dive:

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

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

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

Surface Swim Length:

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

Special Site Notes:

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

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

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

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

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

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

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

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

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

Oregon Coast Aquarium – Orford Reef

If you get the opportunity, definitely go dive the Orford Reef tank at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.  Aside from being a unique SCUBA diving experience in Oregon, it is a lot of fun to wave at people who are inside the underwater tube.  Some divers have friends visit the aquarium when they’re diving so they have someone to wave at in the tube and the person in the tube can take photos of them diving.  This is an outstanding way to share your passion for and love of SCUBA diving with friends who don’t dive.

orford reef tank
The Orford Reef tank is the most challenging of the tanks at the Oregon Coast Aquarium to dive. Only very skilled divers are allowed to go in this tank. The tank is tight compared to the others.

Site Highlights

The biggest highlight for us is to wave at people on the other side of the glass.  This tank used to be where Keiko the killer whale from Free Willie fame lived for several years before heading to Iceland.  Now Keiko’s big tank has been broken up into several smaller tanks that each represent an ecosystem found off the Oregon coast.

There are a lot of interesting fish in this tank.  The water is so clear that it is very easy to watch the fish lazily go by.  These tanks have divers in them at least once a week for cleaning so the marine life is used to seeing people on SCUBA.

Nearest Town:

Newport, Oregon is right outside the door.

GPS Coordinates:

44.616561, -124.045709

Special Directions to Site:

When you schedule your diving experience at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, they will give you details on where to go and who to talk with so that you can get in the tank.

Parking:

The aquarium will tell you where to park.  When we went, we parked in the normal parking lot although our friends who regularly dive the tanks as volunteer cleaners park elsewhere.

Site Orientation:

The tank is divided into two parts by the big clear tube that runs across the middle.  This is a tiny tank compared to what we are used to out in the open water.  You can see the whole tank in a couple minutes but playing around waving at people in the tube can occupy at least a half hour.

Entrances and Exits:

We used a ladder to get into the tank.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a salt water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a shore dive.

Normal Conditions:

There are never really waves or surge in this tank.  It’s very benign.

Normal Visibility:

You can see all the way from one side of the tank to the other side of the tank.  That’s about 30-40 feet.

Normal Temperature:

Water temperature is usually close to the temperature in Yaquina Bay.  When we went diving, it was about 45F.

Best Time of Year:

It used to be that you could only dive the Orford Reef tank when a DUI Drysuit Days event was going on as a private individual.  That usually happens once per year although we haven’t seen an announcement for an upcoming DUI event at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in a couple years.

A Eugene-based shop now works with the aquarium to arrange private diving events in the tanks.  We have not gone on one of these events but we did dive through one of the regional shops that used to participate in the DUI Drysuit Days events in the past.  Note that they currently do not advertise being able to dive in the Orford Reef tank.  When we went with the DUI Drysuit Days program a few years ago, due to our extensive diving experience in Oregon and around the world, the aquarium staff and volunteers put us in the Orford Reef tank because the other tanks were full of people.  Perhaps if you ask nicely, you can pay to dive Orford Reef.

Otherwise, you can volunteer as a tank cleaning and maintenance diver.  We know a couple people who do this and head out to Newport about once a month for a weekend of cleaning tanks.  They both have been doing it for years so it must be fun!

Max Depth:

Our gauges read 25 feet at one point.  Most of the time you’ll be between 10 and 20 feet.

Suggested Special Training:

Open water divers can do this dive.  However, we only got the chance to do this dive because we have extensive training in both recreational and scientific diving, and have thousands of dives under our weight belts in a wide range of conditions all around the world.

We suggest that if you wish to pay for the opportunity to dive Orford Reef, you contact the aquarium or the dive shop running the program and see what training and experience you need to be permitted into Orford Reef.  We think it’s worth the extra effort to dive this tank.

Difficulty of Dive:

The dive itself is straight forward and not that difficult if you are aware of your surroundings.  However, we only had the opportunity to hop into this tank because of our extensive training and experience.

