Blue Heron Bridge
by Jerry Otte, PADI Master Instructor
When I left chilly Wisconsin for Florida this January, I was excited about the Lemon Shark dives we planned to make out of Jupiter. Unfortunately, when strong winds from the northeast dropped visibility to little more than 10 feet, the shark dives were ruined and we needed to find another way to get our winter diving fix. Although I had never been there, the Blue Heron Bridge seem like a good second choice.
Located on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway in Riviera Beach, the Blue Heron Bridge is a short distance north of West Palm Beach and not far off from I-95 on Blue Heron Boulevard. Divers are allowed to dive either the east or west end of the bridge, but free parking is available and the entry is easy from Phil Foster Park at the east end.
We started by checking the tide charts. The best time to dive is at high tide, as the depth is little more than 20 feet and currents can become strong at other times of the day. A dive flag is necessary when diving the bridge, and divers should follow the rules posted. As the area is fairly protected, the Blue Heron Bridge can be a good choice when conditions are unfavorable elsewhere.
We set up our gear in the parking lot, and then carried our scuba kit on our backs across the beach. The distance is relatively short, and there are no steps or other obstacles to make the walk difficult. Once in the water, we swam on the surface outside of the swimming area, and then descended.
Almost immediately we started to see the unique marine life under the bridge. A trail of orange sea stars led us to the bridge pylons that were encrusted with colorful corals. The pylons provide shelter to a variety of common reef fishes such as blue striped grunts, porkfish, angelfish, barracuda, and sergeant majors. But among the common critters, we discovered more unusual fish such as scorpion fish, porcupine fish, bandtail puffers, peacock flounders, flying gurnards, and batfish.
Because of the shallow depth, our dive lasted nearly 80 minutes. The extra time allowed us to observe seahorses, octopi, and even a school of juvenile squid. One buddy team even saw a manatee.
So on those days when the ocean is a bit uncooperative, the Blue Heron Bridge can be a great option. Or plan a dive to this amazing dive site on your next Florida trip. You won’t be disappointed!