Aerial shot of the entire Manasquan River estuary, looking southeast.
The Railroad Bridge dive site is marked with a white arrow.
The Manasquan River is overall not as nice a place to dive as the Shark River. The currents are stronger, the water never seems as clean, and the bottom is silty wherever it is not covered with mussels. The inlet jetties can be downright dangerous, and the boat traffic in the channel there is often very heavy. Off the north jetty is the so-called "Manasquan Wreck", but this is a long swim from shore and probably best approached with a boat.
The best place to dive in the Manasquan River is the Railroad Bridge at Gull Island Park, which is set up specifically for divers. This location is used heavily for training dives, but if you can avoid the crowds it can be a very interesting spot, with a wide variety of marine life. Powerful tidal currents will limit your dive time, but otherwise there are no time restrictions, unlike the inlet.
The name Manasquan is derived from the Indian words Man -A-Squaw -Han, or "Stream of the Island of the Squaws". In old records, and even up to World War Two, the area was known simply as Squam or Squan.
Not all fishermen are thieves, but some certainly are, and anything you leave on shore, or even in the back of your vehicle, is likely to be gone when you get back from your dive !
Manasquan River Estuary
Viewed from the northwest, prior to reconstruction, winter, high tide.7-11 store at upper right.
The new concrete railroad bridge - 2006
The entire small cove is diveable
Compared to before, the new channel seems narrower and deeper, and the
current stronger. Pieces of the old wooden bridge lie scattered around the bottom.
The diving area is rather small and not very deep. Visibility tends to be poor, and this is worsened whenever an O/W training class is in session, which is often. Also, the current under the bridge becomes very strong, so slack water is essential. For a long time a dredge barge has been anchored in the channel, but otherwise there is no boat traffic.
Except for small patches of sand, the entire area is completely encrusted with small mussels. The sheer diversity of sea life here is amazing, no lobsters, but in one dive you may see over a dozen types of fishes including tropicals late in the season, large crabs of several types, and various invertebrates. One night I ran into a large Striped Bass right under the bridge. It showed very little fear and hung around for a while, almost in arms reach. I am told that if you swim under the bridge you can find seahorses in the eelgrass on the other side, and that in the winter the visibility improves considerably. You can also find old bottles under the bridge, and a buddy of mine once found a .50 caliber cartridge. I wonder how that got there.
One of the most unusual things I have seen at the railroad bridge is a school of squid. They were in waist-deep water, about six inches long and purple. I was wading at the time, in October, and they seemed to be attracted to my light. All kinds of strange things seem to turn up in the fall.
Parking is close by and free, but the lot is not very large and sometimes fills up. A 7-11 store is across the road, and a number of dive boats make their home port nearby. For a unique scuba diving experience, try being under the bridge when a train goes by!
also see Regulations.
Since this is a tidal river, you must dive at slack water. If you've never dived a local river or inlet before, you may want to look at the page on Local Diving Conditions. Diving at slack low tide is not an option - there is not enough water !
Tide predictions for this site are woefully bad. Arrive early, and watch the water for slack tide before going in. Dive your wristwatch instead of your brain, and the current will spit you right through to the other side, where you can spend half an hour clinging to a piling in the marina.
Since the new bridge was built, this place is just not the same. There are much better sites, without the hassle.
A typical scene, with white coral growing on red bricks,
ulva weed, mussels, and a baby flounder.
These little flounders are the most conspicuous residents of the
river here, darting all over the bottom.
Search through the mussel beds and you can come up
with some surprises, like this pipefish.
A pair of tiny zebra-striped shrimps shelters from the current in the lee of a log.
I'm not sure what these two spider crabs were doing, and I'm sure I don't want to know !
Note the incoming tide pouring through under the bridge.
Timing your dive to the tide is crucial here.
Low tide, winter. Point Pleasant on the left /south, Manasquan on the right / north.
This inlet has an long slightly L-shaped jetty on the north side, and a longer straight jetty on the south side. Both jetties are made of large stones and concrete, and the ends are built out of man-made concrete "jacks", shaped like an H with a 90 degree twist in the middle.
