Scuba Diving in Oregon: Dive Sites For Anyone

Clear Lake is a beautiful place to dive, especially if you’re wearing plenty of warm clothes!

Don’t let anyone ever tell you scuba diving in Oregon sucks because the water is cold, visibility is poor (AKA stuff looks green), and life is less colorful. Oregon waters possess their own magic and charm and if you’re gutsy enough to get your feet, well, ideally not wet—you’ll want a drysuit baby!—you’re in for a whole heap of fun.

The list below (in no particular order) is not a comprehensive list of dive-able sites in Oregon. It’s simply a running list of the sites I’ve dived in Oregon. I don’t feel comfortable recommending sites I haven’t dived so you’ll have to turn to other sources if you’re looking for something not on my list, which is current as of March 2019.

Scuba Diving Clear Lake

My dive buddy, Tim, touching one of the very small trees in the lake. There are some monsters!

Clear Lake

Freshwater dive site

Clear Lake is a nice site to dive because there are a few easy points of entry and the water is incredibly clear (think tropical clarity). There’s also some good stuff to see—peculiar things you won’t see in most other lakes: submerged forests, otherworldly lime green algae, water welling up from underwater springs. The catch? It’s incredibly cold. About 39 degrees Fahrenheit. This is definitely a dry suit dive though it can be done in a wetsuit if you’re half insane. Appropriate for recreational and technical divers.


 

Scuba Diving the Florence North Jetty

An Open Water dive briefing at the Florence North Jetty Dive Site. That “scum” is not always present..

The Florence North Jetty

Salty Dive Site

The Florence North Jetty is a popular dive site for people all over Oregon. It’s a designated dive park and has an easy-entry point. This site is current dependent and is best to dive at the slack tide (usually high), though can be dived as a drift dive from the Coast Guard tower coming upriver. This is a popular site for crabbing and collecting cockles. I don’t eat fish but can recommend it as a good place to see plenty of sculpin, the occasional ling and greenling (please don’t shoot the few we have left in there), a few nudibranchs and then, if the season is right, a seabed crawling with the tiniest crabs! Read more about diving the North Jetty Dive Park here.


 

West Boat Ramp at Woahink. Loads to see in here. Keep your eyes on the ground and look for newts.

Lake Woahink

Freshwater dive site

Woahink Lake in Florence is a great back-up dive site if the jetty is “blown out”—aka vis is poor or the weather does not permit a safe dive. It’s also what we call a good “rinse dive” as it’s freshwater. There are 3 primary spots to dive from: The west boat ramp, the gazebo and the beach in between the two (I don’t remember the name of that one right now). A few things about Woahink: There’s a scuba navigation course if you dive from the beach—you can find the first marker by heading straight out from a giant submerged log. From this point a laminated sign will tell you how to reach the next marker and so on and so forth. If you’re looking for an opportunity to practice nav, this is a great place to do it. The West Boat Ramp entrance is the main hub of activity, however. Here you’ll find a number of points of interest. I won’t spoil them now—go explore! The gazebo (the spot with the enormous parking lot) is the third option and the site usually used for Rescue Diver training. There’s not much down there but have at it if you’re just doing a rinse dive, practicing drills, etc—do bear in mind though there’s nothing to tie off on down there, or at least not since I last dove it.


 

Diving in Lake Waldo — If you enter at the boat ramp head out to the lake. It is shallow for a while.

Lake Waldo

Freshwater dive site

Lake Waldo is another good dive if you prefer clear water. It’s also a mountain lake and an altitude dive (even higher up that Clear Lake) but unlike Clear Lake is a good deal warmer. There is a big thermocline, however, so do prepare for that. Below 40 feet it gets pretty chilly. There are a few spots to dive from in Lake Waldo. Most people park at Shadow Bay. From here you can either enter alongside the boat ramp, or just off a path to the right of where you park. If you’re willing to hike your gear in quite a bit further (and I do mean hike it in), you can dive from a point. I have never dived this point but I’ve chatted with the Bend scuba shop who sometimes takes classes out there. They tell me there’s a great wall dive and some pinnacles. Be careful if you dive this section. It can get deep fast. If you’re diving from the other two points you’ll have the opposite problem. It will take you quite a while to get deep. Not much to see in this lake, however, so go preparing to do drills of sort!


 

Be careful getting in if there is a lot of surge. It is best to get away from the rocks as soon as you’re in.

