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Topography: Vertical rock wall and steeply sloping substrate with rocks and boulders.
San Juan Islands marine life rating: 4
San Juan Islands structure rating: 4
Diving depth: 70-100 feet.
Highlight: Dense and colorful invertebrate life encrusting a tall wall.
Skill level: Advanced
GPS coordinates: N48° 35.360’ W123° 12.150’
Access by boat: Kellett Bluff is located on the southwest side of Henry Island. Henry Island is just northwest of San Juan Island.
Kellett Wall lies in an established rockfish sanctuary. Two white signs attached to trees about 150 yards apart mark the sanctuary boundaries. Kellett Wall is immediately north of the southern-most “Rockfish Reserve” boundary sign.
Shore access: None.
Dive profile: I like to dive Kellett Wall as a partial drift dive on an ebbing tide. A strong current races by this wall off-slack. I have noted my boat drifting along the wall at 2.5 MPH just prior to entering the water. Fortunately, the current is not near as intense at depth.
I enter the water just south of the first “Rockfish Reserve” sign and descend the steeply sloping rocky substrate. The top of the wall is pocketed with groves of bull kelp. I descend to 70-80 feet and let the current whisk me along the wall to the south. The topography consists of small walls, shelves, boulders, and rocky protrusions, some of which offer shelter from the current and allow me to stop and study the local inhabitants.
The substrate turns vertical and the current dissipates after about 75 yards. I spend the rest of my dive traversing the wall at various depths and taking in the multitude of colorful invertebrates and fish. I continue south until the wall begins to give way to a steeply sloping substrate where I reverse course and stay in the “sweet spot”. I usually end up surfacing just north of the southern-most “Rockfish Reserve” sign.
If I want to avoid the brunt of the current, I forego the drift dive and start my dive near the southern-most “Rockfish Reserve” sign. I dive this site with a live boat, even when not planning a drift dive.
My preferred gas mix: EAN 36
Current Station: Kellett Bluff
Noted Slack Corrections: None
I like to dive this site off-slack on an ebbing tide during a mild exchange. During the ebb, the current flows to the south at a precarious pace. I start this dive as a drift dive north of the wall. The current moderates by the time I make it to the wall, allowing me freedom to explore the wall at will.
Cornet Bay State Park (Whidbey Island). Approximately 30 miles from the dive site. Excellent facility with bathrooms, docks, camping and general store.
Current: Substantial current plagues this site and is capable of carrying a diver into the Haro Strait.
Depth: Kellett Wall is sheer and deep. Good buoyancy and depth management skills are an absolute must.
Exposure: The site is exposed to weather and winds, especially out of the west.
Marine life: The invertebrate life on this is wall is somewhat similar to Turn Point Wall. Fantastic anemones and sponges abound. Seemingly drab patches of colonial ascidians explode with orange color when exposed with a bright dive light. White sponges, finger sponges, lobed ascidians, countless anemones, aggregate sponges, and ostrich plume hydroids all add to the kaleidoscope of color that makes this wall special. Poking around the dense invertebrate life reveals small sculpins, shrimp, and crabs.
Finned inhabitants include kelp greenling, small lingcod, longfin sculpin, and copper and Puget Sound rockfish. An observant diver may note the occasional tiger rockfish, decorated warbonnet, and red Irish lord.
I often encounter pods of orcas along the south side of San Juan Island in summer when cruising from Cornet Bay to Kellett Bluff. A pod of orcas once swam by as we were gearing up for a dive on the wall. One orca surfaced 40 feet from us, then proceeded along the wall only 10 feet beneath the boat. Orcas are apparently impressed with the beauty of Kellett Wall as well.