CopyRight @ 1997
Santa Rosa is a big island with a great deal of excellent diving, in a number of areas. It is one of the outer islands and so it is not as heavily dove as some of the others. I guess that I would say that for me, it has the most beautiful diving of all the Channel Islands.
Map by California Parks
The island is shaped roughly like a diamond with the corners
aimed at the points of the compass. From East to West it is about
15 miles and 10 miles North to South. Each of the four sides have very
different types of diving.
To the north east is Beachers cove with sandy beaches and offshore reefs. To the south east are lush kelp beds and vast reefs. To the south west is Bee Rock and some of the most pristine beautiful diving to be found anywhere. The north east though, that's the wide open diving of Talcott Shoal. That is unique and a place where the big bugs roam.
I'll make this description progress around the island from the coves of the north east side of the island, east to the south side of the island and then north again to Talcott Shoal. It would be clockwise if you were looking down on the island.
On the North East side of the island is Beachers Cove which is about 5 miles wide and has sandy shores. The reefs offshore from the Beachers Cove are very extensive and are good enough diving, but the visibility is often limited. It's a big area though and you can never tell what you might find. There are lots of fish as well as occasional abalone, crab and lobster. You will never run out of reef there, but it's not Santa Rosa diving at its best.
Going South East from there is an area of coves on the east end, between Santa Rosa Island and Santa Cruz island. These can be very interesting. There is lots of reef, but it's not always the best diving, mostly due to currents and the poor visibility that the currents cause. Those same currents support lots of filter feeders though. Here was where I found large scallops growing amongst sandworm colonies. You could basically break the scallops off the rocks with your hands, because they had a hard time finding room to attach to the rocks well. With a bit of visibility, this is a good spot for photography and there are numerous nudibranchs.
The south east side of the island has miles of extensive reefs with thick
kelp beds. It is a great place for diving, but I never was impressed with
the hunting here. I suspect that the commercial fishers really worked the
abalone here. There were lots of fish as well, but I never saw many that
A couple miles off the southeast side of the island is a large seamount that offers beautiful diving that often has very good visibility. It is a great place for sight seeing with lots of invertebrates, but it too has rather poor hunting.
South Point is not surprisingly the southern most point of the island. It forms and protects one side of Johnson's Lee. This area is a popular dive site because of the calm waters and the abundance of red abalone there. Most are not that much over the legal 7 inch size, because the abundance of the area attracted heavy attention from the commercial abalone fishers. The area up and down from the point is a huge kelp bed with a large reef area. Much of the reef is large rocks with sand channels running between them. At the loser edges of these rocks, many of which are undercut, are numerous abalone and red urchins. There used to be far more. The area often has very good visibility and this is where the Czar found his 53 pound halibut.
As you progress around the corner, past South Point towards Bee Rock,
you get to miles of very exposed, very extensive kelp beds. The whole
area is extremely lush and is not heavily visited. Visibility tends to
be good here and there is a great deal of life to see. The extensive
reefs give cover to a great number and variety of fish. Some of them
are big fish including large calico bass, sheepheads and sometimes,
lingcod. There are lots of invertebrates and you can never tell just
what you might encounter including many nudibranchs. There are numerous
abalone as well and some lobster.
One curiosity here is that, like the west end of Santa Cruz Island, the reefs off shore are ledges that run parallel to the island and can stick up as much as 20 feet. Well, as the swell moves towards the island from the west, it can make quite a surge over these ridges. While it is not difficult diving, a diver moving up the ridge, may suddenly be grabbed by a very strong surge and whipped right over the top of the ridge. It's sorta exciting if you aren't ready for it, but not dangerous unless you fight it. Intentionally diving on these ridges can be a challenge, but is very interesting. It is also a terrain where Lingcod like to hang out in small calm spaces on the large flat rock surfaces of the ledges. Between the ledges can be big areas of broken rocks that offer cover to all kinds of life.
Then, around the corner, into the weather from the north, is Talcott
Shoal. This is a special place. It is a very large place that offers
miles and miles of fantastic diving. The average wind speed here though
is 28 knots, all year long. There is nothing to stop the winds coming
down the coast all the way from Alaska. That means that for every calm
day, there are going to be many very blustery days.
At Talcott Shoal the bottom terrain is a series of ledges that run parallel to the island. It looks like a topography map under water. I have heard it called the hardest place to get lost diving that there is. All the ledges go the same way. A great way to dive it is to head in or out from the island until you find a ledge that you want to follow. Travel the ledge up current for half your air, then go on to the next ledge. It should not be more than 100 feet. Then come back along that ledge. When it is time to come up, you should be near in line with the boat.
The great thing about Talcott is it's sheer size. The divable area is about 10 miles long and miles wide. It is about the most wide open diving in the Channel Islands.
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