Diving the Blue Heron Bridge

An octopus emerges, half hidden, from a pipe at Blue Heron Bridge. Photo by John Liddington.

Finding a new favorite diving location.

For too many years I divided my Florida diving between the Keys and the caves. I saw the space between them on the map as no-man’s land, to be covered at maximum speed in minimum time.

Five years ago, that changed. I dropped in to the Pura Vida Divers shop to find out about local diving. I learned that for divers PBC stands not for Palm Beach County, but rather Palm Beach currents. Singer Island is where the Gulf Stream makes its closest approach to the United States. This means their offshore dives are drift dives. In addition to describing many of their boat sites, Pura Vida said I should check out the Blue Heron Bridge.

I hit the Jackpot!

The Blue Heron Bridge, which connects Singer Island to the mainland, is a marine-life melting pot. Angelfish, batfish, bonefish, dolphinfish, frogfish, jawfish, lizardfish, needlefish, parrotfish—if it has fish in its name, you will probably find it there.

Phil Foster Park, at the eastern end of the bridge, is the perfect spot to look for them. The waters off its beach contain a variety of micro-habitats that offer all those fish homes and feeding grounds. Sand and sea grass holds garden eels, stargazers, jawfish, batfish, flying gurnards and invertebrates like horseshoe crabs, mantis shrimp and sea stars. An 800-foot snorkeling trail, with concrete reefs and three concrete shark statues, runs parallel to the shore.

Here you can find reef fish, such as grunts, porkfish, angelfish and parrotfish, along with arrow crabs and banded coral shrimp. The bridge pilings have built up heavy encrustations of sponge, soft coral and hydroids. Spadefish, adult angelfish and morays like this environment, and you might see spotted eagle rays or even a manatee. Of course, there is no shortage of human debris. If it’s big enough to squeeze inside, you’ll probably find something, especially blennies and octopus, calling it home.

Getting in the water requires planning. Most of the south side of the park is beach where divers can enter the water. Stay on the surface while in the designated swimming area. Dive flags are required.

Of course there has to be one thing to keep it from being perfect— remember Palm Beach currents? The lagoon’s water rises and falls with the tides, and all that water goes under the bridge. Because of strong currents, the most comfortable diving and best visibility comes in a window between about a half-hour before and after slack high tide.

I’ve been back to the Blue Heron Bridge many times over the five years since Pura Vida Divers turned me on to it. Shortly after my first dive there, Sport Diver Magazine listed the Bridge as one of the 50 top dives in the world. I couldn’t agree more.

By John Liddington

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