Both sides have an easy climb up or down the rocks where the bulkhead meets the jetty, however the jetties themselves are steep and tall, and would probably be impossible to climb in full scuba. An alternative is to swim around the point and come up on the beach, but it is a very long swim, and I would recommend against it unless you are a very strong swimmer. If you think about the restrictions above, you'll realize that it is completely illegal to cross from one side of the river to the other. Boat traffic in this inlet can be extremely heavy.
The "jacks" at the end of each jetty are extremely dangerous in a surge, and confusing to navigate around. Several people have died when waves pinned them into the large pockets between the jacks at this point. Avoid this area unless you are very experienced in this sort of diving, and the sea is absolutely calm.
View of the north side from the south side. The south side is basically the same. Notice where the jetty stones end and the concrete bulkhead begins.
The killer jacks at the end of the south jetty.
The only times I ever dove this river, the visibility was terrible, literally zero near the end of the north jetty. The bottom is exactly the same as at the Railroad Bridge, with more sandy areas farther away from the jetties. There were huge spider crabs, big fluke in the sand, and eels, but along the whole length of the jetty I saw not one lobster. ( Other people tell me there are many on the south side of the inlet. ) the area under the fishing bulkhead is supposed to be a treasure trove of lost articles, but there are almost always fishermen there.
Parking is free in Manasquan on the north side, metered in Point Pleasant on the south, and can be hard to find close by on both sides. On the north side there are also showers by the beach and a food stand.
Looking almost straight down into relatively clear winter water. This shot
is interesting because you can see the extent of the rocks under the water.
Tip: if conditions here turn out to be too rough for diving from the south side, you may still be able to dive the nearby Railroad Bridge, where the tide is about 10 minutes later. This is not true for the north side, since the north and south sides of the inlet are several miles apart by road.
All in all, I recommend the Shark River inlet over this one, especially for less experienced divers. However, I am told that conditions here can be a lot better, and I have seen pictures to prove it, so I'm not writing this one off yet.
Here's why you might not want to dive here - this picture was taken after Labor Day.
Summer boat traffic is much heavier.
Manasquan was first settled as a part of Shrewsbury in the late 1600's. It takes its name, Man - A - Squaw - Han ( stream of the Island of Squaws ) from the Lenni Lenape Indians who were summer visitors here for hundreds of years. The entire coastline from Manasquan south to Barnegat was once referred to as "Squan Beach." the inlet itself was once a very crooked channel determined by currents and drifting sands, and prone to shifting around, as all natural inlets are.
In 1926, the Point Pleasant Canal opened a connection between the Manasquan River and the north end of Barnegat Bay. This had two consequences: Initially, saltwater intrusion into the freshwater bay destroyed the existing ecosystem there, wiping out oyster beds and many sport fish. Secondly, the canal also diverted much of the river's outward flow away from the ocean inlet, such that in 1931 the inlet actually closed off ! This had a disastrous effect on the local economy, rather than the hoped-for boon.
To reopen the inlet, the Army Corps of Engineers built two stone jetties with rock from the New York City subway diggings. They then dredged the sand from in between them, finally opening the inlet again in August 1931 at a total cost of $600,000. The jetties were reinforced in the early 1980s and again in the late 1990s.
Apart from the ecological issues, the vicious tidal flow in the Point Pleasant Canal has made it a maintenance problem since it's opening. Such an ill-conceived project could never gain approval today.
Dredging operations to re-open the inlet in 1931
These restrictions are clearly posted on both sides of the inlet; also see Regulations.
Since this is a tidal river, you must dive at slack water. If you've never dived a local river or inlet before, you may want to look at the page on Local Diving Conditions.
The 91' clam boat Michelle K hit the north jetty, crossed the channel, and sank in the Manasquan River alongside the south bulkhead on Saturday night, September 26, 2004. The vessel was eventually raised, and nothing remains of the incident but a crack in the concrete wall, but it caused quite a stir at the time.
Sunday morning, on the rocks
On Monday she was almost refloated by pumps, but when it became obvious
she could not be moved before a coming storm, she was resunk in place.
