Diver Jay Sprenger, with a sea star on his face mask. (Photo Dan Clements)

Diver Jay Sprenger, with a sea star on his face mask. (Photo Dan Clements)

The beauty that lies beneath: More scenic charm under water

Thousands of divers converge on these three underwater destinations in the region.

Views above the water — the mountains, forests, lakes and rivers — are part of what gives the Puget Sound region its scenic charm, but some of the most interesting sights to see lie beneath the surface.

Washington is home to a plethora of underwater diving sites, and some of the most popular and easily accessible sites are right in our back yard. Thousands of divers travel from across the state and country to visit sites such as Brackett’s Landing Shoreline Sanctuary in Edmonds, the Mukilteo T-Dock and the Keystone Jetty on Whidbey Island to take in the scenic underwater life here.

“You see some of the most beautiful and interesting things while (diving),” said Brenna Nicholson, a 29-year-old with three years of diving experience. “It’s like seeing an entirely different part of the state.”

Keystone Jetty

This Whidbey Island dive site is at Fort Casey State Park near the Coupeville ferry terminal and features an abundance of wildlife, including lingcod, octopus and starfish.

Keystone Jetty is a personal favorite of Whidbey Island Dive Center owner Pat Beach, whose shop in Oak Harbor is about 15 miles north.

“It’s a short dive,” Beach said. “It’s a simple, easy dive, but there’s really a great representation of just about everything here in the Pacific Northwest that we really have to look at.”

Beach also notes the accessibility of this dive site as another redeeming quality. And, with campgrounds nearby at Fort Casey, it offers divers the chance to get the full outdoors experience.

Mukilteo T-Dock

The T-Dock is an easy-to-get-to dive site near the Mukilteo ferry, and is another good place for beginning divers.

“It’s one of the places that you can just park and go walk to the water and have a fun dive,” Beach said.

The site also gets deep quick, and is a good place for crabbing, Beach added.

A couple of the park’s most notable features are the pilings and the geodome structure. The geodome is about 50 feet below the water’s surface and is popular with undersea creatures.

Brackett’s Landing

The underwater park just north of the Edmonds ferry might be the most popular dive site in the area.

The site features plenty of marine life, but the biggest draw is the artificial features that have been added to the area over the past 20-plus years. Sunken vessels, man-made trails and concrete rubble are a few of the highlights for sightseers.

The site has a maximum depth of about 40 feet and is regularly maintained by a group of volunteer divers, according to the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Like most parks in the area, Brackett’s Landing does not allow recreational or commercial fishing. In other words, if it’s in the water, leave it be.

Nicholson said the site is busy because of its popularity, but that it’s an easy dive and a must-see.

“Edmonds is one of the spots you’ve gotta check out when you first start,” Nicholson said. “Almost like a rite of passage.”

Getting started

To experience what Puget Sound has to offer, prospective divers must first become certified.

“If you’re not certified and you come in my shop and want to get an air tank filled, I can’t even fill your air tank,” Beach said. “I can’t take you diving, I can’t rent you gear, I really can’t have anything to do with you.”

The certification classes are in place to ensure safety and educate new divers on the nuances of diving.

“It’s not that it’s that hard or that dangerous or anything,” Beach said. “There are just things you need to take into consideration.”

Certification classes are offered at dive shops around the state, and the length and price varies. Most classes involve online courses, class time in the shop, pool training and an open-water dive to test.

At Beach’s shop, the standard course consists of two night classes for three weeks and two days of diving on the third weekend. After completing those two dives, you receive a license to dive.

After becoming certified, divers can contact local shops to find scheduled dives to attend, or use online forums or “buddy boards” to meet up with other divers in the area.

Beach recommends you check the conditions of the water online or with your local dive shop before descending on your next adventure.

“We worry around here about currents. Tides and currents are a big consideration of diving in Puget Sound,” Beach said. “You want to check dive charts and current charts and stuff like that to plan your dive.”

Washington North Coast Magazine

This article is featured in the summer issue of Washington North Coast Magazine, a supplement of The Daily Herald. Explore Snohomish and Island counties with each quarterly magazine. Each issue is $3.99. Subscribe to receive all four editions for $14 per year. Call 425-339-3200 or go to www.washingtonnorthcoast.com for more information.

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