Jul 27

“The Bridge” in West Palm Beach

Category: scuba,Travel

This dive site is widely acclaimed to be one of the best in the region.  Now that I’ve been there, I can see why people feel this way:

  1. It’s a shore dive entry – no boat ride, no sea sickness, less expensive
  2. No surf – it’s not on the shoreline, but inland along a channel and a bay
  3. Good shore support – a fresh water shower (although no privacy) and rest rooms, nearby restaurants
  4. Parking near the site
  5. Several areas to explore (under the low bridge or the high bridge)
  6. Even for non-divers, there’s good snorkeling
  7. Max depth is about 20 feet – easy, safe, long dive times even on air
  8. Due to shallow depth, usually no thermocline, so water is warm to the bottom
  9. Tons of animal life on the bridge pilings and numerous sunken small watercraft

That’s a lot of reasons!  The bridge is an ideal site for diver training or for divers who are a little nervous.  Having heard this, without seeing it I almost dismissed it as a “miniature golf” site that wouldn’t be interesting.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  I think this site has something to offer a wide variety of divers.  I’m a nitrox diver particularly interested in photography and biology, and not afraid of a little adventure in pursuit of a good dive, and the bridge suited me just fine.

The bridge site is at the Phil Foster park in west palm beach:

900 E. Blue Heron Blvd.
Riviera Beach, FL 33404
(Google Maps)

Animals seen: rays, lobsters, banded cleaner shrimp, arrow (“spider”) shrimp, various crabs, flounder, Scorpionfish, gobies, snook, baitfish of all kinds, drums, grunts, numerous worms, soft corals, various unidentified invertebrates and oodles of unidentified fish of all sizes from tiny to impressive. I’m told that it’s common to see octopus here as well, athough I did n’t see any.

The dive was my third of the day, having dived earlier in the 80-foot reefs just offshore.  Dive Buddy Steve and I simply drove from the Jupiter Dive Center to the bridge area, stopping at a large dive emporium along the way to get rid of all that extra cash that had been weighing us down. The excuse was that we had to wait for the tide and needed to kill some time (this dive site is heavily tide-dependent; the best time to dive is just before slack high tide, as with most channel dives).  There is a large parking lot at the park, but it can be crowded.  If you are there at a popular time,you might have to hunt for a parking spot.

Because of the necessity of timing the dive with the tide, it’s a single-tank dive.  However, because of the depth – or lack of it – you can dive forever on one tank.  Our dive time was 1:16, and would have been at least 1:30 if not for the fact that I had to return equipment before the dive shop closed.  Oh yeah, if you come here don’t forget to bring a towable surface marker – it’s the law, plus it would suck to get “manateed” by a boat.  I was comfortable with a 3MM, mostly to protect me from things, but also with such a long dive you could get cold even with a bottom temperature of 86F (In July).  With such a shallow dive, there’s almost no concern about DCI/DCS, and your entire dive is a safety stop.  Just don’t forget your weight belt, like me.  I must have a subconscious hatred of the thing.  Luckily I could simply trot back to the car and retrieve it.

We entered on the swimmer’s beach beneath the west (high) bridge, and snorkeled over to the east (low) bridge.  Underneath the bridge, the columns and dim light gave the area a cathedral-like appearance.  Directly under the bridge, hanging over a small sunken boat, a school of large snook hung, eyes glowing menacingly in our lights (bring a light, it can get dark under there and there’s lots of crevices for you to explore).  Lobsters and crabs backed into snug places under rocks and the wreck.  We dove through slack and into the ebb tide.  We could really tell when the tide started to go out – the vis got worse, and we got pulled south with an irritating insistence.  Legs began to cramp, the dive got slightly less fun.  But only slightly.  On the way back I enjoyed seeing the multi-tentacled wormlike invertebrate that radiates from a central hole in the sand, which when poked withdraws like a person sucking in spaghetti strands.  Young peacock flounder, invisible until they move, flowed along the bottom as we passed over and alarmed them.

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I never get tired of finding and observing these scorpionfish (below), because they look like lumps of crap on the bottom and are almost invisible until they move; then you can see their beautiful fins and elaborate camouflage.

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Just for fun.

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