Jade Cove/Plaskett Creek Camp & Dive
Jade Cove/Plaskett Creek Camp & Dive trip report-August 8-12, 2019
The Jade Cove along the Big Sur coastline is one of my most favorite areas to visit other than Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. Why you might ask? Because it is beautiful, exciting, magical, mystical & exhilarating! Actually that describes both areas. The BEST thing is you can collect Jade along the shoreline and underwater while scuba diving or snorkeling. The other REALLY good things about the Jade Cove area over Canada is it is much closer, much easier for my wife and I to get to plus we can easily go for just a few days, although that isn’t enough to really enjoy the beauty of the area.
If you have ever drove along this area of the Big Sur coast you would know exactly what I am talking about. There is much waiting for the adventurous diver like myself with its jagged rocky bluffs, large kelp beds and very seldom dived areas.
We like camping and our campground of choice on trips to Jade Cove is the Plaskett Creek National Park campground. The campground is very nice with each site having a table, fire pit, BBQ and relatively flat blacktop pad to park on plus there is lots of shade, grass, flush toilets, and running water. There are NO showers. If you need supplies the VERY small town of Gorda is only about 10 minute drive to the south. There you will find a little general store with gas, ice and food. If you are not into camping there are a number of choices within a 1 hour or less drive north or south of the campground.
Within walking distance of the campground is both Jade Cove and Sand Dollar beach. Sand Dollar beach is impressive with its large bay with sandy beach and high bluffs all around it. The surfers love this beach where they can ride the waves in for long periods of time due to the way the surf comes into the beach. There is a short trail leading to some steep steps going down to the beach. When it is low tide you can walk a very long ways to the north where you will pass a couple caves carved into the side of the hill by water erosion. To the south you can walk a short ways till you come to the jagged cliffs and rock islands leading around the corner to North Jade Cove. Out in front of the point is Plaskett Rock.
Jade Cove actually is made up of three coves which are north Jade Cove, middle Jade Cove and south Jade Cove (Jade Cove proper). All three are not easy to gain access to and all require some work getting down a rough steep trail. This is after you hiked your way down the first trail from Hwy 1 to you starting point. North cove has a washed out ravine with a 150’ long rope and a secondary rope at the top of the bluff. Jade Cove has a short washed out area at the bottom of the trail with a short rope of about 20’-30’ to help keep your balance as you make your way down to the rocks below.
My preferred way to do this is to completely suit up at the car along the side of Hwy 1 and hike down with everything including tanks and weights making one trip each way. WORD of CAUTION-if you have bad knees or are not in good physical shape you might want to make several trips or think about not doing it at all. Evan with help it is not an easy task! I used to do two dives a day switching out tanks and getting lunch between dives. Nowadays one dive a day suits me fine plus I can always go snorkeling and/or hunting for Jade along the shore. To help make my climb down easier I always wear hiking boots and try to have both my hands free to grab a hold if needed and I have needed it before.
So why all this amount of work to go shore diving around some rough looking rocky area? Jade
Cove is a place where you can find Jade (hence its name). Even though this area is in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary the taking of Jade below the high tide mark is permitted and it can only be pieces no bigger than what you can carry. Diving Jade Cove is also best done with someone who knows the lay of the land plus if something should happen you have some help close by. The dive itself is shallow from 10’-30’ with lots of large rocks, boulders and three different types of kelp. It is a beautiful dive with big fish, some invertebrates and much to see but the main reason for me to dive at Jade Cove is to collect Jade.
On our trip I did a dive with my friend Christy on Friday morning and on Saturday morning we did another with a number of fiends joining us. The conditions were the calmest I have seen in years and visibility was about 20’-25’. Water temperature was around 54 degrees which wasn’t bad especially while you are moving all over looking for Jade. Topside the weather was great with no wind and sunny to foggy conditions. Sometimes the fog blew in and you could hardly see a thing and then it would clear up to sunny skies with beautiful views of the surrounding area.
In the afternoons my wife and I did walks to Sand Dollar Beach and the vegetation filled bluffs with wildflowers and LOTS of poison oak growing along the trails. The bluffs are where you can get some awesome views of the coastline and mountains behind the campground. What was really cool about camping for 5 days was our revolving campsite. Most every night we had different people staying with us meeting new people and hearing new stories.
On Monday it was time to vacate our nice campsite and say goodbye to our group of friends from the Monterey area. On our drive down beautiful Hwy 1 we made a stop to visit the elephant seals at the Piedras Blancas haul out watching the kids wrestling and practicing their sparing. Last but not least it was time for a stop in Morro Bay for lunch and fuel.
What an awesome trip this turned out to be and if you think you want to join us next year watch the Channel Islands Dive Adventures website, newsletters and Facebook posts. We have lots of cool outings like this coming up with a hike on Santa Rosa Island in late September and a long weekend in Monterey the first week of October.
By Ken Kollwitz
See our Dive Calendar Page for all our other fun trips