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Topography: Rock walls, channels, and boulders situated on a broken shell substrate. Kelp beds at shallow depths.
Cape Flattery marine life rating: 4
Cape Flattery structure rating: 4
Diving depth: 70-80 feet
Highlight: Relatively easy dive compared with many other sites in the area. Excellent invertebrate diversity that includes lightbulb ascidians, strawberry anemones, and red gorgonian corals.
Skill level: Advanced
GPS coordinates: N48° 23.393 W124° 42.808
Access by boat: Mushroom Rock is located on the north side of Cape Flattery so is technically in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The site is marked by a very distinct mushroom shaped rock that is isolated from the shoreline. I dive west of the rock.
Shore access: None
Dive profile: Compared to many Cape Flattery area dive sites, Mushroom Rock is a welcome change as it is a relatively easy and relaxing dive that still offers spectacular structure and a wide assortment of interesting creatures.
I determine current intensity and direction by drifting the boat by the rock prior to the dive. If the current is in mild, I start the dive right at Mushroom Rock and head west. The north side of Mushroom Rock is bordered by a wall that drops about 50 feet to a flat substrate. The substrate is covered with kelp, broken shells, and rocks. I follow the wall west for about 50 yards where more interesting rock formations begin. Huge boulders, walls, rocks, and channels cascade down from the surface to about 80 feet and provide excellent habitat for both fish and invertebrates.
I continue west for the entire dive and take time to explore the dark chasms in the structure with my dive light. Rounding the point immediately west of Mushroom Rock exposed several long channels cut into the rock are fun to swim through as they present tall rock walls on either side with a white shell substrate in between. Ending the dive is as simple as following the structure upslope to the south. I often end my dive in the little sheltered bay to the west of Mushroom Rock. Thick kelp dominates shallow depths.
Current station: Strait of Juan de Fuca Entrance
Noted slack correction: None
I generally find mild current at this site, even off-slack. Keep in mind that I only dive this area in summer during minor exchanges. I encountered a strong flooding current heading east on one occasion, but it remains an isolated occurrence.
My preferred gas mix: EAN 38
Neah Bay Marina boat ramp. Approximately 6 miles east from the dive site.
Current: Current is relatively mild at this site. I rarely encounter current that is difficult or impossible to swim against.
Swell: This site is somewhat protected from a western swell, but not completely. Minor swell (3 feet or less) is usually present at this site. I have seen 10 foot swells crashing on the rocks just west of Mushroom Rock.
Marine life: Even though fish populations are not as dense as some of the other sites along the strait, there is plenty to see. Numerous species of rockfish utilize the rocky substrate and kelp beds. I often note small schools of black and vermillion rockfish, and isolate copper, China, quillback, and tiger rockfish.
Invertebrates thrive at this current swept location. I find adult and juvenile Puget Sound king crabs among the rocky structure. Red gorgonian corals sporadically grace rocks at deeper depths (60-80 feet). Colonies of lightbulb ascidians share the depths with the gorgonians, but are sometimes hard to find. Small patches of pink club tipped anemones line some shallow sections of wall.
Mushroom Rock produced my most unusual fish sighting in Northwest waters. On the one dive where I encountered a strong eastbound current, I fell back to the east of Mushroom Rock where the flat substrate is relatively uninteresting and dominated by palm kelp. Just when I thought I was in the middle of the most boring dive in history, a 5’ sturgeon wandered by as it combed the bottom for food. Mushroom Rock just doesn’t disappoint.
Puget Sound King Crab
Sea Nettle Jellyfish
Underwater imagery from this site