Brain dump on Oregon coast diving

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OreCoastDiver
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Brain dump on Oregon coast diving

Post by OreCoastDiver » Fri Nov 07, 2008 10:20 am

OK, I’ve put this off long enough. The interest on the board in diving the Oregon coast is refreshing and inspired me to do a brain dump on some spots that I like to dive and some that I want to dive.

The tricky part about diving the Oregon coast is that we have sheer sea cliffs, big surf (20-foot waves for days on end in the winter) about a 10-foot tidal range and poor viz during most of the summer. The good news is that viz is usually OK in the winter (10-20 feet) and can be spectacular during upwelling in the summer. More about upwellings in a later post.

I’ll start with some dependable dives that are protected enough that you usually won’t get skunked even when the surf is up:
Newport–the Fingers: This is probably the best known dive in the Newport area. The entry is over big rocks and not real fun. Sometimes I hump my gear over a piece at a time, but usually I just gird my loins and do it in one pack and hope I don’t fall in a hole. The jetty area provides some great hiding places for crabs, lingcod, black rockfish, greenlings and lots of invertebrate life. The finger jetties are perpendicular from the main jetty and protect you from the current and the swells. Since this is the only outlet for Yaquina Bay, dive only at slack tide. The boats stay away from the fingers because they don’t want their bottom ripped out. Although I have seen some nose in close to the fingers to fish. I usually dive inside the fourth finger and go either east or west from there. I haven’t dove the first finger, which is really long and shallow and drys out at low tide. A buddy of mine, however, dove it at high tide and said there were about 20 black rockfish schooling at the end, so I guess it’s not a bad dive either. A couple times when I dove the fingers the viz was good enough that when you were in the center space between two fingers you felt like you were in a large room. It was kind of cool.

Newport–HMSC Research Dock: This is not a real exciting dive, but it has an easy in and out and is totally protected from the surf. You can fudge an hour or two either side of slack tide because the current isn’t too strong. It’s a good place to test out new gear or work on skills if you haven’t been in the water in a while. The dock is located north of the Hatfield Marine Science Center and is home to the two OSU research vessels. Go to the end of Marine Science Drive to the turn around and park on the east side next to the beach. It is a sandy beach with an easy slope but watch out for suitcase-sized rocks that can be trippers as you’re walking in. Start your dive on the rock abutment on the right. There is always a black rockfish and a greenling there and lots of invertebrate life on the rocks. Go west from piling to piling until you get to the end of the dock and then take a compass bearing west and fin out to the dolphin for uw navigation practice. Chase some crab around on the way. I’ve recovered several lost crab traps and rings here. The dolphin is covered with life.

Newport–Crab Dock: The municipal crab dock is another good place to chase crab around. You can also recover lost crab pots and rings. The only structure is provided by the dock’s pilings so there isn’t a lot to see. You also make the fisherman on the dock nervous and I’ve heard of some divers who got yelled at as they were getting out.

Netarts Bay in Tillamook County is another dependable dive when the surf is up. It has the added advantage of not having much freshwater flow into the bay so viz doesn’t go to hell if the coast has had a lot of rain. That also means that the crab don’t get flushed out after big rains. Entry is easy down the boat ramp. Keep the rock wall on your right and study the life hiding in the rocks. Going back, keep the rocks on your left. The muddy bottom is has a lot of crabs to chase around.

Depoe Bay looks like a good dive to me, but I haven’t tried it yet. I’m going to talk to the Coast Guard guys and the harbor master to make sure they don’t have any heartburn with divers. I would enter from the boat ramp on the south of the bay and dive the sea wall on the left. The entrance to the bay is small – it’s called the hole in the wall – but would be fun to explore at slack tide when it’s not too surgey. The commercial abalone diver (yes, there’s only one on the West Coast) was diving here last summer and found a dead body (fisherman, not a diver), so the place might be haunted.

Calm-Ocean Dives

Devil's Punchbowl and Otter Rock area between Newport and Depoe Bay has a lot of good structure a beautiful beach and a lovely stairway with about 135 steps that provides access to the beach. On the north is Cape Foulweather that provides some protection from the northwest swells of summer. On those days, you can hug the rocks to the north and usually sneak past any breaking waves. This would be a great area to dive out of a kayak. You could get out to Otter Rock and the larger Bird Rock, which, I understand, are awesome dives. There’s plenty of structure and lots of bull kelp. Lots and lots of scallops and fish. I got rolled in a surf exit and lost a mask a couple of years ago. The climb back up the stairs is a pain.