There are overhead hazards associated with the clear tube that aquarium visitors walk through.  The tank is also tight and requires finesse in navigating the close-together walls.  If you are claustrophobic, you probably don’t want to hop in this tank.  With three of us in the tank, there wasn’t much room.  The aquarium was very serious about our neutral buoyancy skills and had us demonstrate them in the medical tank behind the Halibut Flats tank before letting us into Orford Reef.

For these reasons, we rate this as an advanced skill level dive.

orford reef tank
The Orford Reef tank is a tight place to dive but it’s quite the fun experience.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

We had to walk about 100 feet from where we geared up, climbed some stairs to the top of the tank, and then descended a ladder into the tank.  You need to be somewhat nimble to get into the tank and out again safely.

Surface Swim Length:

No surface swims here!

Special Site Notes:

Contact the aquarium and the dive shop that supports the aquarium to talk about diving Orford Reef.  It is not normally a tank that divers who are not volunteers at the aquarium get to use.

Be sure to have some friends at the aquarium to take photos of you from outside the tank.  We took a small action video camera in the tank with us to take some videos which was fun to have.  There isn’t much room to maneuver a big camera rig in here so we suggest not bringing anything bigger than a small action cam.

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

There is a local dive shop in the South Beach area of Newport. When we went diving here, the aquarium supplied us with tanks and weights.  We had to wash all of our gear before we could use it in the tank to make sure we didn’t transport any nasty creatures into the tanks.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

Both sides of the Yaquina Bay in Newport sport a variety of great restaurants.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

South Beach State Park has good camping and yurts for rent.  We stay here when we’re in Newport.  We have not tried any of the local hotels.  Please let us know if you have and you can recommend one that is SCUBA diver friendly!

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!

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 Jetty – Jetty Tip

For very experienced divers who want a challenge and are willing to accept the risks involved, diving out toward the tip of the Newport South Jetty can be a rewarding experience.  However, diving the jetty tip is not to be taken lightly or tried in anything other than ideal conditions.  There are very real dangers present that even the most experienced diver can be caught by surprise in very unsafe situations.  Those who do attempt this dive will be rewarded with more macro marine life (lingcod, rock fish, crabs, etc.) than on the five fingers further in the Yaquina Bay.  We know some SCUBA divers who like diving the jetty tip to spearfish and crab.

 

The jetty tip of the South Jetty in Newport juts out into the Pacific Ocean to allow ships to pass in and out of Yaquina Bay over the bar. Only the most experienced divers should try diving the jetty tip in ideal conditions.

 

Site Highlights:

The main highlight of this site, in our opinion, is that not very many people dive it.  Not very many people dive it for a reason though.  You need to be very confident in your skills and dive this site in ideal conditions.  We have never made it all the way to the tip of the jetty but we know people who have.  Someday when conditions are right, we will go for the jetty tip.  Until then, we can report to you what we have seen and what our SCUBA friends have told us about conditions on the jetty tip.

We have seen plentiful lingcod, perch, rockfish, and crab along the outer part of the jetty on the way to the jetty tip.  It is a good place to spearfish or crab because not many go this far out to do those activities.  However, fishermen and hobby crabbers do go out in the jetty so be mindful of lines.

Nearest Town:

Newport, Oregon.

GPS Coordinates:

44.612068, -124.073000

Special Directions to Site:

Take the aquarium exit from US101 and then follow Southwest Jetty Way toward the ocean.  Go to the very end of the road and find a parking spot.

Parking:

There is a lot of parking at the end of the road although sometimes it fills up with fishermen, surfers, and people enjoying the beach.  There is some parking a little further back toward Newport although you’ll have to walk a ways depending on which entrance you want to use.

jetty tip site map
Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google. Diving the south jetty tip in Newport is a challenging experience that must be done in the right conditions.

Site Orientation:

This site runs roughly west from the entrances.  The further out you get, the rougher the conditions you will encounter.  We have only one about halfway out to the end of the jetty tip ourselves because conditions have been too rough for us otherwise.

