Life Under Foot
Seahorses mate in the twilight of Florida's setting sun.
Keystone Jetty, Washington
Part of Fort Casey State Park, Keystone Jetty operates as a ferry landing for bucolic Whidby Island in the Puget Sound. It’s a quick escape for the hard-core dive community in Seattle, and one of the top dives in the area, renowned for its biodiversity. It’s strictly shore diving and the deepest part of the dive is only about 55 feet, with some of the best stuff in the shallower parts.
There are actually two places to dive in this protected marine area: the old pier and the breakwall that protects the ferry landing. There are picnic tables, toilets and even a hot-water shower to help thaw you out after a dive in the average 50 degree F water.
But the encounters make it worth the effort to dive the jetty. Massive lingcod with heads the size of soccer balls sit and stare you down. Giant Pacific octopuses also call the jetty home and are found along the breakwall, and if you’re lucky, one of these playful critters will interact with you. Consider yourself warned, though: There are tales of these giant octopuses removing divers’ masks in a moment of curiosity, so stay alert around them.
The pilings of the pier are covered in anemones and, like most piers, harbor legions of macro critters including a variety of nudibranchs and invertebrates. Bull kelp adds a surreal aspect to the dive, punctuated by snow-white plumrose anemones. Perch, cabezon and giant barnacles also like the pier, and the omnipresent barnacles are a sign of one certainty about diving here in Puget Sound: current. It’s best to plan to dive at slack tide and explore slowly. Cold-water marine life tends to prefer stillness, so you could easily miss something if you’re off to the races. If you have a chance, dive the Keystone Jetty midweek, when you’ll have the site all to yourself. — TS
Make It Happen
Whidby is about 30 miles north of Seattle. You can drive in via the north side of the island, which takes you over Deception Pass and its scenic bridge, or take the Mukilteo Ferry, which leaves from the town of Everett. From the Whidby landing, it’s about a 26-mile drive. From Port Townsend, you can take the ferry directly to Keystone.