South wall of Cascade Head: I would do it when the weather is coming from the north to avoid the swell. I only just tried this dive a couple of months ago with my wife and I’m eager to try this again. We took my 14-foot Chamberlain dory from the ODFW boat launch off of Three Rocks Road and rowed our gear down to the beach just inside the mouth of the Salmon River. We beached the boat and geared up on the beach. We didn’t hit it right at slack and had a hard time getting out of the river mouth, but even at the mouth the life is very impressive. On good days an inflatable would be great to get outside the mouth and explore the wall, which is about 80 feet deep. I understand from another diver there is a nice cove and a cave at the end of the wall. I would really watch the sea conditions; getting back in the river mouth can be tricky.

Whale Cove is a defacto marine reserve, it’s been set aside as a no-take area since the 1980s. I understand from a surfer friend there is a path down to a little beach on the north just inside the bay, but I haven’t found it yet. It could be tricky to get you and your gear up and down the cliff to the beach, but I’m sure it would be a great dive: good structure and lots of bull kelp. On a good day a small boat could easily make the trip from Depoe Bay to Whale Cove, land on the beach and dive from there.

There are a few dives I’m eager to do out of Newport, but they require a bigger boat than I have.

The pinnacles off shore from Newport – I understand the Pinnacles are teaming with life and a good place to gather rock scallops. I got the lat long for one from another diver: N44 32.967 W124 06.842. This dive would require a live boat.

Johnson Rock is just off Ona Beach south of Newport. The top of the rock is at about 30 feet and it sits on a bottom that’s 60 or 70 feet deep. The multibeam sonar images of this site look great. One guy who I talked to said it has a lot of rock scallops. I’ve been fishing on a friend’s boat over it and I can testify it has a lot of black rockfish.

S.S. John Aspdin – The S.S. John Aspdin was built in April, 1944 and lauched in May. On one of her trips, she was caught in a hurricane with 60 to 80 foot high waves, but survived with minimal damage. She was also used by the army as a store ship in the South Pacific. The Aspdin was purchased to be used as a dock revetment in Newport. On April 12, 1948, she grounded in the bay during transit and then floated out with the tide, only to be grounded agin on the North Reef. Ten days later, she broke in half and sank. The John Aspdin lies under 40 feet of water off the North Reef off Yaquina Bay. One guy I talked to said it was right off the Shilo Inn. The wreck has strong currents and mangled rebars making it a dangerous dive.

There are plenty of other good dive sites I’ve heard about: Nellie’s Cove off of Port Orford is used a lot by Eugene Skin Divers for their OW classes, the Port Orford Jetty, Coos Bay, Half Moon Bay south of Reedsport on the south coast. On the north coast there’s Three Arch Rocks, the south wall of Cape Lookout and the Three Graces. I’ll let Scott G or Sparky tell you about those.
Last edited by OreCoastDiver on Tue Dec 30, 2008 3:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Brain dump on Oregon coast diving

Post by Scott G » Fri Nov 07, 2008 4:56 pm

There are no real secrets to diving in Oregon. Find rocks, dive on them...

the only "secret" is finding good conditions, for that you must be on top of the weather breaks.

There are not places in Oregon where you can walk in 300 days of the year and expect safe conditions... we get ~10 days/year that are of the quality expected in Puget Sound... and even in those places and times, you're going to have to crawl over some rocks, and deal with some issues that may be unfamilar to Puget Sound divers.

I love diving here, i don't mean to make it sound bad, It is very good, however you must know the conditions prior to going to ensure a good time.

Scott

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Re: Brain dump on Oregon coast diving

Post by OreCoastDiver » Fri Nov 07, 2008 5:52 pm

Scott G wrote:There are no real secrets to diving in Oregon. Find rocks, dive on them...

the only "secret" is finding good conditions, for that you must be on top of the weather breaks.

There are not places in Oregon where you can walk in 300 days of the year and expect safe conditions... we get ~10 days/year that are of the quality expected in Puget Sound... and even in those places and times, you're going to have to crawl over some rocks, and deal with some issues that may be unfamilar to Puget Sound divers.

I love diving here, i don't mean to make it sound bad, It is very good, however you must know the conditions prior to going to ensure a good time.

