Dale Sheckler - August 03, 2007
canyons are fascinating geological structures that are gashes
in the continental shelf that bring deep water and its creatures close
to shore. They serve mainly to act as transport corridors for sand and
sediment to find its way down the continental shelf as longshore
currents push the sand along the beaches. For us underwater explorers,
they make excellent dives for the interesting animals and excellent
deepwater training. Upwelling brings cold nutrient rich waters close to
shore that in turn support unique ecosystems quite different than the
typical Southern California reef and kelp forest.
Along the Southern California coastline, there are a total of five
submarine canyons that are close enough to the mainland to make them
easy beach dives. They are located at, from south to north, La Jolla,
Newport, Redondo, Point Dume and Hueneme. While not as interesting as
the La Jolla, Redondo and Point Dume Submarine Canyons, the deep drop
at Port Hueneme definitely has its strengths as a dive site, mainly the
nearby reef and pismo clam beds.
For your beach entry you will be heading to La Jennelle Park
north jetty of Port Hueneme. Entrance to the park is at the
intersection of Sawtelle and Ocean Drive. The park gets its name from
passenger liner La Jennelle that ran around in 1970 and floundered.
Impossible to remove from the beach, the superstructure was removed and
the hull filled in with rocks extending the jetty to the northwest.
Only a small portion of the wreck is visible today and most of that
from the surface. Any underwater features of the wreck are in shallow
churning waters and not worth exploring.
There is a small parking lot at the beach park but no facilities.
Sometimes the short road to the parking lot and the parking lot is
closed due to blowing sand so you may have to park on the street and
walk further. Gate to the parking lot closes promptly at sunset. The
rocky jetty is to the south of the parking lot. If you have a 4-wheel
drive, you can continue across the sand parallel to the fence that
divides the public beach area from the Navy CB (Sea Bee) base. This
will take you right down to the entry point. Without a 4-wheel drive,
you have to hoof it from the parking lot but it is a short walk.
Steep-sided valleys winding across the
continental slope, probably originally
produced by Pleistocene
but presently the site of turbidity flows.
three choices for water entry, but one is illegal. The first
and most commonly used is directly off the northwest side of the jetty.
Surf has to be small to make this rock entry and exit. Always check out
the surf report online before heading for the beach. Once there, check
it out carefully before donning your gear and heading for the water. A
second choice is to enter the small cove created by the La Jennelle
extension of the jetty. The cove faces directly into the prevailing
surf and the water is shallow, so surf can be just as much as a problem
here as off the rocks, plus it is a long swim to the canyon. The third
choice for entry is into the calm waters inside the jetty. But this is
illegal and divers have been cited even arrested. The choice is yours.
For many divers the main event is the rocky
jetty that extends outward
along the mouth of the harbor at Port Hueneme. Here the rocks drop off
quickly to 20 feet and then moderately to 45 feet at the tip of the
jetty where they make contact with the submarine canyon slope of sand
and mud. On the submerged rocks is a plethora of animals. The upwelling
from the canyon supports a large amount of marine life. My favorite is
the abundant gorgonian, California’s answer to soft coral. Within the
golden fans are large sheep crabs, a variety of mollusks, and octopus.
Like many rocky jetties along our coast, this is a good habitat for
lobster. Fish life includes rockfish, barred sand bass, scorpionfish,
cabezon, and garibaldi. If the surge is not too strong, spend some time
up in the shallows with the zebra perch, opaleye and surfperch.
Depending on the season, the rocks here occasionally support a small
kelp forest with calico bass.
At the tip of the jetty you will come to
the canyon drop immediately.
Be sure to use your navigational skills to avoid wandering into the
mouth of the harbor. In the canyon you will find debris with more
scorpionfish, rays, small octopus, unusual nudibranchs, and moon
Some divers choose to complete their dives
exiting the water around the
northwest side of the rocks in the cove, but once again be aware that
the surf here can be tough.
One final option here is a second dive is a
visit to the pismo clam
beds in the sand to the northwest of the rocks. Pismo clams are the
tastiest in California and here they are abundant. Look for them in 15
to 20 feet of water with their siphons just sticking above the sand.
Once you found two or three, you have found dozens. You must have a
fishing license and regulations apply.
Dive Spot At A Glance
the northwest entrance of Port Hueneme.
Access and Entry:
Short walk across sand (or drive for a
4-wheel drive) to a rocky surf entry. If parking lot is closed due to
blowing sand it will be a longer walk.
Intermediate or better with rock surf
Depths: 20 to
Fair, averaging 10 - 15 feet.
especially for macro with lots of
subjects on the rocks or in the canyon mud and sand
for lobster on the rocks and clams on the
nearby sand off Silver Strand Beach.
must be small to dive here. Stay out of the
Online at http://cdip.ucsd.edu/?nav=recent⊂=nowcast&xitem=vent_hs
Port of Hueneme: Overview
- Located approximately 60 miles
northwest of Los Angeles, 40 miles southeast of Santa Barbara and 337
miles south of San Francisco, the Port of Hueneme has certain physical
characteristics which make it an ideal harbor. First, there is a deep
submarine canyon, Hueneme Canyon, which approaches within a few hundred
feet of the harbor entrance, providing good navigation and minimal wave
and swell action. Secondly, the harbor is provided additional
protection from severe storms by the nearby Channel Islands.