The Newport Fingers

Salty dive site

The Newport Fingers comprise 5 rocky outcroppings or “fingers.” The fifth finger is the finger closest to the Yaquina river mouth and the first, the finger closest to the bridge. The best fingers to dive are 3 and 4, primarily because they are more protected than the 5th, and not quite as shallow as the second. The main challenge with this dive site is the inevitable rocky scramble you will have to do to get in the water. For this reason alone, I would bill this as an intermediate site. Make sure you understand how to check swell and wave period and that you know what time the slack tide is (high is definitely better here as it’s shallow already). I gear up before I start making the scramble, donning everything except fins (I use a fin keeper for this so that I have both hands for the rocks). There’s a ton of life on the 4th finger, and plenty on the third two. Two very beautiful dives as well if you’re interested in peering a little closer, with some beautiful tunicates and bryozoans on the rocks. In a recent dive (2019) there were quite a few Ochre Stars out here and even a Pink Star! Nice to see them coming back after the die off. When you’re done with this dive and in need of a drink, be sure to check out Wolf Tree—they make some incredible beers.

Related Article: Abort: When Not Diving is the Best Option (about diving the Newport 3rd Finger)


Trailbridge Reservoir

Freshwater dive site

This is actually a good site to dive if you don’t want to drive all the way to Clear Lake. It’s just off the McKenzie Highway and is as clear, and yes, as cold, as Clear Lake. There isn’t as much to see in it, but it’s fun to have a spin around. Loads of large boulders and you can poke around near the river too. Average depth of 35 feet. Combine this dive with a dive at Carmen Reservoir.


Winchester Bay Drift Dive

Salty dive site

This is a great dive site if you enjoy drift diving. It is, however, like the Newport Fingers, a little more difficult to get into. What we usually do here is swim out in the Oyster Triangle (another area you can dive but that I have not dived—and in fact, one that is protected from currents, surge, etc) and then scramble over the jetty rocks, hop in and drift all the way back to where you parked your car. Note, this one needs to be hit at the right time. Visibility can be hit or miss too. Plenty of life once you’re down drifting in the river mouth.


Carmen Reservoir

Freshwater dive site

Carmen Reservoir sits just above Trailbridge. This is a neat site because it’s clear, has some of that peculiar lime green grassy-like growth in it, and…a wall! In fact, this was my very first “wall dive.” I say “wall” because technically it’s just a massively steep slope that drops down to about 90 feet. Be careful diving this one as once again you’re diving at altitude, and getting deep super fast is always something people forget is possible. A good idea to have your buoyancy in check before you hit this one.


Cottage Grove Lake 

Freshwater dive site

I’ve only dived one small part of this lake—from Shortridge Park— but I recommend it because when I dove it I saw quite a bit of life—fish! Naturally, this goes hand in hand with fishermen. Be careful. It’s a good idea to have a dive flag here (preferably one that has the word “scuba diver” on it as many people don’t know the flag, even though they should if they’re on a boat). Also a bit of plant life and rocky structure in here. Not very deep but can have fairly good visibility. Again, be aware of boat traffic.


 

Dorena Lake

Freshwater dive site

Dorena Lake is another potential dive spot. I dove it to help a friend try retrieve a lost dive weight. I was quite surprised by the good visibility, by a few fish I saw, by the plant life, and by some of the interesting things I ended up finding under the docks. This can be a very busy lake in the summer so if you’re planning on diving it, I’d recommend a spot during the week or the cooler months. Be aware the lake does get drained for winter so make sure there’s water in it before you go!


 

Fall Creek State Recreation Site

Freshwater dive site

I’m putting this one on the list because it’s a spot I’ve dived anyway. Visibility was not good when I was there but there weren’t any boats—I’m talking about the Reservoir that is. It was a good place to practice scuba kayaking—which was exactly what I did. That said, it’s still diveable. Got down to 20f + feet in the middle of this little lake. Not sure if there’s much in there though. You’ll have to do your own exploring.

I have also dived the upper end of the of the creek that feeds into the reservoir, right below a bridge, and that was infinitely more interesting, with good visibility, plenty of boulders to make it interesting, moving water and life. Would do this section again.

Got Any Oregon Dive Site Recommendations?

If you’ve got any other recommendations for sites to dive that I have not listed, feel free to share them in the comments below. It’s always nice for other divers to hear from people who’ve actually dived the sites, and I know there are a ton of other great dive spots in Oregon, including a number of shore dive sites and lakes.

Share:
Written by Candice Landau
I'm an active Divemaster, a lover of marine life and all efforts related to marine conservation, a newly certified tech diver and a member of various scuba organizations in the Pacific Northwest. I write articles related to diving and spend my non-diving time writing and providing digital marketing services to nonprofits and businesses.