Umpqua River South Jetty and Triangle Jetty

The Umpqua River South Jetty and the area known as the Triangle Jetty just outside the town of Winchester Bay on the (unsurprisingly named) Winchester Bay is a great place to explore a unique jetty structure.  Nowhere else that we know of along the coast in Oregon can you find a triangle jetty with water that is almost always calm even when the see is violently rough.  It is important to note that the shellfish being commercially grown are strictly off-limits to recreational divers.  It is a crime to attempt to harvest any of the shellfish.  Don’t give other recreational SCUBA divers a bad name!

umpqua south jetty and triangle jetty
Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google.
The Umpqua South Jetty and the area known as Triangle Jetty where commercial shellfish are grown is a good place to go dive in most ocean conditions. When the weather is rough, you can dive inside the triangle jetty. When it is good weather, you can dive on the outside of the jetty.

 

We can’t confirm it with our own eyes but based on videos we’ve found on YouTube, such as this one, it appears there is some sort of wreckage to discover along the jetty.  We suspect this could be a small boat or maybe a rail car that fell off the tracks when the jetties were originally constructed.  One way or another, we now have the triangle jetty and the whole south jetty complex on the Umpqua River on our short list of places to revisit in the very near future.  If you have more information on this wreck, including location and what it might be, please comment below!

Nearest Town:

The nearest town is Winchester Bay.  A little further inland is Reedsport, Oregon.

GPS Coordinates:

43.665295, -124.211310

 

Special Directions to Site:

From the town of Winchester Bay, take Salmon Harbor Drive south and west.

Parking:

There are several locations that you can park at depending on how crowded it is and where you want to enter/exit.  On the south jetty (north side of the dive site), you can drive right out along the jetty.  We think that you can also drive along the beach here to access the triangle jetty area where the commercial shellfish are grown.  There even appears to be access down to the south side of the triangle jetty.  However, before you drive out onto the sand, double-check the local OHV laws and make sure you have an OHV sticker on your vehicle.

If you don’t want to get into the sand, there are day use parking areas along Salmon Harbor Drive.

Site Orientation:

There are three distinct areas on this dive site.  The first that most people are the most interested in is the inside of the triangle jetty.  This is an active commercial shellfish business area.  Stay well clear of the shellfish platforms and hanging shellfish lines.  There is risk of entanglement in all of the equipment used by the commercial operation.  There may also be discarded shellfish lines underwater that you could become tangled in.

The second area is along the south side of the triangle jetty all the way out to the jetty tip where the south jetty reaches the sea and then partway along the inside of the south jetty.  This area is often rough.  Sea conditions usually preclude people from SCUBA diving here.  However, there is generally good spearfishing and crabbing in this area.

The third area is along the eastern part of the south jetty in the Umpqua River channel.  This area is usually pretty decent to dive and has decent spearfishing and crabbbing.

Entrances and Exits:

There are a multitude of entrance and exit options at this site.  You can crawl over jetty rocks on the south jetty to gain entrance to the Umpqua River channel.  You can practice your surf entrances/exits along the outer south side of the triangle jetty.  You can do an easy beach entrance into the interior of the triangle jetty.  This site has it all.

Please note that the surf entrance/exit can be dangerous and should only be attempted by divers who have sufficient training and experience.  Conditions can rapidly change and make this an untenable entrance/exit.  Have a backup plan!

Salt/Fresh:

This is a salt water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a shore dive.

Normal Conditions:

If you are inside the triangle jetty area, there is almost never any bad condition to find.  The area isn’t even really impacted by tidal changes.  No real current, almost never any surf or surge, and extremely rarely are there any waves in here.  People can dive this area just about any time of the day or night and any day of the year.

Along the southern outside area of the triangle jetty, past the tip of the south jetty, and into the mouth of the Umpqua River, you will likely encounter surf, surge, current, and waves.  Watch conditions closely if you are going to dive this area.  There are only a few days a year that parts of this area is accessible.

On the inside of the south jetty in the Umpqua River channel, conditions are often better than on the outside of the jetties.  However, you need to be cognizant of the current.  Dive with the tide.  In really bad weather, you can have surf, surge, waves, and related nastiness.  In a worst case scenario, scratch a dive here and instead go dive the inside of the triangle jetty.

