Shore thing in the Pacific Northwest

/ Source: Sport Diver Magazine

It's no secret among divers that Washington State, with its thriving population of giant Pacific octopi and wolf eels, sea-lettuce-strewn reefs and anemones, is a place worth traveling great distances to visit. For those fortunate enough to live here, there's the excellent perquisite of truly top-shelf diving right in their own back yards. The Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands, North and South Whidbey — these are places that are discussed wherever saltwater divers congregate and that are dived year-round by a significant number of drysuit-owning aficionados. But what makes Washington so local-diving friendly is the great number of shore dives available to divers in state waters.

One of the best-known of these is on Whidbey Island, about 30 miles north of Seattle. Fort Casey Underwater Park, better known as "Keystone Jetty," allows divers to explore the nooks, crannies and caverns created by the boulder jetty: residences for lingcod, china rockfish and octopi galore. One deep spot is known as "The Octopus Hole" for good reason. The jetty also supports a variety of anemone, wolf eels, skates and the occasional harbor seal, and maximum depth on the site is 55 to 60 feet.

Just north of Seattle is another underwater preserve, Edmonds Underwater Park, which has a system of guide ropes and buoys for easy site navigation. The park is so large that it would easily take a weekend to see it all, yet it is still novice-friendly and a great place to see large-because-they-grew-up-protected lingcod, rockfish, cabezon and octopi.

For shore divers who want to venture a bit farther afield, there's the pier at Fort Flagler, a fortification with gun emplacements that guarded the entrance to Puget Sound for the first half of the twentieth century. The fort site has better than 3.5 miles of shoreline, and many visitors bring mountain bikes to get from one historic building to another. Underwater, guide ropes lead from the pier to anemone- and plumeworm-covered reefs, and a sunken barge full of plumbing supplies dates back to 1897.

For diving with more of a wilderness feel, Washington shore divers go to Salt Creek Recreation Area on the northern shore of the Olympic Peninsula. Previously Fort Hayden, a World War II fortification and gun emplacement, the area is now known for its rich marine life and tidal pools and is the site of the Tongue Point Marine Life Sanctuary. In addition to lingcod, rockfish, Irish lords, wolf eels, perch and octopi — the usual suspects for a Pacific Northwest dive — Salt Creek offers dense kelp beds. These and its pristine condition are the reasons many Washington divers consider Salt Creek the best shore dive in the state.

As for what to do topside in Washington, it starts with Pike Street Market in Seattle and ends on the summit of Mount Rainier, and it takes a good, thick guidebook to cover everything in between. Suffice it to say that many consider the Cascades to be the most beautiful mountain range in North America. And if you're looking for a good cup of coffee, you just might be able to find one in Seattle.

Jam to an audience of virtual fans and feast your eyes on Captain Kirk's starship-command chair at the Experience Music Project and the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle. It's worth the trip just to see the exterior of the building, which is … well, you'll see.

1.         Lime Kiln Lighthouse
2.         Fort Flagler Pier
3.         Keystone Jetty
4.         Edmonds Underwater Park
5.         Salt Creek Recreation Area

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