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The Canyon and The Wall

The Salt River Canyon splits the north shore wall with a deep “V” caused by an ancient river going out into the deeper Virgin Islands Basin at ~5,000 feet with the deepest point being ~13,500 feet. The east and west walls of this canyon both offer very different diving experiences.  There are sections with near vertical drops to more gentle sloping reef to delight your senses.

 

The Wall brings a rich diversity of life, mixing the richness and nutrients where the deep meets the shallows.  Truly a unique biodiversity that is found in only a few locations throughout the Caribbean.  Also among the crags and corals are the great old anchors of the 1700-1800’s.  Quite a sight to behold and to imagine the stories that were aboard the boats these anchors once held in place centuries ago.  Dive in what has been rated on the top 5 places to dive for best dive destination, best shore diving, best wall diving, best macro diving, best underwater photography, and many other bests!

 

Officially titled in 1992 as "Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve," the area is perfect for scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking and hiking. It is an important archaeological site with the physical remains of three pre-Columbian cultures, as well as an important environmental site with large mangrove forests. It also has a bioluminescent bay, where micro-organisms glow in the dark.
 

Only ~5 minutes boat ride to the dive sites because our 2nd location is in the calm waters of the Salt River Marina.  Most other dive companies are a 30 minute ride on typically rough seas.


 

Dive Profile:

There are several dive sites on The Canyon and turning the corner to The Wall.  Depending on the dive site, the reef is about 20-40' to start the dive.  Peeking over underwater Canyon/Wall is steep and ruggedly textured, with plenty of geological formations of interest to divers – the sand channels and maze-like crags, cuts, swim-throughs, ledges, overhangs, and coral-heads dropping to 200' then 500' then 4,000' depths.  We will definitely be staying within recreational diving limits. 

 

Because of the way the boat drifts in the current, the west end has a shallower entry, east end is a deeper entry.  60-90' is the normal dive profile before returning to shallower waters.  Common creatures are: creole wrasse, squirrelfish, nurse sharks, reef sharks, green morays, chromies, turtles, eagle rays, occasional hammerhead, dolphins, whale song (February-March). 

 

Definitely bring or rent a GroPro.

Walled In     

by Ty Sawyer

"It's almost hidden in plain sight. Despite having some of the best wall and wreck diving in the Caribbean St. Croix, the largest of the three main U. S. Virgin Islands, gets overlooked in most USVI diving itineraries. It's also, topside, perhaps the most authentic of the three virgins with a National Heritage Trail that takes you right into the pulse of the island, its people and its amalgam of cultural influences. But the best part for divers drops straight down from the north coast of the island.

Near the only place that Columbus is said to have set foot in America (in 1493), called Salt River (it's also an ecological preserve), are the dive sites of Salt River Canyon East and West. Here, the lush walls drop off several thousand feet. On either side the walls are thickly decorated with sponges, gorgonians and sea fans. Loads of marine life call this place home, too.

West Wall (one of the named sites) is riddled with swim-throughs, canyons and cuts in the reef. You'll encounter large stoplight parrotfish, angels, several species of grouper, blackbar soldierfish in the shadows and horse-eye jacks off the edges. Always keep an eye to the blue on these dives. Sea Turtles like to come in and nosh on the sponges. Dolphins frequent the area, and when they're close you'll hear their clicks, chirps and squeals reverberating in the water column.

At other places off the north coast of St. Croix, walls start in as little as 20 feet of water and drop off to almost 13,000 feet. They're absolutely vertical. Like peering down the edge of a skyscraper.

Besides the wall diving, there's plenty of dives for all skill levels. And the best part is it really is a secret. Who knows why, but one things for sure. You'll have more of the reef all to yourself, you'll be able to brag that you dived some of the best walls in the world and no one will suspect you've just come back from the US Virgin Island of St. Croix."

 

Canyon and Wall Topography

 

 

 

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one hour past East Coast during winter
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