Normal Visibility:

Depending on the time of year and recent storms, you can range from 40 feet of viz off the tip of the south jetty on down to less than 5 feet of visibility along the outer south side of the triangle jetty.  Usually though you’ll find 20-25 feet of vis.

Normal Temperature:

Water temperature varies between 48 and 60F depending on the time of year.  If there has been recent snow that is melting in the mountains that feeds the Umpqua River, the river channel can be a bit colder.

Best Time of Year:

The inside of the triangle jetty can be dived any time of the year even in bad sea conditions (use common sense though!).  The south jetty along the Umpqua River is good most of the year although when the upwelling happens over the summer, visibility isn’t amazing.  The southern outside part of the triangle jetty is a very finicky place to dive and usually only will be accessible a few days a year in the summer.

Max Depth:

Off the tip of the south jetty, you can find up to 50 feet of water at high tide and with optimal bottom conditions.  When sand moves around, you won’t find it that deep.  In the triangle jetty, you’ll find maybe 25 feet of water but usually shallower unless there has been dredging recently.  On the south side of the triangle jetty, you might find 30 feet of water.

Suggested Special Training:

Inside the triangle jetty, open water divers with some experience at other dive sites should have a good time.  In some of the rougher areas outside of the triangle jetty and on the south jetty, the diving can become very advanced and challenging.  Specific training in surf entry/exit is needed if you plan to do that.

Difficulty of Dive:

We rate this as an intermediate dive although if you try to dive the jetty tip or the exposed portions of the triangle jetty, you can find yourself in extreme or impossible conditions.  Inside the triangle jetty there are entanglement hazards and machinery hazards so pay attention!

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

Depending on where you park and where you’re walking to, you will either walk 50 feet or up to 1000 feet.

Surface Swim Length:

No surface swim is needed at any of the areas in this site.

Special Site Notes:

Remember that it is illegal to interfere with the commercial shellfish operation.  We know those oysters look tempting but DON’T DO IT!  You will give SCUBA divers a bad name!

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

As of the time of writing this, there are no dive shops or air fill stations along the Umpqua River near Winchester Bay.  There is (or at least was the last time we checked) a shop in North Bend to the south.  Otherwise you’re looking at heading inland to Eugene.  Check out the updated list of local dive shops in Oregon to see where the closest shop is to your dive.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

There are a couple good restaurants in Winchester Bay and further inland at Reedsport.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

There is a campground right next to this dive site and several others in the immediate vicinity.  In Reedsport there are the normal hotels although we haven’t tried any of them so we can’t comment on if they are friendly to SCUBA divers or not.

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

 

 

Sunset Bay

Sunset Bay and the associated beach is a great place to dive just south of Coos Bay on the southern Oregon coast.  The bay provides good protection from rough Pacific Ocean conditions that are prevalent along the Oregon coast.  The sandy beach is a good place to practice mellow surf entrances and associated skills.  Parking and access can be a challenge on popular weekends when the beach is covered with families and the parking lot is completely full.

 

Sunset Bay
Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google.
Sunset Bay is a good place to practice surf exits and entries in a relatively mellow environment.

In spite of the summer crowds, this site can be a lot of fun to dive.  Along the outer rims of the bay, rocks provide ample cover for marine life.  For those with a boat or who are okay with a lengthy surface swim, you can reach the outer reaches of the bay.  To the north there are several good dive sites and to the south the area along the shore can be dived in good ocean conditions.  A kayak dive platform is handy to explore the further reaches of this dive site.

 

Nearest Town:

Charleston, Oregon is just up the road from Sunset Beach.  Further up the highway is Coos Bay.

GPS Coordinates:

43.334069, -124.373365

Special Directions to Site:

Follow the Cape Arago Highway south from Charleston.  You can’t miss Sunset Bay.  In the summer, traffic backups will let you know far in advance of reaching the bay.

Parking:

There are large lots maintained by the State parks department.  The last time we were here, we think we remember paying to park although the situation might be different now.  Double check that you are in a designated parking spot and make sure you have paid to park if it is required.  The parking lots are heavily patrolled on the weekends.

Site Orientation:

The site is laid out in a convenient north-south-east-west configuration.  The ocean is roughly west from the beach.  The interesting rock formations and marine life are on the north and south sides of the bay.  To return to the beach, head east.

