Ogden Point Breakwater
Location: The breakwater is on Dallas Road, about 2km west of Beacon Hill Park, just outside of downtown Victoria.
Type: This is one of the island's best known, and most popular shore diving sites. It is a long expanse, measuring almost 2500 ft. (800 m.), built of granite and concrete. There are multiple entry and exit points along the breakwater itself and at the beach right next to it.
GPS: 48° 24.8' N 123° 23.1' W
Above Water: This site is always busy with above and below water activities. It is very common to have many divers at different sections of the breakwater, however the first bend is typically the busiest because the local shops do a lot of training here. The entry points to dive this area are anywhere along the outside of the wall, or from the beach. If you plan to walk down the breakwater, the only way to enter the water is from the blocks themselves.
Underwater: The breakwater is excellent for all levels of diving. It is a designated marine sanctuary, which means that divers cannot remove any life from the water, although fishing is allowed, and is home to an amazing amount of life. The breakwater is divided into 5 sections called "flags". These dive flags are painted on the breakwater itself with plaques sunken at the bottom under each flag. The plaques are an overview of the site and have marine identification keys on them. The first flag is at the first bend of the breakwater. The depth of the water is about 25 ft. (8 m.) here, with a sandy bottom. At each flag, the water becomes progressively deeper, with a maximum depth of around 80 ft. (23 m.) and the end of the breakwater reaching a depth of 95 ft. (28 m.)
Beach to First flag - The beach is mixed cobble stones and sand. This is a very shallow area that slowly slopes deeper as you head towards the breakwater. Most divers will snorkel out past this area to reach the breakwater. Watch the sand while snorkeling, as there is a multitude of marine species hidden in the sand, including Juvenile Starry Flounders and lingcod with the occasional Kelp Greenling. As you reach the first bend (flag 1) there are often floats here on the weekends for the many Open Water classes. Because of the easy bottom it is an excellent training site.
1st to 2nd flags - If you follow the bottom from the 1st flag, you begin by descending along a stairway of granite blocks until you reach 40 or 50 ft. (12-15 m.) Look up to see schools of Puget Sound Rockfish mixed with Quillbacks and perch. There are fallen blocks just off the wall that are home to large Plumose Anemones and small Longfin Sculpins. Exploring under the rocks will reveal the more elusive sculpin species, gunnels, and tons of Blackeye Gobys. As you approach the 2nd flag, the area is covered in a forest of white Plumose Anemones. Look for Decorated Warbonnets and Candy Striped Shrimp around the base of the anemones. If you swim out toward open water away from the wall half way between flag 1 and 2, you will discover the recently installed reef ball habitat. There are numerous formations laid out, and these new additions to the ecosystem will soon house a vast array of marine life. The University of Victoria along with several private organizations are conducting an on going study on the growth on the reef balls.
2nd to 3rd flags - The depth here is about 60 ft. (20 m.) at the bottom. At the 30 ft. (10 m.) mark the breakwater blocks give way to a steep hill of rubble continuing down to the sandy bottom. Within the rubble live thousands of Brittle Stars, and orange burrowing sea cucumbers. Exploring these rocks may also yield juvenile wolf-eels, grunt sculpins, crabs and gunnels.
3rd to 4th flags - Getting deeper to 70 or 80 ft. at the bottom, this area topography is similar to that between flags 2 and 3. Large schools of rockfish, both black and yellowtail, are found nestled close to the rocks. Large fields of plumose rise up from the depths and huge painted anemones dot the boulders strewn about.
4th to 5th flags - The area from flag 4 to flag 5 includes the second bend of the breakwater. Once you have reached this area you will start to find a much different breakwater dive experience. The current that flows through the strait has wonderful nutrient rich water, and the second bend continued to the end of the breakwater really benefits from this. The bottom depth varies from 90 to 100 ft. (30-33 m.), and is mostly mud and sand. Huge colonies of plumose anemones, zoanathids and urchins cover the blocks, rubble and bottom. A huge proliferation of schooling rock fish inhabit the area along with tigers, vermilion and canary. It isn't uncommon to see the occasional dogfish or ratfish swimming through the area. The single biggest draw to the second bend and the end of the breakwater is the wolf-eels. Ogden Point is home to a number of resident single and mated pairs. These elongated fish are an awesome experience for any diver.
5th flag to the End - Flag 5 to the end of the breakwater is an extraordinary spectacle. It has everything the rest of the breakwater has but in larger quantities. An additional attraction apart from all the marine life is a little piece of history. The original ladder used to build the lighthouse on the breakwater sits in about 50 ft. (15 m.) of water. It has become a home for many marine species, including a pair of resident wolf-eels.
Hazards: The single biggest hazard is the the breakwater itself. The blocks can be difficult to scale, and below the tide line large amounts of algae, barnacles and kelp grow. It is incredibly important to watch your step as you traverse the blocks. The current that runs from the second bend to the end can also be troublesome at times. Be sure to check the tables before heading to that section. In the summer, be aware of the bull kelp, as inexperienced divers can get caught in it and carrying a knife is a must. This leads me to remind everyone that this is a public use area: be aware of the miles and miles of fishing line snagged along the bottom. The line is everywhere and gets worse in the summer. Carry a knife on every dive not only to free yourself, but also any marine inhabitants that are caught in the discarded line.
History of the Ogden Point Breakwater - www.ogdenpoint.org
Granite blocks of the breakwater - www.hardygranite.com
Note: It is important to remember that this area is for everyone. Please be courteous to all that use and enjoy the breakwater.