|Date Reviewed:||November 2001|
|Location:||South Bainbridge Island, Puget Sound|
|Site Description:||Rocky reef|
|Main Attraction:||Interesting rock structure|
Orchard Rocks is located on the south side of Bainbridge Island. It is an easily recognizable dive site, as there are several large fish pens to the east and a large triangle shaped navigational marker on a piling where the rocks approach the surface. This site (like most in the Rich Passage area) is home to some hellacious currents, so I would only diving here at slack. In fact, with the shallowness of this site, I would only dive here at slack before ebb.
At the time I wrote this review, Alan Gill had a red dive buoy set up at this site. It is firmly anchored in about 40 fsw on the inside of the navigational marker. If you do not have a boat and want to try this site, you might want to contact Alan at Exotic Aquatics for a charter.
This is definitely not one of my favorite sites, but I think it is still worth a tank of air or two just to see it. The structure below the surface is volcanic in nature and forms numerous ridges ranging between 3 and 10 feet high. These rugged ridges tend to be covered in red kelp and pocked full of small holes, providing some shelter for some small marine critters. They are somewhat interesting to explore.
The variety of fish at this site was disappointing, Other than an occasional Ratfish, solitary Lingcod, some rather robust Irish Lords, a few other sculpins, and an abundance of every present perch, there were not many fish here. In fact, I was downright disappointed at the lack of variety of fish at this site. On the plus side, there are a number of interesting nudibranchs and colorful sponges clinging to the walls. In fact, I think I have seen more big Sea Lemons (perhaps yellow Ohdner's Dorids?) at a site than at any other, and I mean big! In addition to a number of different nudibranchs, Blood stars, Sunflower Stars, Northern Kelp Crabs, Hermit Crabs, and shrimp are in fair abundance. You may have to dig through the kelp leaves a bit to find some of the creatures clinging to the rocks.
As you cruise along the flat level bottom here, you may run into some of the largest anchors you have ever seen. I assume these are or were for the fish pens at one time. One of the massive anchors we found wasn't attached to anything, and one was.
The things I do not like about this dive site are as follows: First, when I have been here, the vis has been about half what it is elsewhere in the Puget Sound. Most recently, we did a dive on China Wall where the vis was about 25 feet. The vis was about 12 feet at Orchard Rocks. I would guess the shallowness of this site (I have never been below 45 fsw at this site) combined with the expansive fish pens next to this site have something to do with the lousy vis. Second, as I stated before, this site can be a current hot spot. When diving here at slack, we have had no problems. However, I would rather "spend" my slack water dive at a more interesting site. Third, and also previously stated, is the lack of abundance of fish. There is ample marine life here if you look, just not of the finned variety. And finally, there is not much verticality or diversity to the reef, at least on the inside of the navigational marker. I tend to better enjoy dive sites that offers a nice wall or at least varied structure and slope.
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