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Underwater Dive Parks Around The PNW

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In the Pacific Northwest, so many fantastic recreational opportunities abound, but many people are just discovering this area’s underwater parks. Scuba diving is a fun and fascinating hobby that requires some training, minimal athletic ability, and allows people to see the world in an entirely new way. Underwater parks are accessible year-round, whether you want to take advantage of the summer’s longer daylight hours for extended dives or dive in winter when water visibility is at its peak.


Photo: Octopus Gardens Diving

Getting started is easy. There are multiple Western Washington companies, such as Underwater Sports (www.underwatersports.com), which offer instruction, gear sales and rental, and dive excursions locally and internationally. A PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) open water-level certification (starts at $295) is a three-tiered process: reading, pool session and supervised open water outing. This certification is enough for most divers to access some of the most exciting, local underwater parks. Expect to wear winter thermals and a dry suit to withstand cold Puget Sound waters that range from 45-55-degrees, with gear that includes fins, snorkel, thermal boots, gloves and a mask. Gear comes at an extra cost but dive shops offer payment plans or rentals depending on one’s level of interest and commitment.

 
Photo: Joel Mabel via Wikimedia Commons

With certification and gear in hand, here are just a few popular Pierce and King County area dive parks:

  • The Alki Coves (three coves) in West Seattle are extremely popular for what’s under and above the water: a gorgeous city skyline above the surface, and so much marine diversity below, from crabs and anemones to octopi! Alki Cove 1 is a very popular training site featuring a gentle slope and sandy bottom (squid and red octopus can be found there). The popular Cove 2 has an old wreck called the Honey Bear, Giant Pacific Octopus, and many pilings/beams covered in plumose anemones. Cove 3 is the least dived, offering some marine life. The Alki Coves are an ideal post-work and night dive spot. 
  • Titlow Beach Marine Sanctuary (Tacoma) - Remnants from the old Titlow Ferry Pier offer piling rows featuring nudibranchs, crabs, and various types of sculpins. Depth is usually less than 40 feet, and the area can have a strong current during exchange periods, so check the tides. Showers and restrooms are available at Titlow Beach State Park.
  • Edmonds Underwater Park (Brackett’s Landing North, Edmonds) - is a fantastic dive for every level. It is a shallow dive site with a maximum depth of 60 feet: look for sunken boats, plumose anemone fields, ratfish, lingcod, and more. Dive site maps are sold at the Edmonds Underwater Sports Store and they have a large site map there. As a year-round marine reserve, take nothing but photos!  
  • Mukilteo (Front Street, near the lighthouse) – In addition to being steps from a great meal at Ivar’s Mukilteo Landing, this site allows many abilities to dive deep on the sloping wall, or in the shallows to view crabs, shrimp and flounders across the sand flats. An artificial reef, Geodome (50-60 feet depending on tides), has an angel statue. Divers are encouraged to investigate every hole for the prized Giant Pacific Octopus (also known as GPOs in dive speak) and wolf eels. When in season, Mukilteo is a prime crabbing territory. There are currents, so plan according to tides.
  • Redondo Beach, near Federal Way, allows divers of all skill levels to enjoy a shallow line along the beach side (40-50 feet depth) where Giant Pacific Octopus, ratfish, sea stars and more are found. The deep line (more advanced) starts at the end of the MaST (Marine Science and Technology Center) pier and runs down towards the 90-foot mark, where a bottle field and assorted sea life are seen.

Two great websites to discover dive spots in the Puget Sound region are ThePerfectDive.com, with a rich searchable PNW database, and UnderwaterSports.com (dive sites link here).


Photo: Octopus Gardens Diving

In addition to those found in greater Seattle, Washington State Parks cites 20 of its parks that offer scuba diving opportunities as well. Among them are Fort Ward on Rich Passage and boat-access-only Blake Island. At Saltwater, just minutes away from both Seattle and Tacoma, an artificial reef draws underwater enthusiasts. Potlatch State Park, located just above the “elbow” of Hood Canal’s west side, has an accessible location and is known for an easy diving descent. San Juan Islands Marine Parks, Deception Pass, Ft. Worden, Ft. Flagler, Kopachuck, Hope Island, Tolme, and Twanoh comprise some of the other “dive-worthy” coastal parks that cover much of Puget Sound and the Strait of San Juan de Fuca. Learn more about state park dive sites by calling 360-902-8844 or going online here

Many excellent dive shops throughout Puget Sound offer organized shop dives for PADI certified divers as well as rentals for gear. Check the class and event calendars online such as the one at www.UnderwaterSports.com and take the plunge!