|Date Reviewed:||September, 2001|
|Location:||East side of Vashon Island|
|Access:||Boat (although a shore dive may be possible)|
|Site Description:||Expansive artificial reef|
|Main Attraction:||Interesting structure, ample quantity and variety of marine life|
The dive site at KVI tower features a rather expansive artificial reef that runs from about 35 fsw to well over 110 fsw. The dive site is located just south of Point Heyer, which is just north of where Maury Island and Vashon Island meet on the east side. Tramp Harbor is just to the west.
This dive site is one of my favorite boat dives in the central Puget Sound area. It is not the most challenging or striking dive site, but it really can be quite beautiful. Because of the uneven terrain, expansiveness of the reef, and abundance of color and marine species, this is a wonderful site to cruise through and is well deserving of multiple visits. To me, diving this site is like taking a walk in the park. So far I have done 20 dives at this site, and hope to do many, many more.
The artificial reef at this location was constructed by the Department of Fisheries to bolster rockfish populations and is working beautifully. The reef consists of huge boulders and concrete columns that appear to have been here for quite some time. Orange, green, and white Plumose Anemones have colonized the reef, adding some dazzling color to the already interesting terrain. Quilback, Brown, and Copper Rockfish have taken up sentry posts through the reef in great abundance, and appear to watch you suspiciously as you cruise through each fishes' territory. A very impressive number of Painted Greenlings, Red Irish Lords, and Buffalo Scuplins also make this reef their home, however you have to look a little more carefully to find these masters of camouflage. Lingcod, Cabezon, and Kelp Greenlings have also been known to make appearances at this site, although are nowhere near as abundant as the rockfish. Small but numerous gatherings of colorful Striped Seapearch and Pile Perch leisurely cruise this site, searching the invertebrate encrusted rocks for a quick meal. I have also found Grunt Scuplin hiding under rocks here on several occasions. Also, make certain to check out the end of the long concrete columns at this site. Many of them have holes in the ends and serve as safe harbor for gunnels or warbonnets. A colorful number of nubibranchs also frequent this site, including sea lemons, Opalescent Nubibranchs, and occasional Orange Spotted Nudibranchs. A wide variety of sea stars add even more color to the seascape, including massive Sunflower Star, Leather Stars, bright red Vermilion Stars, Short Spined Pink Stars, Ochre Stars, and Mottled Stars. I have even found Wolf-eels and Giant Pacific Octopus here, although they are extremely hard to find as there are so many places for them to hide on this reef.
Unlike the Alki and Les Davis Reefs, the KVI reef is situated on a substantial slope, so it is very easy to get deep here. The benefit is that that when visibility is poor, you can often get "below" the poor visibility and things will open up a bit. As I stated earlier, parts of the reef run below 110 fsw.
Most of the columns on this reef are located on the east side, where as the west side consists mainly of boulders. Also, there is a small fiberglass pleasure boat (about 20 feet long) located on the east portion of the reef.
After a leisurely dive on the reef, head for the shallows to do a safety stop. The reef ends anywhere from about 50 fsw to 30 fsw. Above the reef is a mildly sloping sandy shelf, heavily populated with red kelp leaves and occasionally dotted with rocks. Vis on the shelf is typically not as good as vis at depth on the reef. However, there is usually plenty to keep you entertained during even a lengthy safety stop. Sole and flounder abound here, as do some Striped Seaperch, Pile Perch, and White Spotted Greenling. During the Spring, there are literally thousands of brilliantly colored Opalescent Nudibranchs patrolling the kelp leaves. During one dive here, I even found a dogfish lying motionless on the bottom until I approached it. Yes, I guess sharks do sleep (well, at least dogfish).
If you are interested in diving this site, it can be done as a shore dive or boat dive. I have only done it as a boat dive (ahh...the advantage of owning a boat!). I have read that people doing this as a shore dive are subjected to a very lengthy walk and surface swim. I have never noted anyone diving this site by shore when I have been diving here. If you want to do it my shore, you will need to hop on a ferry to Vashon Island. If you want to do it by boat, most of the local charters frequent this site with regularity. If you have a boat or (better yet) have a friend with a boat, it is an easy site to find with a depth finder. I usually launch my boat at Redondo Beach (where this is a very nice little boat ramp), and zip the 7 or 8 miles across the Sound to the northwest to Point Heyer. When approaching the point, a very prominent red and white radio tower (presumably KVI raido) will be blatantly visible on the shore. The reef is located to the south of this tower, and slightly to the east. You should see the uneven structure of the reef easily on your depth sounder. I usually anchor in about 25 feet of water, keeping the eastern-most house on the hill behind the tower to the right of the tower.
The currents at this site can be a bit strange. Most of the time, they are a total non-issue, even diving off-slack during moderate exchanges. I have done dives here on floods or ebbs in excessive of 3.0 knots (Admiralty Inlet), and not had any problems with the current at all. On two dives here, however, the current presented us with a substantial challenge. Interestingly, this happened during a minor exchange near slack. The strategy I use, as I do at most sites, is anchor and simply observe the currents. If the surface currents look manageable, we descend the anchor line (or "bail-out" line when the currents down below are hellacious) and check the currents out again before heading to the sloping reef. In the few times that the current has been running here, I have noted that they appear to be stronger on the shelf than on the reef.
This dive definitely makes my "must do" list for Puget Sound diving. The beauty of the site is wonderful, and it offers excellent representation of the more common northwest species.
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