Deadman Wall

Date Reviewed:March, 2002
Location:Tacoma Area
Access:Shore dive
Site Description:sheer, deep sandstone and clay wall
Main Attraction:Red Brotulas

Deadman's Wall is located near Tacoma (actually in Rustin, which is towards Point Defiance) and just northwest of the Les Davis fishing pier. This is the tallest wall I have done to date in Puget Sound that is easily accessible from shore. However, be warned - this is an advanced dive. Although the currents here are not nearly as torrid as other parts of the Sound, this is a very deep dive.

The wall starts in about 70 fsw at the southeast end, and 90 fsw at most other places (and that is at low tide). As I have only been to 110 fsw at this site, I do not know how far down the wall goes. Reportedly, it bottoms out at well below 130 fsw. It is very easy to get deep, so if you decide to dive here watch your gauges and stay well within your training and personal limits. No deco bottom time here can be just a few minutes, depending on how deep you go.

The wall itself is typical of walls in south Puget Sound. It is very impressive, sheer in most places, and comprised of mainly sandstone and clay. This crumbly mixture makes it very difficult for many forms of marine life to adhere to the wall, so many of the colorful anemones, soft corals, and marine vegetation are conspicuously absent. Add to the fact that there is relatively very little current here and the Puyallup River is endlessly spewing silt into Puget Sound right next door, and you have a fair picture of this dive site. However, do not get me wrong - this site has much to offer - you just need to pay close attention. Just don't get in the water expecting this site to look like the Sunrise wall. And make certain to bring a very good dive light.

The wall itself is somewhat similar to the Day Island Wall, and you can find many of the smaller creatures here that you find at Day Island (except the Wolf-eels). When I did this site, there were reports of Red Brotulas (a rare find) hiding out here at 130 fsw. I got into the water at this site with hopes of getting a picture of one of these eel-like creatures for the web site. Although I did get the opportunity to see one (thanks to my dive buddy Jeff!) at 110 fsw, it was a very brief encounter and I only got to see the bright red tail of the fish as it scurried deeper into a hole a Piddock Clam carved out. Looks like I have to come back to try again!

When I dove here, we also found some small rockfish hiding on this wall, tons of shrimp, some beautiful nudibranchs (Golden Dironas), a Pacific Snake Prickleback, eelpouts of some type, crabs, and Stubby Squid eggs (little tear-drop shaped pearl colored balls, less than 1 cm in diameter). I would venture that there are few octopus lurking about on this wall too, making this location a prime choice for a possible dusk or night dive.

Above the wall is a moderately sloping silts/muddy bottom. Keep a watch out for Dungeness Crabs scampering about above the wall. You will also find all sorts of sea stars and some anemones above the wall as well.

The access to this site is located off of N. Rustin Way, which runs along the south shore of Commencement Bay in Tacoma. There is no official sign or park marking this site. The wall is located just northwest of a business called the Lobster Shops (address is 4013 N. Rustin Way), but the access here is somewhat steep and rocky,. We actually entered the water from the next public parking lot to the northwest, just past what I believe is a pinkish apartment complex (I think the address is 4041). The access here is still rocky, but less steep. We hit the wall at about 70 fsw heading out a bit to the east from the eastern side of this complex.

There are no facilities at the gravel parking lot near the apartments. There is a porta-potty located in the paved parking lot by the Lobster Shops.

This is definitely not one of my favorite sites, but I look forward to returning here periodically to further explore this wall, especially during times when the currents are really ripping making other sites undiveable. Any site that offers a magnificent wall and a chance to see a Red Brotulas is reason enough for me to get wet.

Return to review index