The Swan River
Diving in the Swan River is unique and adds another facet to the vast wealth of diving opportunites that Western Australia has to offer. The Swan River presents a different environment and with it different advantages and disadvantages compared to diving in the Indian Ocean.
One of the advantages of the Swan River is the year round access to diving that offers unique marine life, an opportunity for collecting food and an abundance of wrecks of both heritage value and community interest. Water temperatures can vary from 13-22 degrees Celsius during winter and summer but unlike the ocean the river can be dived in almost all weather conditions. If the swell is too high and the wind too strong rendering the ocean an unsuitable dive site, the Swan River will have a site somewhere that is protected from the wind and weather that offers an interest to divers. There are however some considerations to take into account when planning a dive.
Tides tend to play an important part of diving in the river, one of the advantages of diving in the river is the absence of the surge experienced from diving with swell in the ocean. Diving in the river can provide a comfortable relaxed diving experience within a different and varied ecosystem somewhat different to the ocean side of the metro area, the lack of surge has provided an excellent environment for the wrecks of the river. With the majority of wrecks being of wooden construction they remain in a better condition than what they would be if in the high energy environment of the ocean and exposed to marine borers. Tidal range has little effect on ocean diving in the Perth area due to the very small tidal range however awareness of the tide can greatly increase the enjoyment of a dive in the river. Diving during spring tides that occur fortnightly with the full and new moon phases will increase the strength of currents in the river and reduce the visibility however, they do not render it "undivable". The lower reaches of the Swan River is salt water and is described as having a heavier saline "wedge" of tidal influence that can reach up to 55 kms upstream. The wedge lays beneath a less saline down stream flowing, fresher layer of water. Quite often after heavy rains turbidity greatly effects the fresher top layer, sometimes you can descend through water where you can hardly see your hand in front of your nose, and then have the visibility open up as you enter the tidal "saline wedge". In these cases though extremely poor visibilty in the fresher layer greatly effects the penetration of natural light giving the impression of poor visibility at depth, a torch is often recomended.
All sites in the Swan River are all exposed to a high degree of boat traffic, it is a requirement from the Dept. of Transport to always display a dive flag when diving in Western Australia. Always try to avoid surfacing in open water, if the need arises to ascend mid dive a deployed surface marker bouy can be sent up prior to ascending or use a nearby mooring, ascend slowly and watch and listen for nearby boats.
Click on the Red titles for each area for a more descriptive link to the wrecks in of the river.
and the free downloadable App by
Other helpful web sites for diving the Swan River are:
Tide Predictions for Barrack Street are based on limited data by the Dept. Of Transport and a bit of guess work is involved for predicting tides at the dive sites in the Swan River, as it takes time for the tides to "overrun" up and down the river. For picking the tides while planning a dive it can be helpful to split the difference between Freo and Barack St. in relation to the location of the dive site and allowing some degree of error.
Freshwater Bay has always been popular with recreational vessels for over a century. The Freshwater Bay Yacht Club first formed in 1896 with the first jetty built at the end of Irvine Street and has since been a popular anchorage and recreational area in the river. We've successfully located three new wrecks near the yacht club and the cliffs and we're working towards completing a full side scan survey of the bay to locate any more wrecks or objects of interest. So far most of what has been found in Freshwater Bay seems to be modern vessels scuttled although somewhere in the bay lays the remains of the Niad, a wooden pleasure craft that caught fire and sunk somewhere in the vicinity of the moorings.
Mosman Bay has always been a popular site in the Swan River given its protection from the wind, safe anchorage and deep water, still today Mosman Bay is a very busy spot for divers, fisherman and watercraft most days of the week. There lay a number of motorboat wrecks scattered far around the bay, all offer something different in the way of depth and varying sea life. Of the 4 wrecks listed in this link none have ever been positively identified, we are currently hopeful to identify two of the motorboat wrecks in the coming months. Over half the wrecks seem to be relatively modern powerboats or yachts most likely sunk on their moorings in deep water.
Located on the western shore of the Swan River opposite Point Walter. The Coombe has the highest number of wrecks than anywhere else in the river, through online sources and sidescan searches we've managed to provide the details of 7 wrecked boats located in this area. With wreck depths ranging from 7 metres to 22 metres, the Coombe also offers the deepest point for diving in the Swan. It is also one of the most popular dive sites in the Swan River and is generally considered divable in most strong weather conditions.
Adjacent to Point Walter on the eastern bank of the Swan and just downstream from Mosman Bay is Blackwall Reach. Another popular mooring site that offers less protection from the southerlies for boats but provides deep water reaching 18 metres. Another site with very few identified wrecks, the Barge site is the only wreck that has its history known and further north lay another three unidentified wrecks, modern motorboats and cruisers that can prove difficult to access for shore divers due to the length of the the cliff face making shore entry only possible after very long surface swims.
Near the Scout Hall on Jerrat Drive lays the two identified wrecks, one of the Australian World War II Landing Craft ALC40 that sunk in 1942 and the wreck known as the Chinese Junk, a more modern boat that sunk on its mooring. A relatively easy site to access with parking nearby and a great site to explore for seahorses with an average depth of around 10 metres. Nearby is the popular dive site at Bicton Baths.
Rocky Bay is just across the river from the Leeuwin Boat Ramp and next to the Water Police Headquarters. The bay has an extensive history and has been an active area for local shipping and industry since the early days of the Swan River Colony. Today all the industry has long been removed with residential buildings surrounding the bay. Amongst the remains of other historical sites of importance in Rocky Bay, the wreck of the Mayfield and the City of Perth can be found on the southern shoreline. They are however quite difficult to access due the the high limestone cliffs surrounding the bay, very strong tidal currents and with the sites being on the edge of the channel, boat traffic is also an issue.
- Follow the link to our marine life page.