Alki Reef

Date Reviewed:October, 2001
Location:South of Alki Point, Seattle area
Access:Boat dive
Site Description:Artificial rock boulder reef
Main Attraction:Low current, ample marine life

Normally, I do not like diving most of the waters in Elliot Bay, which downtown Seattle overlooks. Most of the waters around Elliot Bay offer a moderately sloping, featureless mud flat. Combine that with the fact that Seattle still "overflows" sewage into Elliot Bay during heavy rains (it never rains in Seattle, right?) is reason enough for me to do my diving somewhere else. Maybe one day Seattle's local government will clue in and stop polluting the jewel of our area, Puget Sound. Until then, the core samples from the bottom of Elliot Bay will continue to show disgustingly high levels of human fecal content. What amazes me is that people scratch their heads in wonder because the Orca populations do not show up in the central Puget Sound area like they used to.

Ok. Enough preaching. Alki Reef is actually located just south of Elliot Bay and Alki Point. Although the bottom here is also a featureless mud flat, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife decided on this location as one of several to build an artificial reef to help bolster the declining rockfish populations in Puget Sound (KVI Tower is another one of these sites). Although I seldom see people fishing these reefs (as was the intent), they do make for interesting dives. The reef itself consists of several large boulder piles, as high as 20 feet in places, and runs from about 50 fsw down to about 70 fsw. All of the gaps, cracks, crevices, crannies, and fissures in the boulder piles serve as excellent habitat for marine life. What's more is that currents at this site tend to be much less intensive than at other sites, so I typically do this dive as a second dive after hitting a current intensive site at slack.

When descending upon the reef, the first thing that strikes me is the beauty of all the large orange and white Plumose Anemones that are clinging to the rocks and basking in the light currents. Also, large schools of Shiner, Pile, and Striped Sea Perch are often witnessed leisurely cruising around the reef. Generous quantities of Brown, Copper, and Quillback Rockfish are easily found resting on rocks, hiding in holes, or hovering just off the bottom. An occasional Lingcod or Cabezon can be found resting motionless on the bottom in hopes of ambushing unsuspecting prey. Orange Swimming Anemones and a number of colorful nudibranch species (including Alabaster Nudibranchs and Red Dendronid) also make this site their home. Numerous sculpins, including Red Irish Lords and Buffalo Scuplins, are also found clinging to the rocks, as are Vermilion Stars and Leather Stars. Closer inspection of the rock reef will reveal warbonnets, gunnels, smaller sculpins, and assorted crabs. On the muddy bottom around the rocky reef, Sunflower Stars, Sun Stars, Lingcod, Graceful and Red Rock Crabs, Rock Sole and Starry Flounder can be spotted. Although I have not seen Giant Pacific Octopus here, the shell middens here are a good indication that they are present. Although this is not a massive site, it is very fun to explore. All of the dark holes and crevices offer potential homes to marine critters, so make certain to bring a good light. Also bring a good knife just in case you encounter entangling fishing line.

As I stated earlier, the currents at this sight are nowhere near as intensive as some other popular dive sites. Two potentially difficult things about diving this site are finding it and doing free ascents from 50 fsw (if you do not find your anchor line). The reef is located several hundred yards offshore, so there are no distinguishing markers. In fact, you almost need GPS coordinates and a depth sounder to find it. If you are using the GPS coordinates from Northwest Boat Dives (GREAT book!), please note that the GPS coordinates for this site are in DD:HH:SS format. Most other coordinates in the book are in DD:HH.HH format. This format difference result in about a third of a mile error, and believe me, there is nothing but a big mud flat a third of a mile south of this reef. I have called the author of the book (Dave Bliss) to let him know of this discrepancy.

This is a fun and easy dive site that offers divers good representation of the myriad of species that are found in Central Puget Sound.

Return to review index