Boat traffic goes up and down the channel regularly.  It might be wise to fly a dive flag.  We have one that we love and use when we go SCUBA diving in Oregon.

Maybe 100 feet off the tip of the jetty there is a deep hole where water currents swirl around.  Unless you really know what you’re doing, we don’t suggest checking it out.

Entrances and Exits:

Most people climb over the jetty rocks into the channel at the parking lot.  Some people enter further up toward Newport by the fifth finger.  You can also do a surf entrance on the south side of the jetty along the beach.  The south side of the jetty is usually pretty shallow but if your goal is to reach the tip, the walk down to the water’s edge will save you a surface swim or bottom time.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a salt water dive

Shore/Boat:

This is usually done as a shore dive although a boat could drop you off at the jetty tip.  Boaters need to follow the rules with respect to the channel.  A good captain is highly recommended.

Normal Conditions:

Normally the jetty tip cannot be dived safely.  It is usually much too rough and with much too strong of a current to go out to the very end.  The inner part of the dive site that is more protected from the open ocean is more diveable when the ocean is acting up.  However, we strongly recommend you dive this site in advance of high tide so that you are pushed back into the bay rather than sucked out into the ocean.  You could also time your dive to start with the very tail end of the tide going out so that you will be pushed back in with the start of the high tide although visibility won’t be very good.

Surf, surge, breakers, boats, fishing lines, crab pots, and general rotten conditions are often found at the jetty tip.  Look at conditions at the end of the jetty before you make the choice to go out there.  Walk out to the end and look with your own eyes to see if you like what you see.  Be prepared to abort the dive and turn around if conditions deteriorate.  There is no glory in being a dead SCUBA diver.

Normal Visibility:

On the inner part of this dive site, we have experienced up to 30 feet of visibility depending on ocean conditions.  Usually you’ll find the visibility around 15-20 feet.  The bottom is all sand so there are no worries about stirring anything up.  If you start to get sucked out to sea, you may need to crawl along the bottom so the bottom being sand is a good thing.

Normal Temperature:

Water temperature is exactly the same as the ocean.  Expect between 45F and 55F depending on the time of year.

Best Time of Year:

There is no best time of year on this site.  You can only dive this site when the sea is calm.  Any other conditions will result in a very bad day for you.  Turn around if conditions deteriorate and live to dive another day.

Max Depth:

If you look off the very tip of the jetty, you can find about 60 feet of depth.  However, most of the site is around 20-30 feet.

Suggested Special Training:

This site requires advanced training and a very seasoned buddy pair of SCUBA divers.  At the minimum you need advanced open water training.  We recommend drift diver training.  We also recommend extensive experience with surf, surge, and strong, unpredictable currents.

Taking along a safety sausage or other distressed diver indicator is highly recommended.  We carry safety sausages with us no matter where we dive and we suggest you do, too.  Our favorite is listed on the Gear We Use page.

Difficulty of Dive:

This is an advanced dive.  You should not attempt this dive unless you really know what you are doing and conditions are right.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

There is an entrance right by the parking lot where you climb over and down the jetty rocks.  The entrance is hard.

A 1000 foot walk down the jetty and onto the beach leads to a surf entrance.  Depending on which way the waves are coming in, this might be a calmer entrance.

Back toward Newport, some people prefer to enter near the fifth finger by climbing over the jetty rocks.

Surface Swim Length:

You can start diving immediately on the north side of the jetty.  On the south side, a 300 foot surface swim will get you to deeper water where you will experience slightly less surge.  If you want to reach the tip from the north side, we suggest a lengthy surface swim (1000+ feet) to get out a ways before you go down in order to conserve air.

Special Site Notes:

This is a no screwing around kind of dive site.  ONLY dive here if you really know what you’re doing, you are willing to assume the risks, and the conditions are right.  You can easily get sucked out to sea, bashed up on the rocks, or run over by a boat.  DO NOT TAKE THIS DIVE SITE LIGHTLY.

[Underwater Map of Dive Site Coming Soon!]

