Los Coronados Islands
Wreck Alley is an artificial reef within one mile of the San Diego coast. It is a coordinated project between the San Diego Diving Council and the California Fish & Game Dept. begun in 1986 as a recreational dive location. The San Diego Dive Boat Operators assist the San Diego Diving Council in keeping the sites buoyed so divers have descent/ascent lines to easily find the wrecks and also to use for their safety stops after their dive.
© Tom Philipp
The Yukon, a 366 foot Canadian Destroyer Escort, lies in 102 feet of water off Mission Beach in the Northern area of Wreck Alley. She lies on her port side with average minimum depth from bow to stern about 60 feet along the starboard side. She was intentionally sunk in July of 2000 by the San Diego Oceans Foundation as part of the artificial reef project. She was prepared for divers and an abundance of entry and exit holes were cut into her to increase accessibility and diver safety. Penetration is readily available for those with the proper training, as well as plenty to see on the exterior by less experienced divers including forward and aft gun turrets. The Yukon has something to offer for almost every diver from the novice to the “techie”.
The El Rey, a kelp cutter which is a barge-like vessel, 110 foot long and 50 foot wide was sunk in 1986 in 90 feet of water and was the first site in the project. She had a superstructure fore and aft which now has mostly collapsed. Even though there is little penetration on this wreck it is very interesting because of the growth and sea life.
The Ruby E, a 165-foot long Coast Guard Cutter, sunk as part of the reef in July 1989 in 85 feet of water. She sits upright on the bottom and is intact and penetrable. All the hatches have been made larger and each room has an exit to the outside. Most of the wreck is covered with growth, such as strawberry anemones and a small kelp bed on top of the wheelhouse.
In 1988 a strong winter storm knocked down the Naval Electronics Lab (“The Tower”), research tower which had been a fixture ½ mile off the San Diego coast since 1959. The tower looked very much like an oil rig and was always a good dive because it attracted many fish and was home to a multitude of small marine life. Now the entire structure lies in 60 feet of water and is still home to many species of marine life.
When the Ingraham Street Bridges which spanned Mission Bay were replaced in 1985 the old bridge pilings and roadway were dumped in the Wreck Alley area. This little known spot is loaded with marine life especially a large population of the much hunted California spiny lobster.
The Point Loma Kelp Beds
Kelp Beds… a must for divers visiting San Diego. With annual temperatures averaging 60 degrees, the kelp is very healthy and supports an enormous amount of plant and fish life. Swimming through a kelp bed feels like flying through a forest among the tall stalks reaching the surface in depths of 20 – 70 feet. The rock reefs where the kelp attaches are filled with interesting life in all their crevices – from many species of nudibranchs to families of California spiny lobsters who stay just beyond arms length of the hunters. Within the kelp beds are many excellent dive sites;
Ancient Sea Cliffs with depths from 70 to 100 ft. and appears to be an old seashore possibly from the Ice Age when the sea level was much lower.
7 Fathoms is a pinnacle area, depths range from 85 to 45 at the tops of the 3 pinnacles. Due to the deep surrounding water the regular swell action in the area disturbs this site less than all the others, visibility averages 20ft
The Orange Grove, Baxters and Horsehead Reefs are rock structures in 50 ft. of water with the tops at about 35 ft.
Then there is New Hope Rock in 40 feet. up to as shallow as 25 feet. and loaded with large and small critters, eels, octopus, lobsters, scallops, fish and of course lots of kelp.
The Coronado Islands
The Coronado Islands in Mexican waters are another nice dive destination. They are just 20 miles from our dock which is only a 1-1/2 hour boat ride to a full day of diving in blue water with visibility averaging 50 feet. The island group consists of two main islands referred to as North and South Island. Even though North Island is the smaller of the two, it has the better dive sites. On the leeward side is Lobster Shack, a small cove where 20 years ago a Mexican fisherman built and lived in a shack on the rocks just above the cove. Depths range from 10 to 65 feet. A few harbor seals call this cove home year-round while in the winter some 200 sea lions move over from the windward side of the island and often will leave the shore to play with the divers. Farther down the island toward the southern tip is The Arch, an arch that divers can swim through to the windward side of the island. But this is only possible on days when the waves are small. Depths here range from 10 to 130 feet.