Shilshole Breakwater

Date Reviewed:May 2001
Location:Seattle area
Access:shore dive
Site Description:Silty, flat bottom, rock breakwater
Main Attraction:Marine life inhabiting the breakwater

of the breakwater

The Shilshole breakwater is located just north of the Shilshole Marina, and obviously was built to protect the marina from Puget Sound wakes, weather, currents, and waves. Easiest access to the breakwater is from the marina near the boat ramps.

This shot is looking southwest. To the left is a large parking lot, and to the right (north), is another dive site I (Jon) do a lot (Golden Gardens).

This is a really incredible dive considering that it's only about 25 fsw at the deepest point. I would recommend it as a night dive only, as that is the time you are least likely to have heavy boat traffic. This is a very heavily used marina, and care must be taken to avoid injury due to boat collisions, etc.

In addition, the park closes at 11:30, and IS possible to get locked into the park. If you do a night dive, make sure to be out of the water in time to exit the park! We usually park our trucks in the lot to the south of the boat ramp, and walk over to enter near the fishing pier. Watch for monofilament on the swim out (which must be done at depth due to the possibility of boat traffic).

The current can pick up through the channel, but is not usually a problem. Some of the shots of Metridium on here are from my first night dive on this breakwater.

The breakwater is heavily vegetated, and is swarming with Pile Perch, Striped Sea Perch, Shiner Perch, anemones, Red Sea Cucumbers, and Brown, Quillback Rockfish, Copper Rockfish, Sailfin Sculpins, Kelp Greenling, and occasional Lingcod, assorted nudibranchs, Crescent and Rockweed Gunnels, Starry Flounder, Rock Sole, sea stars, and shrimp galore.

If you get to dive this site when vis is half way decent, it really kicks ass! On bad vis days, it is terrible. I have done a night dive here in 3 to 5 feet of vis with a group of 5 divers, and spent the entire dive trying to figure out who the person next to me was. But if you can catch it on a day when vis over 10 feet, it can be a lot of fun. As Jon states, there is a ton on marine life here that call this breakwater home. And with a 25 fsw max, you can literally spend hours here on one tank if you want to.

As Jon points out, this is a busy marina. There are no signs that say you can not dive here, but use good judgment! If you try to dive this site and get arrested, don't blame us. You have to get around a fishing pier and a very busy channel to get to the breakwater - both which can be potentially dangerous. When crossing the channel, we are very careful to stick to the bottom to make certain we do not get a sailboat keel in the back of the head (the channel is only 16 feet deep). If you had to do an emergency ascent in the channel, you may be in for a lot of trouble.

We avoid most of the fishing pier by entering the water at the boat ramp, then swimming under the opening under the pier next to shore. We then take a good solid compass heading, descend, and swim across the channel to the breakwater, doing our best flounder imitation. We also dive here exclusively at night, as boat traffic is at a minimum. I would never try to dive here on a day when the marina is remotely busy.

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