Emerald Sea Photography
I had always heard horror stories about the LONG surface swim out to the barges sunk at Tolmie State Park, so had managed to avoid diving at this well known site for 8 years, even though it is very close to home. However, once we had the new boat in the water, and needed a place to dive during some rather horrid weather, we picked Tolmie because it was safe and convenient even with the howling winds.
The good news is that we found the three barges sunk at Tolmie to be a very pleasant dive site. The barges are in remarkably good shape for being down so long, and the barge that is furthest from shore (furthest West), is quite large and is a fun dive. I don't know that I'd want to do the surface swim, but if you have a boat or a scooter, this is a very nice dive site.
We located the wrecks using the side-scan unit (see the bottom screen capture) and found all three barges easily. The two closest to shore are well marked by a white cylindrical buoy in about fifty feet of water. There are several Mooring buoys placed in the same area by the Parks Department for use by boaters, but this are round and triangular shaped, the white cylinder marking the near wrecks stands out easily. And, what do we mean by "near"? Janna refers to this as a "marathon swim", and my GPS unit says it is something like 1000' - 1200' from shore to the buoy.
The third, larger barge is located a few hundred feet to the NW (330°) of the Western barge, and is rarely visited by divers, which is too bad, as it is definitely the best of the bunch. Sunk in 1965 as fish habitat, the barges are covered with lush marine growth. Varied hues and shades of metridium anemones cover most of the wrecks. Large Ling Cod, rockfish, gunnels, nudibranchs, crabs and sculpins will greet divers exploring these barges.
The bottom is very soft and muddy, offering decent anchorage, but be sure to keep those fins off of the bottom, or you'll ruin the visibility. There is very little current at this site, making it safe to dive pretty much any time. Dropping in by boat and displaying a Dive Flag is a good idea at this site. It really does not get much traffic, but an occasional boater might wonder on by, and a dive flag might keep you from getting an anchor on the noggin.
This site is suitable for all levels of cold water divers that are comfortable diving in lower visibility water. Do watch out for fishing line and protruding parts of the wreckage. For more information on this site, there is a humorous review by Janna Nichols at the Pacific Northwest Scuba site.