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

There is a local dive shop in the South Beach area of Newport that has an air fill station, gear rental and repair, and a limited selection of SCUBA gear for sale.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

Both the north and south bayfronts have a wealth of good restaurants and brewpubs.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

The South Beach State Park campground is a good place to camp.  The yurts are a great idea in cold winter months.  We have not tried any of the hotels in town.  If you have and know of one that is diver friendly, please let us know!

 

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

Clear Lake – Main Pool Sunken Forest

The main pool of Clear Lake has a huge sunken forest in the bottom of it.  Visibility of 100+ feet means that you can see the surface when you’re at a max depth of 100 feet in some of the deep underwater spring holes at the bottom of the lake.  A short surface swim is needed to reach the sunken forest.  You don’t have to worry about motorized boat traffic on Clear Lake because all engines are banned on the lake.

 

Clear Lake’s main pool from the shallows at the entrance.

Site Highlights:

The three big draws at the main pool on Clear Lake are the visibility (100+ feet of viz!), the sunken forest (80 foot tall tree trunks submerged underwater by a lava flow damming up the river!), and the huge potholes in the bottom of the lake where clear, cold spring water flows up from the basalt rocks underneath.  Sometimes you will also see a few trout and some freshwater shrimp at this site.  The craziest thing at this site by far is looking up when you’re 100 feet underwater and seeing the surface.  A lot of people will tell you that diving in Oregon is no fun because you can never see more than 20 feet but we’re here to tell you that at Clear Lake, you can see at least 100 feet when you’re underwater.

Nearest Town:

Clear Lake is in the middle of nowhere.  The closest towns of any size are Eugene/Springfield, Albany, Bend, and Salem.  Smaller Oregon hamlets like Rainbow, Marion Forks, and Sisters have basic services like gasoline and convenience stores or restaurants but they are all a long drive away.

GPS Coordinates:

44.371117 N, -121.995891 W

Special Directions to Site:

If you are coming from Salem or North, you will take the North Santiam Highway (State Highway 22) from Salem toward Bend.  At Santiam Junction, follow the signs for Eugene onto US 20 West and then onto State Highway 126.  If you are coming from Albany or Corvallis, US 20 East to Santiam Junction is the fastest way to go.  Then follow signs for Eugene down State Highway 126 (McKenzie River Highway).  Coming from Eugene and the south, take State Highway 126 out of Springfield up the McKenzie River.  If you’re coming from Bend, follow US 20 East to Santiam Junction.

Once you’re near the lake, you will see signs for the Clear Lake Resort.  You will turn onto National Forest Road 775 (paved).  Note that this is a one-way road!  It is well signed.  Then follow the road down until you are near the lodge and you find paved parking.

Parking:

In the fall, winter, and spring, there is usually ample parking at this site in free day-use parking spots to the south of the lodge at the resort.  In the summer, it can become very difficult to find parking here.

Day use parking is free but fills up fast in the summer. Winter is a good time to dive to beat the crowds at Clear Lake.

Site Orientation:

This site can get a little complex once you’re underwater because of how big it is.  Generally, you want to go north and west to find your way back to the exit.  When you enter the water, you want to head east and south to find the potholes and the sunken forest.  If you go too far south, you will end up at the other end of the lake and have either a very long surface swim, or a very uncomfortable hike back to your car.

Entrances and Exits:

The best place to enter and exit is to the south of the day use parking area.  There is a small path through the forest for about 200 feet to get to the entrance.  The entrance is easy to walk into although at times there can be a submerged log or two to stub your toe on.  Most people shouldn’t have any trouble with this entrance and exit.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a freshwater dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a shore dive although you can put in non-motorized boats on the lake.  A boat could be useful if you want to more directly access the underwater forest without as much of a surface swim.

Checking out a cold freshwater spring in a deep pothole in Clear Lake. Be aware that when you go into these potholes, your chance of a frozen or free flowing regulator increase because of the depth (increased air consumption) and the temperature (ice cold water out of the springs).

Normal Conditions:

This lake is usually a pretty calm place.   There is more boat traffic in the summer although none of it is motorized.  Lots of anglers come to fish the lake so watch out for lures and line.

