Third Beach Pinnacle

Date Reviewed:September, 2002
Location:Neah Bay
Access:boat dive
Site Description:30 foot high pinnacle
Main Attraction:Yet more spectacular Neah Bay marine life and topography

Third Beach Pinnacle is another of the typical but dramatic "ridge" dives in Neah Bay Area. This pinnacle looms up from the flat substrate of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Like other similar dives in this area, it is a fantastic dive site and offers divers the typical "Neah Bay strait dive" experience - an experience unique in Washington.

This dive is located just to the east of Neah Bay, and I mean JUST to the east. If you note the three little beaches near the eastern side of the entrance of Neah Bay, the site is out from the third beach to the east. Like most of the dives in this area that are somewhat off-shore and subjected to some intensive currents, shore diving this site is just not a good idea.

The pinnacle itself was easy for us to find for a couple of reasons. First, when we dove this site at the end of summer, there was a huge kelp forest that was easily visible when the surface conditions are relatively calm. And second, as we approached the kelp, our depth sounder raced up from 50-60 feet to less than 20 feet.

The rock formations that make up this pinnacle are very similar to that of the other ridges in the area. The pinnacle appears to be elongated, running in a northwestern direction. We dove the inside, or southern side of the pinnacle. We anchored on top of the pinnacle and descended the anchor line into the kelp forest on top. The thick kelp was anchored to the top of the pinnacle on a small plateau. After swimming south and weaving through the thick kelp in heavy surge, we were quickly met by a small wall that dropped down 30 feet. Like the other ridges in the area, this one is a naturalist's paradise with all sorts of cracks, crevices, crannies, ledges, caves, holes, and fissures to explore and poke around in. At the base of the ridge you will find some massive rock outcroppings, boulders, and rock piles silhouetted against a bottom covered in white broken shells - very picturesque indeed!

The marine life on this dive was good. We saw all the species that we encountered at other sites in this area, including eight varieties of rockfish (China, Copper, Quillback, Black, Blue, Canary, Tiger, and Yellowtail), Lingcod, Kelp Greenlings, Painted Greenlings, Red Irish Lords, and even a couple of Wolf-eels. There was also abundant invertebrate life here, including some beautiful anemones, sea stars, and nudibranchs. Like most site around this area, shrimp seemed to be everywhere. However, to me it seemed as if the life at this site was not quite as robust as Tiger Ridge, Snow Creek Ridge, or Waadah Island Fingers. Don't get me wrong, however; it is still an outstanding site. Part of the reason may be that the swell we encountered this day dropped visibility by quite a bit. Instead of the 40+ feet of visibility we had the two days prior, we were "limited" to 25-30 feet of vis on this dive.

We dove this site at slack before ebb on a minor exchange. There was some current running to the west when we got in, so we just went with it as we were running a live boat. However, as we drifted to the west, the top of the "pinnacle" got deeper and deeper. So rather than do a free ascent and end up towards the entrance of Neah Bay where boat traffic might have a hard time seeing us in the 4-6 foot swells, we decided to swim back to the entry point where we could easily do a safety stop and surface in the safety of the kelp. The current was very manageable, and we were easily able to swim back "upstream" against it. After 55 minutes, we were running low on air and ascended into the kelp forest on top of the pinnacle to do our 5 minute safety stop. As the swell was rather large this day, we swayed back and forth in the kelp with some isolated Black and Yellowtail Rockfish. What a hoot!

This site is just another testimony that you do not have to venture too far at Neah Bay to do some absolutely world-class diving!

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