Asbury Park Press
Saturday, Sept. 26, 2004
POINT PLEASANT BEACH -- Four commercial fishermen made an emergency stop in the Manasquan Inlet last night after their boat struck a jetty and took on water. No one was injured when the Michelle K hit the north jetty off Manasquan, said borough police Patrolman Joe Michigan. Realizing that the water coming on board would prevent them from making it to the boat's regular dock, the crew steered for the inlet wall on the Point Pleasant Beach side and moored there, near the northern end of Ocean Avenue at Inlet Drive. The men were probably able to climb off the boat without assistance, Michigan said.
The vessel may have sustained heavy damage. Pumps brought in by firefighters were useless in stopping water from coming onboard. By 10 p.m., the boat had stopped sinking, but its deck was covered with water. It was unclear why the boat hit the jetty. Michigan did not have details about the crew, who were likely heading back from a fishing trip when they got into trouble. Borough police, the Coast Guard and the Marine Division of the State Police were alerted to a boat in distress around 8 p.m.
The Coast Guard is leading the investigation into the accident. The fishermen were being interviewed last night at the Coast Guard station, here. Divers from the Point Pleasant Beach First Aid and Emergency Squad were assessing the boat's damage and working with a towing company to prepare for moving it. It was not clear how long the boat would stay moored next to the wall. The accident attracted many on-lookers on both sides of the inlet, which serves as a border between Monmouth and Ocean counties. The clearest view was on the Manasquan side. Police tape kept civilians away from the boat.
US Coast Guard 5th District
Sunday, Sept. 27, 2004
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.-- the salvage of a fishing vessel that allided with the north jetty in the Manasquan Inlet Saturday evening is being monitored by the Coast Guard Marine Safety Office in Philadelphia and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
The Michelle K, a 91-foot commercial fishing vessel carrying clams, was entering the Manasquan Inlet when it allided with the jetty about 7:30 p.m. causing the vessel to take on water. A Coast Guard boat from Station Manasquan transferred the four crewmembers of the Michelle K to their boat where they were taken back to the station.
A light sheen was visible but contained within an oil boom as an environmental protective measure. The vessel was secured to the south wall of the inlet and currently remains aground, but is not a hazard to navigation.
Northstar was contracted by the responsible party for cleanup and salvage of the damaged vessel. 3,000 gallons of fuel was pumped out of the fuel tanks in an effort to reduce any further danger to the environment. Divers will be placing a magnetic patch to cover the 6-foot by 5-inch hole in the hull of the boat. Once the boat has been refloated, Northstar will take the vessel 1/4 mile to Point Pleasant where permanent repairs will be made.
Asbury Park Press
Monday, Sept. 28, 2004
A. Scott Ferguson
POINT PLEASANT BEACH - the Coast Guard continued yesterday to investigate a crash involving a 91-foot commercial fishing boat in the Manasquan Inlet as well as to oversee the cleanup of gasoline from the boat, authorities said.
The Marine Safety Office in Philadelphia was overseeing the cleanup, Petty Officer John Edwards, a Coast Guard spokesman, said yesterday. Sea Tow, a company based in Atlantic City, was handling the actual cleanup, although Edwards said some of the boat's fuel spilled into the water during the Saturday crash.
The boat, the Michelle K, was heading into the inlet when it hit a jetty, according to police reports. None of the four crew members was injured. The boat hit the jetty on its starboard side, and the impact ruptured the hull, Edwards said. The accident did not block the inlet, but the boat was moored against a wall during the investigation and cleanup, authorities said.
Friday, Oct. 1, 2004
POINT PLEASANT BEACH - the Coast Guard is continuing its investigation to determine what caused a 91-foot commercial clamming vessel to collide with a jetty in the Manasquan Inlet here last weekend. The Michelle K collided with the north jetty of the Manasquan Inlet about 7:30 p.m. Saturday, tearing a 6-foot by 5-inch hole in the right side of the hull, said Petty Officer John Edwards, public information officer based at the Coast Guard Station Atlantic City Station. None of the four crew members on board at the time of the collision were injured.