Scott


What Scott said is absolutely true. That's why it's hard if you don't live on the coast to dive here: You have to put the hairy eyeball on the ocean to truly gauge the conditions.

That said, there are a couple dives on my list are divable more often than not. So the strategy is to use them as a backup site if conditions won't allow you to dive the site you came to the coast to dive.
Last edited by OreCoastDiver on Sun Nov 09, 2008 7:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Brain dump on Oregon coast diving

Post by spatman » Sat Nov 08, 2008 1:04 pm

thanks for all of the great info, brandon! :salute:
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Re: Brain dump on Oregon coast diving

Post by Scott G » Sat Nov 08, 2008 6:00 pm

Here are some spots in the immediate Coos Bay area that i've dove more than a couple times.

Coos Bay: (from N to S)
Train Bridge near airport: needs clear water, lots of juv fish. boat dive
Empire Boat Ramp: lots of crab and clams, surfperch, greenling, juv rockfish, many others- bottle hunting... usually <5' vis
Sitka dock (antique hunting)
Pigeon Point (estuary sea pens!)
Fossil Point (fossil hunting)
Submerged Jetty off Buoy #1 of charleston channel
Hungrymans cove
Buoy # 7 N channel-- (sometimes called "cribs")
Chicken Point (esturine kelp bed!)
North Jetty (watch for current)

South Slough:
Commercial Docks
Charleston Bridge (i've dove this site 100+ times), it's good, but their are heavy locals in the winter.
T docks

Coos Bay area Ocean dives: (from N to S)
Mussel Point (walk in, very calm day needed)
Sunset Bay (Walk in)
Norton Gulch (Walk in, shortish swim)
South Lighthouse/ Gregory point (invertebrate research reserve)
Baltimore Rock (watch current)
Cheif Island
Simpson Reef (many dives available, most shallow, current not as much of an issue as further offshore reefs)
North Cove (very difficult walk in) (Winter Elephant Seals!)
Middle Cove (difficult walk in)
South Cove (long walk in/ paved trail, fair surface swim)

I generally dive South of Cape Blanco for best conditions... many dives down there in spring/ early summer/ winter... however most sites require a boat, the ones that don't are fairly obvious...

Port Orford Jetty, for my money, is the best dive in the state. You can walk in, without too much of a scramble and everything you'd ever want to see and some you don't (including the big man in the grey suit) is in there.

The visibility is often better there than other places, I've gotten a 40' vis day in there, however as an example of the variability, on that occasion i went back the next day and could only see the end of my mask.

I've not dove anywhere here where I didn't see plenty of fish, the ocean dives are obviously better than the estuary dives.

It really does all hinge on knowing what the conditions are.

I've dove so many places one time, it's all hit and miss.

Hope this helps anyone trying to dive down here.

Scott

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Re: Brain dump on Oregon coast diving

Post by nwscubamom » Thu Nov 13, 2008 11:34 pm

This is GREAT info and I'll have to put heads together with you to plot these out on my mapping program - I have many of the ones you've listed on there already, but lots of what you just said are new to me too.

And of course, I haven't dove any of them. But I'm watching that weather buoy every day :)

My big concern is the getting-over-the-rocks thing. At 50 (and officially an old lady now) I am a bit worried about that part.

FWIW, we're (REEF) is talking with the folks trying to create the reserves along the Oregon Coast to maybe do some assessments down at Port Orford. Also, I think if there was decent access, and with some publicity, Port Orford could bring in some pretty interested divers (who are NOT there to hunt). Guess divers in the area in the past have only been there to hunt, or so the general public feels.

So some folks are really against the reserves thinking it will drive the divers (and business) away.

Would you be interested in diving a spot if you couldn't take anything (except maybe photos)? Or would that drive you away to elsewhere?

- Janna :)
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Re: Brain dump on Oregon coast diving

Post by AB219 » Fri Nov 14, 2008 3:10 pm

nwscubamom wrote:This is GREAT info and I'll have to put heads together with you to plot these out on my mapping program - I have many of the ones you've listed on there already, but lots of what you just said are new to me too.

And of course, I haven't dove any of them. But I'm watching that weather buoy every day :)

My big concern is the getting-over-the-rocks thing. At 50 (and officially an old lady now) I am a bit worried about that part.

FWIW, we're (REEF) is talking with the folks trying to create the reserves along the Oregon Coast to maybe do some assessments down at Port Orford. Also, I think if there was decent access, and with some publicity, Port Orford could bring in some pretty interested divers (who are NOT there to hunt). Guess divers in the area in the past have only been there to hunt, or so the general public feels.

