Page 1 of 1

Hood Canal Bridge, West Side

Posted: Wed Mar 24, 2010 1:25 am
by 60south
Dive Site Name: Hood Canal Bridge, west side.

Skill Level: Advanced and/or foolhardy.

Current Sensitive: Yes. It's current sensitive the same way that a hurricane is 'wind sensitive'.

Location: West side of the Hood Canal Bridge, adjacent to Shine Tidelands State Park.

Driving Directions: Heading west across the Hood Canal Bridge, make a right turn at the end of the bridge on to Paradise Bay Road. Immediately turn right again, heading down towards the water on Shine Tidelands State Park Road. Continue straight downhill to the boat ramp.

Free Parking: Yes. Boats are often launched here but there is space to park vehicles off to the side.

Staging Area: None.

Surface Swim: Bad idea.

Nearby Facilities: Restrooms are probably available in the park itself. I find it more convenient to use the bushes beside the boat ramp. There are no stores, air fills, or fuel nearby. You can always dig for clams.

Special Considerations: Here we go. There are high currents. Boats careening through the channel, piloted by drunken fishermen. Steel cables, monofilament, sharp metal objects, and other nasties eager to snag you. Overhead environments. Entrapment hazards. Poor visibility. Hungry lingcod big enough to swallow your leg (seriously). Coast Guard patrol boats with 50 caliber machine guns, manned by teenagers with itchy trigger fingers (possibly). Submarines armed with nuclear weapons (really). Giant crabs. Pestilence. Famine. Swarms of locusts. Oprah Winfry in a leather teddy. And, lately, a small sign on the nearby bridge support saying you shouldn't be there. God I love this dive.

Maximum Depth: 90fsw.

Dive Site Description: This site defies description but I'll try...

Plan your dive on a day when there is a long, flat span of time with virtually no current. The dive is literally under the bridge -- even at depth you'll hear the rumble of trucks passing overhead. The most convenient entry is at the boat ramp. The warning sign on the bridge may have been placed there during the recent construction and never taken down; it's small and easily overlooked. We think it is a warning to boaters. One diver I know enters the water on the beach a bit north of the boat ramp where you can't read it at all, giving her plausible deniability. In any case, be discreet.

Take a compass bearing on the large bridge support on the other side of the boating channel (approx 150ft?), that's your destination. I believe the support is actually a floating pontoon. Descend into the channel, making your way across the bottom. Do not surface in the channel lest you be hit by a boater. This would be an excellent place to use a DPV, otherwise you're in for a bit of a swim. Eventually a large structure will appear out of the gloom. You have arrived.

This is where things get wacky. The structure you're at is a sunken concrete pontoon, dating back to when the bridge collapsed during a storm in 1979. It is covered in life. As might be expected, some of the metal bridgework is tangled around near the top of it. The in-use support structure for the bridge is also present, along with two (!) boats that sank on top of one another, and are said to be resting on the sunken pontoon. It is a complex site with many strange and unidentifiable things, and potentially some structures that move with the tide. I don't have a good mental map of it and would love to see some side-scan imagery of the area. Since we approach the sunken pontoon from the bottom, we invariably make our way up the side, greeting gigantic lings, anemones and crabs as we go.

The return to shore is always a bit of a dilemma as the choices are either 1) descend back down and follow the bottom, making distinctly double-U-shaped dive profile or 2) perform a long, mid-water swim using the return bearing on your compass and no visible reference points. Having done both, I much prefer (1) because any current will be less at the bottom. This becomes very important if the current suddenly picks up during the dive, as you may end up stabbing the sand with your knife to anchor yourself during the safety stop (or simply to make headway back to shore). I do not consider surfacing in the channel an option except in a dire emergency. This can be an easy dive, but it can also go wildly wrong in a hurry; proper gas management for contingencies is crucial. Be sure to take your SMB, whistle, knife, and any other safety gear that gives you a warm-fuzzy feeling.

Now that I've revealed our not-so-secret dive site, I'm also going to end with the necessary disclaimer: I don't recommend you dive there. Of late, my impression is that WA-DOT (and DHS?) are getting edgy about people diving under the bridge. It's only a matter of time before they get serious about enforcing that edginess. So there. Don't say I didn't warn you. Except that Oprah thing, I was kidding about that.

Re: Hood Canal Bridge, West Side

Posted: Wed Mar 24, 2010 10:41 am
by Dusty2
Great site review, Glen I got a good giggle or two but the underlying info is right on. I might add that though that bridge pylon looks big it can be missed and there are no road signs down there. I ditto the do not surface warning. The fisher people race thru there like they were heading for a fire and would never even see you.

Re: Hood Canal Bridge, West Side

Posted: Mon Feb 06, 2012 11:27 pm
Great Post! =D>

Re: Hood Canal Bridge, West Side

Posted: Thu Jun 25, 2015 6:45 pm
by 60south
There are now two signs on the bridge supports explicitly saying no scuba diving.

Well bummer. I'll add this site to my unhappy list of you-can't-dive-there-anymore places.

Re: Hood Canal Bridge, West Side

Posted: Thu Jun 25, 2015 10:32 pm
Take down the sign and let the current take it away!!!

Re: Hood Canal Bridge, West Side

Posted: Fri Jun 26, 2015 9:24 pm
by Jeremy
That sucks

Re: Hood Canal Bridge, West Side

Posted: Fri Jun 26, 2015 9:47 pm
by Dusty2
I think that has actually been true for quite a long time but they just updated the signage. Sucks but it is an advanced site and I am sure they were concerned about liability.

Re: Hood Canal Bridge, West Side

Posted: Sat Nov 21, 2020 6:30 pm
by 60south
Just a follow-up on this.

I drove over the bridge today and checked things out, and there a still -- very definitely -- two signs that say NO SCUBA DIVING BELOW THE BRIDGE.