Blue Heron Bridge
Blue Heron Bridge is one of the world’s premier dive sites. Voted in 2013 as “The Best Dive Site in the World” by Sport Diver Magazine, the diversity of life, ease of access and Florida’s warm waters and great weather make it a great place to dive any time of the year. The diverse ecosystem of this top-rated dive site sits just inside Palm Beach County’s largest estuary, the Lake Worth Inlet. Since the area is protected by the Inter Coastal Waterway, scuba diving is possible in weather conditions that would restrict boat or shore diving off Florida’s East Coast.
Location and Parking
Phil Foster Park is located at 900 Blue Heron Boulevard, Riviera Beach, FL 33404. Heading East on Blue Heron Boulevard from I-95, Florida’s Turnpike, or Hwy 1 you cross over the Blue Heron Bridge and look for the traffic signal at the entrance to Phil Foster Park just before exiting the bridge onto Singer Island. Turning into Phil Foster Park from Blue Heron Blvd look for the parking lot on the left side of the entry road that runs parallel to the beach and the bridge. Your water entry will be from the beach under the bridge. To the right you will see a restroom, the boat trailer parking and the boat launch areas. Do not park in the boat trailer areas (there is a fine) or enter the water from the docks around the boat launch ramps. The parking spots along the South side of the park bordering the beach under the bridge fill up fast, so give yourself plenty of time to find a parking spot and arrive a couple of hours prior to high tide on weekends and holidays. Park your car in one of these locations or in the West side of the park avoiding long spaces reserved for vehicles with boat trailers.
Equipment Setup and Water Entry
Equipment setup along the beach area is simple and there are picnic tables and grassy areas alongside the South parking. Phil Foster Park has three main diving areas with a great variety of life in each one; the East Bridge, the Snorkel Trail/Artificial Reef, and the West Bridge. The area in front of the life guard shack bordered by round white buoys is the guarded swim area and divers are prohibited from submerging in this area. Surface swimming is permitted in the guarded swim area as long as no regulators are used for breathing (snorkels only). Blue and white signs on the beach near the swim area indicate where diving is not permitted. Water entries are typically made from one of three areas along the beach; the beach area in the Southeast corner of the park (East of the Guarded Swim Area), the beach area near the children’s playground (West of the guarded swim area), and the Southwest corner of the park near the kayak launch ramp. Once you enter the water, head east towards the smaller east bridge, sometimes called the Old Bridge, South to intersect the Snorkel Trail, or West to explore the area around and under the main/larger span of the Blue Heron Bridge (the West Side).
What You’ll See
The dive depths at Blue Heron Bridge range from 5420 feet, making it great for every level of dive experience. Diving enthusiasts, especially underwater photographers, can expect to see a wide assortment of sea life in a fairly small area. Under and around the East Bridge is where you will find arrow crabs, banded coral shrimp, angelfish, cuttlefish, bat fish, barracuda and sea horses. On the North side of the East Bridge is a sunken sailboat, and a sunken powerboat sits to the South of the East Bridge. The 800-foot-long Snorkel Trail runs parallel to the beach just inside the boat exclusion zone and is composed of concrete and rock formations, three hammerhead shark statues, shopping carts (yes there are several) and brick structures placed by the Boy Scouts of America. Along the Snorkel Trail can be found grunts, frog fish, sea horses, and octopi. The West span’s cement columns are filled with all sorts of amazing marine life such as schooling french grunts, sea horses, frog fish, spotted eels, golden eels, yellow rays, starfish, and nudibranchs. Many of these and other exotic and rare species of marine life can be found all around Blue Heron Bridge and if you’re lucky, you just might spot an eagle ray, sea turtle or even a manatee! Be careful NOT to touch or disrupt the marine life as this can be dangerous to both the diver and the fragile ecosystems forming around the bridge.
The best time for diving the Blue Heron Bridge is 30 minutes prior to and after slack high tide. Currently, clear water from the Atlantic Ocean allows visibility up to 100 feet. It is extremely important to review the TIDE TABLES, and plan your dives accordingly. The conditions outside of this window often include heavy currents as the water transitions out of the ICW and reduced visibility as tidal surge stirs up the sandy bottom. You will typically find the clearest water under the east and west bridges, but it is easy to stir up the thin layer of sediment on the bottom if you don’t watch your fin tips. The Blue Heron Bridge was voted the top dive site in the nation in 2013 and that reputation, accompanied by very few shore diving locations in the area, brings in a lot of other divers. The large number of divers will sometimes cause reduced visibility as they move around the site. Since the average depth of your dive will be in the 10-16 foot range, a typical dive at this location can last from 60 – 90 minutes, depending on air consumption rates.
The tidal movement around the Blue Heron Bridge area can be strong when it is not high slack tide. Scuba divers are required to use dive flags and snorkelers swimming outside of the guarded swim area should also use one, otherwise there is a chance of being injured or fined. There is a boat channel that runs about 30 meters/100 feet parallel to the shore and under both bridges. At high tide, boats cannot pass beneath the East Bridge due to low clearance, but they may run under at other times of the day. Use caution and stay clear of the channels. The park is also a favorite spot for fishing so snorkelers and divers are cautioned to avoid the area under the fishing pier on the Southwest corner of the park and should exercise caution under the East Bridge as it is also a common fishing area.