So some folks are really against the reserves thinking it will drive the divers (and business) away.

Would you be interested in diving a spot if you couldn't take anything (except maybe photos)? Or would that drive you away to elsewhere?

- Janna :)



You get very few divers out there already... I would think tighter restrictions when you can shoot a Ling Cod or how many scallops you can take would be the first step.... Not shutting down a section of the coast, that has some great access to divers for game hunting. :naka: :smt051



Regarding the Barview Jetty...you do need to streamline your gear! You won't need the big pony bottle or doubles...2 small powerful flashlights work well on the jetty. Take your time climbing over the rocks... they are slippery.

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Re: Brain dump on Oregon coast diving

Post by GetWet » Sun Nov 16, 2008 3:26 pm

Thanks for the info! We've been scouting places to dive in Oregon for a while now. We did 3 Graces in August. It was very nice. 15-20 viz, and loads of things to see. The crabs coming up out of the sand was a riot!

There didn't seem to be places to get air fills on the northern coast. How is it further south?

Melissa

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Re: Brain dump on Oregon coast diving

Post by OreCoastDiver » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:03 am

GetWet wrote:Thanks for the info! We've been scouting places to dive in Oregon for a while now. We did 3 Graces in August. It was very nice. 15-20 viz, and loads of things to see. The crabs coming up out of the sand was a riot!

There didn't seem to be places to get air fills on the northern coast. How is it further south?

Melissa


In Newport the South Beach Marina Store has airfills to about 3200 for $5. They have 10-fill air cards for $40. There is also a shop in Florence, but I can't remember the name. Something with "Watersports" in it. They sell and rent kayaks in addition to doing scuba stuff.
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New dive shop in Newport

Post by OreCoastDiver » Fri Nov 28, 2008 5:14 pm

We've been without a dive shop for almost four years now in Newport. That's a long time considering prior to that there's been a shop here since 1968. Chris at the South Beach Marina Store has kept things going by pumping air, but that was about it.

This week I discovered South Beach Scuba, which promises to be a full-service dive shop. They have a good compressor and pump nitrox to 40 percent. He has rental gear, including hp steel tanks. Not a lot of merchandise yet, but that will come. The owner and his wife plan on finishing up their instructor certs within a couple months. That's about all I know.

Here's the contact info: 541-867-4944, 4909 S. Coast Highway, suite 305, South Beach, OR 97366. The shop's a little hard to find because it's off the highway in a storage/business park behind the South Beach post office.
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Re: Brain dump on Oregon coast diving

Post by no excuses » Fri Nov 28, 2008 5:40 pm

sweet glad to see that there is another dive shop going in down there, that will make it good for the more southern divers.

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Re: Brain dump on Oregon coast diving

Post by Aquanautchuck » Thu Jan 22, 2009 1:51 pm

I did a solo trip down the coast with my Zodiac several years ago. One of the places I dove was Port Orford. There was no boat launch. You had to pay to have your boat lifted and slung down 40'+ to the water then climb down the steel ladder to it. You can beach launch small boats from the beach but you may get stuck. I did two dives in the second cove past the boat storage area. This was in August and the vis was only about 10' There was a lot of life and the area was real cool. If I could beach launch I would probably go down again.
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Re: Brain dump on Oregon coast diving

Post by jimlbw » Sat Jun 20, 2009 5:41 am

Scott G wrote:There are no real secrets to diving in Oregon. Find rocks, dive on them...

the only "secret" is finding good conditions, for that you must be on top of the weather breaks.

There are not places in Oregon where you can walk in 300 days of the year and expect safe conditions... we get ~10 days/year that are of the quality expected in Puget Sound... and even in those places and times, you're going to have to crawl over some rocks, and deal with some issues that may be unfamilar to Puget Sound divers.

I love diving here, i don't mean to make it sound bad, It is very good, however you must know the conditions prior to going to ensure a good time.

Scott
....I'll second that. Iv'e had to learn the hard way about diving conditions here on the coast. Always try to get the flattest days you can. Iv'e had my share of being in the washing machine and lower than normal viz. If you don't live near by you can always check NOAA.com weather as well. :boucegreen:
Last edited by jimlbw on Sat Jun 20, 2009 5:51 am, edited 2 times in total.

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