Petty Officer Edwards said weather does not appear to have been a factor in the incident, adding that conditions were clear that night. According to Petty Officer Kimberly Smith, also of the Coast Guard's Atlantic City Station, the incident is being investigated by the Coast Guard's Marine Safety Office, based in Philadelphia. Coast Guard officials this week could not identify the four crew members pulled from the sinking boat. Petty Officer Smith said the Coast Guard does not keep records of people it rescues unless an incident involves injuries or death.
Petty Officer Edwards said when the call came in the Coast Guard's Manasquan Inlet Station here, the vessel was only 200 yards from the station. Petty Officer Edwards said Coast Guard officers immediately went to the aid of the crew, and brought them to safety aboard a Coast Guard vessel. The Michelle K was then moored against the southern seawall of the inlet while the Point Pleasant Beach Fire Department, along with several other salvage crews, were brought in to try to save the vessel from sinking.
According to Fire Chief A. Jay Fox, the fire company was called to the scene of the sinking ship at 8:20 p.m. Upon their arrival, firefighters began to assist Coast Guard crews and the Point Pleasant First Aid Dive Team in their efforts to keep the Michelle K afloat. "We placed our portable pumps in service, along with those from the Coast Guard and a marine salvage company, in an attempt to keep pace with the rising water," Chief Fox said. Additionally, the fire department ordered more pumps to the scene as the effort to keep the vessel afloat took a turn for the worse.
According to Chief Fox, after 90 minutes of constant pumping, the flow of water entering the vessel was not subsiding, and it became apparent they were fighting a losing battle. "After operating our pumps for an hour and a half, the pumps were not able to keep up with the water filling the boat," Chief Fox said. "At that time, a determination was made that it was no longer safe to operate in the area of the boat, as the boat was becoming unstable and all emergency personnel were removed."
The units from the fire department left the scene shortly after 10:30 p.m., Chief Fox said. Units from the Coast Guard and a marine salvage company assumed control of the scene and the subsequent removal operations. Petty Officer Edwards said the boat was immediately secured and booms were dropped in the water surrounding the vessel to stop any possible fuel leaks. He said while "a small amount" of fuel did seep out of the Michelle K, 3,000 gallons of fuel were safely pumped from the on-board storage tank before it could escape into the water. "A light sheen was visible but contained within the oil boom as an environmental protective measure," Petty Officer Edwards said. Petty Officer Edwards said Northstar, a salvage company, was called in for cleanup and salvage of the damaged vessel.
Now that the Michelle K has been cleaned up, Petty Officer Edwards said dive teams will next place a magnetic cover over hole in the hull. Once the boat has been refloated, Petty Officer Edwards said it will be moved quarter-mile into the inlet to a facility in Point Pleasant where permanent repairs can be made. According to the Coast Guard's National Vessel Documentation Center, the Michelle K is owned by JK Harvesting, L.L.C., of Cape May Court House. The boat's certificate of documentation lists Point Pleasant as it home port. JK Harvesting Inc. could not be reached for comment this week.
Oil slick downstream
(Wednesday) Shortly after a very high tide. The stern is sinking in.
There are two anchors in the river (tuna balls in picture) and two dump trucks shore side.
A heavy steel cable from the dump truck to the mast holds her upright
Big swells, but looking little worse for wear, yet
Finally, heavy equipment is brought in to raise the sunken vessel.
Very heavy equipment.
Raised by crane and pumps, Sunday October 3, after 8 days in the water
The 250 foot derrick barge Columbia has a lifting capacity of 400 tons.
The tugboats hold it in place against the bulkhead.
Lifting slings are off and she floats on her own
Tied up at the clam dock, with a dent in her nose from hitting
the bulkhead. The real damage is underwater.
Floating high - the dirt marks her normal empty waterline. Prior to raising,
everything possible was removed: clam dredge and cages, fuel, anchors, etc.
Stripped of all equipment, but floating
Several weeks later - still at the slip in Point Pleasant
In black, as the Victoria Elizabeth, in 2002