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Day Island Wall
Topography: Expansive sandstone and clay wall. Sand and cobblestone shelf above the wall with a few boulders scattered about.
Puget Sound marine life rating: 3
Puget Sound structure rating: 4
Diving depth: 80-110 feet.
Highlight: Wolfeels - and lots of them! Impressively massive wall.
Skill level: Advanced
GPS coordinates: N47° 14.526’ W122° 33.776’ (shore access)
Access by boat: Day Island is located at the south end of the Tacoma Narrows. This small island is covered with private residences except for a small public shore access. The north end of the wall is located due west of the public shore access in about 50 feet of water. I anchor just south of the public shore access in about 30 feet of water.
· From I-5, take Highway 16 towards the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
· Don’t cross the Tacoma Narrows Bridge - exit just before the bridge onto Jackson Avenue.
· At the end of the off ramp, turn left and cross the freeway.
· Follow Jackson to 27th, then turn right (south).
· Follow 27th down the hill, but stay to the left at the bottom of the hill and cross the two-lane bridge to Day Island.
· The road on Day Island loops. I stay to the left and drive along the west side of the island until I see the access point.
· The public shore access is only about 30 feet across. It is fenced on both sides and leads to the water. I park wherever there is
room and I know we won’t be in anyone’s way.
Dive profile: Most of my dives on this wall are shore dives. A live boat makes for a much easier and safer dive due to the enormous amount of current in this area.
The north end of the wall starts in about 50 feet of water directly in front of the public shore access. If I get to 70 feet and have not seen the wall, I know I missed it and head south.
I drop over the edge and head south once I reach the wall. My dive plan is to ride the current down the wall, then ride it back after the tide change. I stay in tune with the strength and direction of the current throughout the dive. I do not hesitate to cut this dive short if the current is not doing what I expect, especially when shore diving.
The wall extends about 100 yards south of the public shore access. The shelf above the wall gradually gets deeper to the south. I usually reach my turn point where the wall tops out at about 75 feet and head back up the shelf once my no-deco time runs low. I end my dive within 10 yards of the public shore access if all goes according to plan.
The top of the wall contains numerous ledges, fissures, and holes that make excellent dens for wolfeels and giant Pacific octopus. I concentrate my dive along the top of the wall, although I drop down to deeper depths from time to time to explore any interesting features.
The cobblestone and sand shelf above the wall at the public shore access slopes moderately and is strewn with occasional boulders. The slope and depth of the shelf increases as it follows the wall to the south.
A deeper wall reported lies further to the south, starting in 100 feet of water and running down to about 140 feet. Although I have never dove this wall, those who have claim there is no point in diving this deep wall unless you simply like to dive deep.
Yet another wall reportedly extends to the north along Day Island from the public access. Again, I have not personally dove this wall, but it is reportedly twice as long as the southern wall, although not as tall. My source tells me this wall has less wolfeel dens, but is more hospitable to sponges and other stationary invertebrates.
My preferred gas mix: EAN 32
Current Station: Tacoma Narrows (north end)
Noted Slack Corrections: None
The Tacoma Narrows are known for ripping current. This wall is subjected to a lot of water movement as it is located at the south end of the Tacoma Narrows. I only dive Day Island Wall on minor exchanges when the current does not exceed 2.4 knots maximum on either side of the exchange.
The current along the wall flows the opposite direction of the current in the main channel. The current along the wall flows south on an ebbing tide, while the water out mid-channel is flowing north. The current along the wall then changes direction after slack and flows north, while the mid-channel current heads south.
My best Day Island Wall dives were during slack before ebb on minor exchanges. I start my dive about 30 minutes before predicted slack and slowly drift to the south at the end of the ebb. The current then changes direction at the start of the flood and slowly carries me north to the public shore access.
The current above the wall sometimes flows a different direction than the current on the wall and can vary in intensity. I consider aborting the dive if I am not comfortable with the strength and/or direction of the current.
Tacoma Narrows boat launch (Rustin, Tacoma). Approximately 2.5 miles from the dive site.
Day Island Marina (Day Island, Tacoma). Approximately 0.2 miles from the dive site.
Facilities: There are no park facilities at this site - just a public shore access. Parking is often very tight on weekends during favorable exchanges. You must park in the street in front of someone’s residence as there is no designated “public shore access” parking area. Again, please give the utmost consideration for personal property and privacy rights to these neighbors; shore diving here is a privilege that can be (and, at one time, has been) revoked.
Current: Heavy current plagues this wall. Timing the current properly is a must, especially when shore diving.
Depth: The wall runs deeper than 140 feet and is vertical in most places. Good buoyancy and depth management skills are essential.
Boat traffic: Boat traffic can be heavy at times in this part of the Tacoma Narrows. Day Island Marina is only a few hundred yards away.
Marine life: Although the wall is spectacular in its own right, much of the surrounding marine life is very subtle. The sandstone and clay composition of the wall combines with brisk current to create an environment that is adverse to larger filter feeding invertebrates establishing solid footholds. Compared to the rocky structure found at Sunrise Beach or Waterman Wall, this drab clay giant is relatively bare. However, close examination of the wall reveals it is actually teeming with life - it is just small and very well hidden. Sections of the wall are riddled with piddock clams holes. Vacated holes make excellent dens for shrimp, crabs, sculpins, and small octopus.
Macro life aside, I come here to dive with numerous resident wolfeels. I have counted up to 12 different animals on a single dive. The wolfeels prefer resting in the small caves and fissures along the top six feet of the wall. Giant Pacific octopus are also known to occupy these lairs on a regular basis.
Occasional copper, brown, and quillback rockfish inhabit this site, usually in cracks or near structure that offers refuge from the current. Red Irish lords and buffalo sculpins cling motionless to the wall, just waiting for an unsuspecting meal to wander by. Striped seaperch and kelp greenling cruise the wall and shelf. The cobblestone shelf is ideal habitat for beaded anemones, sunflower stars, kelp crabs, and small invertebrates.