Normal Visibility:

Visibility here is usually 100+ feet.  It’s not unheard of to find 200+ feet of visibility in the fall before the winter rain and snow starts.  If you stir up the bottom, in most the lake the water will clear pretty quickly.  However, you should try to maintain good neutral buoyancy control to not spoil the viz for anyone else diving or people who are swimming or boating.

Normal Temperature:

We have seen it as high as 42F and as low as 31F at this lake.  Sometimes a very cold layer of water (thermocline) can be in the top few feet of the water column.  The water coming out of the springs in the potholes at the bottom of the lake can be 31F at the right time of year.  This makes it much more likely that your regulator will freeze up or free flow at depth.  We had one of our first stage regulators freeze and free flow at 100 feet in a pothole and had to abort the dive.  We know some people who have gone diving at Clear Lake with a wetsuit but we sure are happy to have drysuits for this dive.

Best Time of Year:

Fall, winter, and spring are the best for beating the crowds.  Fall has the best visibility but the viz is never bad here.

Max Depth:

You can go deep in the main pool at Clear Lake.  We have hit 100 feet in some of the deep holes and could have gone deeper if we wanted.  Remember that this is an altitude dive so your bottom time changes compared to sea level.  When you are at depth with this cold of water, you can have your regulators freeze and free flow.  It happened to us once here.  If you are in doubt about your gear, get a qualified professional at your local dive shop to examine your gear and tell you what conditions are safe for your gear to operate in.  Even with good gear meant for cold water, freezes and free flows are still possible.

Deep, clear water awaits SCUBA divers at Clear Lake! A whole underwater forest is down there, just waiting to be explored.

Suggested Special Training:

Advanced open water training is a must for this site.  It is big, deep, and cold.  A deep diver specialty class will also be useful here.  Altitude diver training is necessary so that you can dive this site safely.  it is over 3,000 feet above sea level at the lake.

Difficulty of Dive:

The entrance and exit are easy, the current is very mild, the visibility is excellent, but this can be a challenging dive because of the cold and the depth.  You need to be confident in your emergency ascent abilities.  You also need to be able to deal with the cold water.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

The gentle path through the forest is about 200 feet from the day use parking area down to Clear Lake.  If you have to park in one of the further away parking areas, it will increase your walk a bit.

Surface Swim Length:

You can start diving right away from the entrance.  We suggest kicking out into the lake 500 to 1000 feet from shore heading due east before you start your dive.  This will give you maximum bottom time at all of the interesting stuff (the underwater forest, and the potholes and springs).  For those who don’t mind a long surface swim, going all the way to the east shore and starting your dive from there will maximize what you see with a tank of air.

Special Site Notes:

Remember that this is a deep, cold dive.  Regulator freezes and free flows do happen.  It happened to us once here.  Be prepared to abort your dive and immediately ascend to the surface if you have a free flow.

This is an altitude dive and can be a deep dive — both require special training.

It’s a good idea to take a flashlight to check out the deep fissures in the bottom of some of the potholes where the underwater springs are.  We have our favorite lights listed on our Gear We Use page.

[Underwater Map of Dive Site Coming Soon!]

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

There are no close dive shops to Clear Lake.  You will need to go to Eugene, Salem, or Bend to get any gear serviced or tanks filled.  You need to be self sufficient at this dive site.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

The lodge at the resort on Clear Lake has limited hot food options and good hot chocolate.  Otherwise the closest restaurants you will find are down the McKenzie River toward the town of Rainbow or down the North Santiam Highway at Marion Forks.  If you want to go over the pass, Sisters has some good restaurants.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

The resort on Clear Lake rents out cabins.  Call ahead and ask about renting a cabin for SCUBA diving.  Don’t be “that guy” and bring your wet, smelly gear inside the cabin if they tell you not to.

There are a couple national forest campgrounds around the lake.  You can also camp in the national forest down some of the forest access roads.  Check at the local district ranger office about specifics for primitive camping.  Sometimes there are restrictions due to logging operations or fire danger.

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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