Entrances and Exits:

This is a surf entrance/exit across a beach.  Be sure to have appropriate training for the conditions you may encounter here.  We haven’t seen a washtub effect at this beach but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.  At the popular Monastery Beach down in Monterey, California, people routinely die within 20 feet of shore because they don’t know what they’re doing.

It is a good idea to decide which side of they bay you want to focus on.  Park closest to that side and then enter from the beach in that general area.  Pay attention to where the waves are breaking.  The entrance/exit will be much easier if you can do so where there aren’t big waves breaking on the beach.  Luckily it is rare for the entire beach to have breakers.  It is rare for there to be much in the way of waves in general at this dive site but Sunset Bay can still produce them.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a salt water dive.

Shore/Boat:

This is a shore dive although for the outer reaches, you may want a boat or kayak dive platform.

Normal Conditions:

Usually conditions are pretty good here.  You may encounter some waves and surf.  Tidal exchange isn’t too strong usually.  If you go outside of Sunset Bay, conditions get much rougher and many of the areas outside of the mouth of the bay are inaccessible to divers during rough sea states.

Normal Visibility:

The bottom is mostly sand and rocks.  Depending on if the upwelling is occurring in the ocean and what the ocean is doing, you can have anywhere between 5 feet and 35 feet of viz here.

Normal Temperature:

Temperatures at depth are usually in the 45-55F range depending on time of year.  On the surface near the beach, it can get up into the 60s in the summer.

Best Time of Year:

We like diving here in the fall, winter and spring.  Sunset Bay during the summer is crammed with beachgoers which makes access difficult.

Max Depth:

We understand that at the mouth of the bay you can find up to 50 feet of water at high tide.  We haven’t found it that deep but there’s a good chance that if you look around, you’ll find some deeper areas.  Most of the site is in the 15-35 foot range.

Suggested Special Training:

You should have good surf entry/exit skills.  While Sunset Bay is usually mellow, conditions can rapidly change.  You don’t want to become a statistic.

Difficulty of Dive:

We rate this as an intermediate dive because of the surf entry/exit.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

Depending on where you park, you could walk between 150 and 1000 feet.  Park as close as you can to where you want to enter.

Surface Swim Length:

Kick out from the beach at least 500 feet to get into deeper water.  Sunset Bay gets deeper the farther west you go.

Special Site Notes:

Surf entrances/exits are no joke.  We know that many divers who were trained in the Willamette Valley didn’t receive hands-on surf entrance/exit training.  It’s worthwhile having an instructor teach you how.

A lot of people frequent Sunset Bay.  It’s a good idea to have a dive flag (we have one we use and love) and pay attention to what you’re doing.

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

Check our local dive shop page to find the most up to date information.  As of the last time we edited this page, Port Orford and North Bend both have places you can get an air fill.  North Bend’s shop should be full service.  Otherwise you’re looking at heading inland to get gear serviced or a tank filled.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

There is a fun place to eat right on the dock in Charleston.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

There are many state and federal campgrounds in the general vicinity.  Some even have yurts.  We haven’t tried any of the hotels around the Coos Bay vicinity so please let us know if you have a favorite that is SCUBA diver friendly.

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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

 

 

Zwag Island and Diver Rock / Mill Beach

Mill Beach, located between Zwagg Island and Diver Rock on one side and Chetco Point on the other, is a good place to do a surf entry dive in Brookings, Oregon.  The scattered kelp makes for a fun area to play and explore, and the rocky cliffs and underwater mounts are a good place to go spearfishing.  If you have a boat, the outer kelp forest is easily accessible.  Otherwise, a surf-launched kayak SCUBA diving platform would be pretty useful to get further out on this dive site.

 

Imagery ©2017 Google, Map data ©2017 Google.
After a surf entry from Mill Beach, the small cove between Zwag Island and Chetco Point is a good place to play in some kelp. If you have a boat or a shore-launched kaya dive platform, some of the farther out rocks are worth the trip for spearfishing or crabbing.

 

Nearest Town:

The road down to the parking area for Mill Beach goes right through Brookings, Oregon.

GPS Coordinates:

42.048907, -124.292677

 

Special Directions to Site:

Accessing the site is a little challenging.  The way we know to get to the little hidden parking lot is as follows: From US101 turn onto Mill Beach Road.  You’ll go behind Fred Meyer, past the old mill site, and then it gets a little tricky.  Look for Macklyn Cove Drive taking off to the left and turn onto it.  You’ve gone too far on Mill Beach Road if you end up in a cul de sac.  On Macklyn Cove Drive, look for a left turn driveway.  If you end up in front of an apartment complex, you went too far.  At the end of the driveway there is a very small parking lot.

