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Russian Gulch State Park
Most Californians believe that the United States acquired the land that would eventually become California as a result of a battle with Mexico. This is

Carmel River Beach

Author  : Bruce Watkins
Location  : Monterey County
Date  : June 22, 2002

What do you look for in the ideal dive site? A calm entry? Easy walk to the beach? How about a great selection of critters a short swim from the beach? And, of course, it can't be too crowded. Welcome to Carmel River Beach.

Carmel River Beach is located near the center of Carmel Bay, and is flanked by Monastery Beach to the south and Carmel Beach to the north. This spot gets fewer divers each year than points north or south for one reason only—limited parking. There are only a few parking spots available on Ocean View Avenue, and no parking is available on Scenic Road. But don't let that discourage you from diving there; just show up a little early.

Divers should take the wooden staircase to the beach. From the top of the stairs you get a good view of Carmel Bay with Point Lobos to the right and Monastery Beach to the left. It's a short walk across the sand beach, and you should enter in the protected area just to the left of the rocky projection. You should avoid entering in the center of the beach due to the greater wave action.

Most divers swim out around the rocky projection before submerging. Here, beneath the kelp bed, is a rocky bottom in 20 to 30 feet of water. Thick kelp covers the surface and large boulders are strewn about the bottom. On the boulders is a healthy covering of coralline algae and sea stars, and hiding among the algae structure are enough nudibranchs and small fish to delight the sightseer/photographer. This area can be rough, but on calm days it is a very nice place for macro photography.

On the outside of the kelp bed the bottom drops off to 40-50 feet where you will find pinnacles that jut to-and-fro from the sand bottom. Many of these pinnacles are steep-sided and create an assortment of mini-walls that will delight most divers. This is one of the few places in the Monterey Area where beach divers can easily get to good vertical walls.

The walls are covered with a tapestry of colorful sponges and anemones. Yellows, oranges, reds—there is plenty of color here and the walls are excellent for both macro and wide-angle photography. There is a wide variety of little fish to observe: skulpins, greenlings, small rockfish, and gobys. These are especially interesting for photographers since they can be found on colorful backgrounds.

More fish and invertebrates my be found along the reef as it bends towards Carmel Beach. Look for harbor seals hunting in the rocky canyons. A diver’s kayak is an ideal vehicle to reach this remote reef as it is a short paddle and it's easy to carry the light kayaks down the steps. Some divers actually carry small inflatable boats down the steps!

If you are looking for an uncrowded spot with some great mini-walls right off the beach, you will not find a better spot than Carmel River Beach. This a good spot for an after-dive picnic since the bluffs protect the beach from the afternoon wind.

Dive Spot At A Glance
: In Carmel at the intersection of Scenic Road and Ocean View Avenue.
Access and Entry: Limited parking along Ocean View Avenue. There is a long wooden staircase to the beach, but no facilities. Kayaks and very small inflatables may be launched here.
Depth: 20-50 feet
Visibility: Generally good, 20-40 feet
Skill level: Intermediate or better.
Hunting: Carmel River Beach is located within the limits of the Carmel Bay Ecological Reserve. No invertebrates may be taken.
Photography: Good wide-angle and macro on rock walls.
Hazards: Watch for surge and surf. Look for very thick kelp in summer and fall. If you are new to California beach diving you may want to bring a friend along who has been here before.

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