Fort Wetherill is located in scenic Jamestown, Rhode Island. It features three main entry points with differing dive attractions and as such is a huge draw for the local diving community. We call them the “deep dive”, “goat path”, and “boat launch”. Between the three main spots, you’ll find areas perfect for all skill levels and training. Throughout the summer you’ll find groups of divers from dusk to dawn. The deep dive entrance is located off the upper parking lot (towards the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management station). Beyond diving, Fort Wetherill offers beautiful views of Narragansett Bay and some interesting areas full of rich history.
Towards the end of the summer, you may encounter a couple lost tropical fish including butterflyfish, triggerfish, and if you’re very lucky you may spot an octopus or two! Featuring eelgrass beds, sandy bottoms, anemone covered cliff walls, and endless rocks to explore it is a favorite amongst locals.
There are public port-o-potties and free parking, but arrive early if you’d like a good parking spot! On any given day you’ll find divers, fishermen, photographers, and more. In 2010, a local boy scout from Troop-82 created multiple “Scuba Diver’s Rack(s)” for his Eagle Scout Project – they are perfect for donning and doffing your gear!
“Deep Dive” or “The Wall”
Aptly named, it is the deepest of the three sites featuring a rock wall whose coverage changes with the seasons…many divers love it the best when it is covered with colorful anemones. After parking and gearing up, head south toward the water along a wide, dirt/gravel path. On the left there will be a path down onto a cobblestone beach. Use caution during entrances and exits. There are multiple levels you can explore, but depths beyond 90 feet can be easily attained. Around 30 ft there is a ledge that is home to many different fishes and invertebrates. Northern Pufferfish and Burrfish have been known to swim around this region.
In true New England diving style, this site is highly dependent on the environmental conditions. The pebble beach can make for rough entrances and exits if the surf is high, so be sure to use caution. However, if you get blown out of this site or the light penetration is not high enough, it is easy enough to switch to one of the other two locations.
“Goat Path” or “Middle Cove”
The goat path is located between the deep dive and the boat launch. When you enter the park there is a sign painted red and white and pointing towards the parking lot. Once you’ve made it to the parking lot, try to park on the east side (furthest from where you entered), though it is not a far walk from any part of the lot. On the southeast side of the parking lot, there are two jersey barriers – head towards them and you will see a small, yet defined dirt path down towards the beach, hence the name goat path. Be sure to inflate your bc before you get too far into the water. The entrance has a drop from 5 feet to 30 feet and can catch you unaware.
A favorite for open water students and advanced divers alike, the boat launch has a very easy entrance…you guessed it, down a boat launch. The cove is a nice area to snorkel and features a beautiful eelgrass bed. If you’re patient you’ll find both local fish and tropical fish darting amongst the fronds. The area gradually slopes down into the 20-30 foot range, though you can reach greater depths. However, the average dive plan doesn’t call for anything greater than 35 feet at high tide.
Both sides of this cove feature rock piles, walls, and ledges with a sandy bottom in between. If you stick to one of the sides, it is very easily navigated. It is possible to start from the boat launch, swim around and end up at the goat path (or vice versa), however it takes some knowledge of the site. If you miss the turnoff to swim between the islands, you can end up further out than anticipated.
The site is preferred for Open Water dive classes. If you swim out far enough (30+ minutes) you’ll reach deeper depths and may find an experiment being conducted by the Coast Guard Academy. And if you’re lucky, you might spot the native Torpedo Ray…just remember not to touch as he can pack quite the electric punch.
There are no fees for parking or entrance to the beach, however during the weekends of the summer months parking space may (at times) be hard to find.
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