Parking:

The last time we were here, parking was free but very limited.  Be sure to check the signs and be sure to not block anyone in.  If it’s a popular weekend for SCUBA diving, it’s a good idea to show up a few hours before the tide to snag a parking space.

 

Site Orientation:

The site is centered around Macklyn Cove and anchored between Zwagg Island and Diver Rock on one side, and Chetco Point on the other.  Table Rock is in the middle of the beach.  navigation here is a little more complex than diving on jetties in Oregon.  You need to pay attention to where you are in the site.  The beach spans the north and north-northeast portions of the site.  This is where you do your surf entrance/exit.  If you’re on a boat, then be sure to know where you are in relation to your boat.

If you’re shore diving this site, generally we’d suggest you stick between Diver Rock and Chetco Point, and not go outside of the cove.  The swim is lengthy otherwise and there is plenty to see inside the cove.

The site is big enough that it takes 2-4 dives to cover the whole place unless you’re going on a speed tour.  There are plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities and we’ve seen people spearfishing here.

Entrances and Exits:

If you’re shore diving, you have a surf entrance to deal with.  Be sure you have surf entrance/exit training and it’s not a bad idea to practice the drills before you head out.  Down in California at Monastery Beach near Monterey, SCUBA divers die every few years because they panic during rough surf exits and drown within 20 feet of dry land.

If you’re boat diving, you will probably be anchoring at the southern or western edge of this dive site.  In that case, you’ll be dealing with a boat entry and exit.

Salt/Fresh:

This is a salt water dive.

Shore/Boat:

You can dive this site either from shore or from a boat.

Normal Conditions:

While the cove is fairly protected, you need to be ready to deal with surf, surge, and a little current.  If a storm is coming in, don’t bother with this site.  Be prepared to do an army crawl out of the surf if conditions deteriorate while you’re diving.  It’s not a bad idea to survey the whole beach when you surface to see if there is one area that is less rough than the rest of the beach.  We generally try to surface with plenty of reserve air in our tanks in case we have to army crawl on our bellies through the surf zone to safely exit.

Normal Visibility:

Depending on ocean conditions, you’ll have anywhere from almost no visibility up to 25+ feet of viz.  The further away from shore you go, generally the clearer it gets.

Normal Temperature:

Water temperature here can vary from 45F at the extreme cold end to 57 or 58F on the extreme hot end.

Best Time of Year:

You can dive Mill Beach almost any time of the year although storms and ocean conditions really dictate when you can dive here.

Max Depth:

At the deepest part of the site in the middle of the cove, you could find about 60 feet of water.  Along the edges, expect more in the 25-30 foot range.

Suggested Special Training:

Be sure you have surf entry and exit training.  Be sure you’re confident in your navigational skills.  Advanced open water training is a good idea here.

Difficulty of Dive:

We rate this as an intermediate dive as far as shore dives go but if conditions are bad, this can be a very advanced dive.

Distance of Walk to Entrance:

Assuming you can find parking in the parking lot, you’re looking at between 200 and 1000 feet of walking to get to a good place on the beach to enter.

Surface Swim Length:

You will want to kick out 200-300 feet to get beyond the surf zone and into deeper water before you descend.

Special Site Notes:

This site is exposed to the Pacific Ocean.  Especially as you get to the tips of the points of land jutting into the ocean, you will be exposed to whatever the ocean is doing that day.  Be sure you know how to dive in these conditions.

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

We aren’t aware of any reasonably close dive shops to this site.  There is an air fill station up in Depoe Bay and the Medford area has a dive shop but otherwise we haven’t found any nearby shops in Brookings or further south in California.  Let us know if you know of one.

Nearby Restaurants We Like:

We have never eaten in Brookings so we can’t comment on the restaurants.  Please let us know if you know of somewhere good to eat.

Nearby Places to Camp and Diver-Friendly Hotels:

We haven’t stayed in Brookings before.  Let us know if you know of a good campground or a SCUBA diver friendly hotel near Mill Beach.

What Other People Have to Say About This Site:

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