|Date Reviewed:||July 2001|
|Location:||Strait of Juan de Fuca|
|Site Description:||Rock formations, kelp beds|
|Main Attraction:||Incredible volcanic rock formations and marine life|
In my opinion, Neah Bay boasts the best diving in the state -- by far. The clarity of water, diversity and abundance of marine life, topside scenery, challenging currents, thick kelp forests, and incredible underwater topography add up to awesome cold water diving. This is as close as you can get to Port Hardy diving without leaving the US (both in geography and experience!). The Mushroom Rock area is just one of many dive sites in the Neah Bay area.
Mushroom Rock is marked by (you guessed it) a mushroom shaped rock along the shoreline on the Strait side of the north tip of Cape Flattery. From this dive location you look Tatoosh Island and the Pacific Ocean square in the face. As you might guess, this is a boat dive only. If you need a dive charter, you may want to contact Captain Steve with Puffin Charters. He and his crew were awesome when we chartered with him. Being a diver himself, he knows his stuff.
The first thing you notice when diving out here is that the water is actually more bluish in color, as opposed to the Puget Sound green we are used to. During the four dives I have done here so far, vis has ranged from 35 to 50 feet, which is outstanding by Puget Sound standards. There is usually a bit of a current running through here so I always choose to dive this site when exchanges are minimal so we do not get swept away to Japan. When diving this site, I would recommend figuring out which way the current is running, use a live boat, and make it a mild drift dive of sorts. Underwater, you will find incredible topology. The currents have cut huge channels in volcanic rock, some 10 feet wide and 20 feet high. Swimming through these is like flying through a canyon. On other areas, large semi-isolated "boulders" and rock structures provide structure for a multitude of marine life. The bottom between rock formation consists of white broken shells. Caves, crevices, and ledges are everywhere. This is truly an explorers paradise! Make certain to bring a good light and try not to grin too much.
Volcanic formations are all over the place, and anywhere there is a solid footing, marine life has made a firm foothold. Large kelp forests, sponges, and soft corals crowd the volcanic rocks. Huge schools of Black Rockfish can be found hanging out in the kelp. Kelp Greenlings appear to be darting out of everywhere. Lingcod, Quillback Rockfish, China Rockfish, Copper Rockfish, Painted Greenlings, Giant Pacific Octopus, Puget Sound King Crabs, and Red-Eyed Jellies will often join you on your dive here. Hugh schools of krill and shrimp cover the bottom. Look carefully along the rocks and you will find a numerous species of nudibranch, seasquirts, chitons, the list goes on and on. If you have a good light, you will be overwhelmed by the spectacular colors here.
When we dove her in my 13' Avon, we pulled up to the "mushroom" rock, and jumped over the side. It is very deep right along the shore (35-40 feet 10 yards from the shore!) As the current was running east, we started the dive at the rock and drifted east back towards Neah Bay. If the current was running west, I would start the dive about a quarter mile east of the rock. We also ran a live boat during all our dives here.
A couple pointers - if you are diving out here, make certain you are an experienced cold water diver. This is big water, and the surge and currents can present huge challenges. This is advanced diving. Also, the water is a bit colder than in Puget Sound. Noticeably colder, especially when you are achieving 70-80 minutes bottom times. Also, getting out to Neah Bay is a long drive from Seattle. My advice would be to take a couple of days (at least) so you can dive multiple locations. Also keep in mind that this area is exposed to the great Pacific Ocean, so storms can prevent you getting out from the Neah Bay breakwater. The best time to come is in summer or early fall when the weather is more predictable, but make certain you do not show up during the height of the salmon fishing season!
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