Keystone Jetty

Date Reviewed:December, 2000
Location:Whidbey Island
Access:Shore dive
Site Description:Rock breakwater, pilings
Main Attraction:Giant Pacific Octopus

Keystone is one of those extremely popular dive sites that seemingly gets bombarded relentlessly by divers every weekend. Other than during a certification dive, I stay well clear of this site on weekends. On weekdays, you usually get the entire dive site to yourself, and the diving can be spectacular.

Keystone is actually a ferry landing located on the west side of Whidbey Island (about half way up the island). There are actually two dive sites here. The first is an old pier located just south of the breakwater. The second (and better site, by far) is the breakwater that protects the ferry terminal from the south.

Facilities here are good, as there are picnic tables, ample parking, and restrooms. There is even a small restaurant across the street. The pilings under the peer make an interesting dive. There are some fish here, and plenty of anemones, starfish, and crabs to entertain you on a dive. The depth under the pilings is surprisingly shallow. In fact, on a low tide, you can almost walk right out to the first set of pilings before reaching the water. I could probably do this dive on my 19 cubic foot pony and still get 30 minutes of bottom time.

The breakwater is the main attraction. It starts on the shore and works it's way out to about 60 fsw. The large boulders that make up the breakwater serve as ideal habitat for Giant Pacific Octopus (I have seen five here on one dive), an occasional Wolf-Eel, anemones, Quillback, Copper, and Brown Rockfish, some rather large Lingcod, Cabezon, Striped Seaperch, Shiner Perch and Pile Perch, Painted and Kelp Greenling, Giant Barnacles, and a varied assortment of crabs and starfish. I almost always find Orange Spotted Nudibranchs at this site as well. You can also find some soft corals here if you look carefully.

The octopus here are can be hard to find. Make certain to bring a good light to thoroughly investigate all the potential lairs. Look for the tell-tale signs of an octopus dens (crab shells piled high outside the entrance). Although this is not a deep site, there are four major considerations when diving here.

  1. The current rips at this site. It almost always comes from the south and hits the breakwater (during flood or ebb). I have done dives here (before I could properly read current tables) where I had to claw my way back to shore across the breakwater because the current was so strong (needless to say, these were not fun dives). Because of this current, I only dive here at slack when the exchanges are low. In these situations, we always are able to easily work our way around then end of the breakwater to the north side of the breakwater and have a great dive.
  2. This breakwater protects a ferry landing. The ferry cruises to the north of the breakwater. If you do get whisked away by the current, you should stay on the bottom until you are well clear of the ferry lane, surface on the other side of the ferry landing, and walk back to the park. If you try to fight the current, you will probably run out of air and be forced to surface in the ferry lane. I don't think even a safety sausage will save you from a ferry boat bearing down on you in the middle of the channel.
  3. There is a boat ramp to the north of the breakwater. Watch for boats!
  4. People like to sit on the breakwater and jig for diving gear. Make certain to look for fisherman before you begin your dive, and let them know where you will be diving so they don't accidentally "hook the big one".

Return to review index