North Coast

A Diving and Paddling Paradise: Van Damme State Park

Californians can easily appreciate the pristine beauty of our beaches and coastal parks as they gear up for a dive. However, it may be difficult to believe that in the past our dive sites were once centers of intense commercial activity. Nearly all of the dive sites in Mendocino County were once lumber ports that provided the timber to build the growing City of San Francisco. Van Damme State Park is an example of a great dive site with a lot of history. The landing […]

The Farallons: Raw and Rugged, with Sharks

At-A-Glance Skill Level: Anyone, even non-divers, may enjoy the surface cages. Advanced divers are only allowed in the submersible cage. When conditions allow, professional divers are permitted to venture out of the submersible cage, while on the bottom and under safety diver escort. Location: 30 miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Access: There is a special closure around Southeast Farallon Island under the California Marine Life Protection Act that defines where boats may travel and anchor. Visit Facilities: None, except […]

Jug Handle State Natural Reserve

Jug Handle State Natural Reserve
Jug Handle State Natural Reserve

There are sites that are so fantastic that you would like to dive them every week. However, many of the “best” sites are often exposed to the prevailing wind and swell and can only be enjoyed on that rare, exceptionally calm day. For the past three years I have scouted the coast between Fort Bragg and Mendocino looking for seldom dived sites with superior prospects for game hunting. One area I frequently examined was the shoreline along the northern portion of Jug Handle State Natural […]

From Trash to Treasure at Glass Beach

Did you ever think it would be fun to dive in a city dump? I, for one, never thought that would be either a good or fun idea. However, if you dive at Glass Beach in Fort Bragg that is exactly what you are doing. And contrary to any preconceived notions one might have, it is a fun dive. Glass Beach is located at the north end of the City of Fort Bragg. From 1906 through 1967 Fort Bragg residents simply threw their garbage over […]

Russian Gulch State Park

Most Californians believe that the United States acquired the land that would eventually become California as a result of a battle with Mexico. This is about half true, but at one point Russia claimed the northern part of the state, down to Bodega Bay. They erected a major stockade at Fort Ross in Sonoma County and used this a base to collect sea otter, elephant seal, and sea lion pelts. The Russians sold their holdings in 1841 after hunting down the marine mammal population in […]

Mendocino County’s Buckhorn Cove

Before the discovery of gold in 1848, San Francisco was a tiny town of about 300. By 1853 San Francisco had 150,000 residences and needed wood to build the growing city. They found it in Mendocino County. The first mill was established near the present day town of Mendocino, and at one time nearly every tiny cove in the county supported a mill and port. One of the smaller mills was the Buckhorn Mill, owned by the Little River Mill Co., and was located at […]

Mendocino County’s Caspar Cove

Divers from the San Francisco Bay Area or the Central Valley often drive to the Sonoma Coast and back in a single day. Mendocino County is a bit further away and an overnight or long weekend trip is usually more comfortable; and divers will need a place to spend the night. It is, of course, preferable to sleep where the accommodations are diver-friendly and near where you will dive. Caspar Cove is such a place where it’s a short walk from your campsite to a […]

Exciting Diving off the Farallon Islands

Fewer than 30 miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge are found four groups of small islands, islets and rocks that make up the Farallon Islands. From the Spanish farallon, meaning “pillar” or “sea cliff” and collectively known as the Farallons, the islands are unique since they are as wild and untouched as any remote island can be and are very close to a major metropolitan area. Part of the City of San Francisco, they remain unspoiled because as early as 1909 they were recognized […]

Sonoma County’s Fisk Mill Cove

North Coast diving is all about catching dinner, particularly abalone. I can poetically describe the beauty of our northern reefs and their abundance of colorful marine life, yet few will listen. If you can freedive to 30 feet you can bag your limit of abalone off any rocky beach in Sonoma and Mendocino Counties. In my search for the best abalone sites in Sonoma County the area between the Gerstle Cove and Stewarts Point State Marine Reserves is near the top of the list, and […]

Mendocino’s Anchor Bay

Mendocino County is home to an incredibly rugged and scenic coastline. Each year tourists come to marvel at sheer cliffs that drop hundreds of feet directly to emerald green water, and a coastline sculpted by the wind and waves into a maze of small bays, points and arches. Divers flock here because the underwater beauty is just as magnificent as that above the water. Anchor Bay is located north of Gualala in Mendocino County. It was first called Fish Rocks Landing by mid-1800s settlers after […]

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