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Dive Sites - Reefs
 
 
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Florida's Artificial Reefs List
 

KEY LARGO DIVE SITES

 
TURTLE REEF
 
Depth Range: 25 feet
Experience Level: Intermediate
 
Located at the northernmost site of the Key Largo Marine Sanctuary, most reef species are represented here. Site is relatively shallow, visibility usually good as it's location protects it from the strong currents lying beyond but it is influenced by tidal currents passing through Hawk Channel.
 
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CARYSFORT REEF
 
Depth Range: 35-70 feet
Experience Level: Intermediate
Location: 2513.80 8012.74
 
Because of its distance from the more central dive sites, comparatively few divers visit this reef although it is of exceptional interest and beauty offering a variety of dive options from shallow to deep dives. The shallow upper section of the reef abounds with marine life and is perfect for snorkelers.
 
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CARYSFORT SOUTH
 
Depth Range: 20 feet
Experience Level: Intermediate
Location: 2513.00 8013.06
 
A natural extension of Carysfort Reef, similar in its configuration and displays a double reef structure. It's famous elkhorn coral gardens make this reef a highly attractive location. South of the reef lies the remains of the H.M.S. Winchester, a 933 ton British man-of-war that sank in 1695 after running aground on the reef.
 
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THE ELBOW
 
Depth Range: 12-35 feet
Experience Level: Novice
Location: 2508.82 8015.19
 
Named for the angular shape of the reef, it is a classic example of spurs and grooves meandering down the slope of the reef. The coral fingers are extremely well-defined and are separated by level passages of clean sand; some of the spurs are high enough to be considered miniwalls. Corals and fish abound here but wrecks hold the secret to the appeal of this site. The Civil War Wreck, a 752 ton steamer sunk in 1866 has lovely fingers of elkhorn coral situated at depths of 6-18 feet. The remains of two more wrecks, probably a tug and a barge are also scattered in this area.
 
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KEY LARGO DRY ROCKS
 
Depth Range: Shallow to 25 feet
Experience Level: Novice
 
By far the most famous dive in the Key Largo Marine Sanctuary. The Statue of Christ of the Abyss (also known as Christ of the Deep), rests on a concrete base located within a short canyon. This area is also celebrated for its marvelous specimens of brain coral and the eastern side of the reef displays classic coral fingers which are rich in marine life. Smoky, the celebrated barracuda, is a regular here. This area also includes Grecian Rocks an extremely popular reef among snorkelers.
 
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GRECIAN ROCKS
 
Depth Range: Shallow to 25 feet
Experience Level: Novice
 
Grecian Rocks is an exceptionally popular reef for snorkelers. The grass and sand on the back side provide good anchorage, and the shallow reef buffers the waves so the waters are very calm even on windy days. It is very easy for snorkelers to swim from the boat up to the reefline where the corals and brightly colored fish abound.
 
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THE CHRIST OF THE DEEP STATUE
 
Depth: 25 feet
Experience Level: Novice
 
The Christ Statue was cast in Italy and donated to the Underwater Society of America by Egidi Cressi, an Italian industrialist and diving equipment manufacturer. It is a 9 foot tall bronze duplicate of the Christ of the Abysses statue, which stands in 50 feet of water off Genoa, Italy. Set in a beautiful reef area known for its outstanding brain corals, the figure of Christ stands silhouetted against the blue waters of the ocean, His arms upraised to the surface. This dramatic and memorable picture is one that most diving visitors to the Keys shouldn't miss.
 
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THE BENWOOD
 
Depth Range: 50 feet offshore -  20 feet inshore
Experience Level: Novice to Intermediate
Location: 2503.16 8020.02
 
An English built cargo vessel lost in a tragic chain of events in 1942. The Benwood rests on a level expanse of sand noticeably lacking in coral growth, so apart from the wreck itself there is comparatively little to see. Its fractured stern lies directly beneath the marker at a depth of 2 feet, while its bow points offshore at a depth of 45 feet. The bow section looms up out of the sand, in contrast with the rest of the ship which is almost wholly submerged.
 
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FRENCH REEF
 
Depth Range: Shallow to 100 feet
Experience Level: Novice to Advanced
Location: 2502.06 8021.00
 
An exceptionally beautiful site, the ever popular reef is crammed full of caves, canyons, ledges, tunnels and swim-throughs. French Reef is home to innumerable fish species.
 
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BLUE HOLE
 
Depth Range: 30-70 feet
Experience Level: Intermediate
 
A relatively deep site, slopes gently from a depth of 30 ft. down to the sandy seafloor, depth 70 ft. To find the Blue Hole itself, look for two sand chutes running from the slope of the reef to its base; south of the chutes a type of mound thrusts its way upwards out of a deep canyon. The seafloor is of clean sand, without the well-developed staghorn and elkhorn colonies observed elsewhere.
 
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MOLASSES REEF
 
Depth Range: Shallow to 40 feet
Experience Level: Novice to Intermediate
Location: 2500.74 8022.40
 
Reigns as the world's most popular dive site. The reef comprises a classic spur and groove system which begins near the surface and falls of gradually to a depth of 55 ft. It is washed by the Gulf Stream, so visibility is usually excellent. Impressive concentrations of marine flora and fauna cover just about the entire tropical reef spectrum.
 

ISLAMORADA DIVE SITES

 
PICKLES REEF
 
Depth Range: 10-25 feet
Experience Level: Novice to Intermediate
Location: 2459.23 8024.88
 
An elongated reef with familiar spurs and grooves configurations; an excellent place for a second dive. The combination of shallow reef and sandy seafloor is full of possibilities for excellent macro photography.
 
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CONCH REEF 
 
Depth Range: Shallow to 100 feet
Experience Level: Novice to Advanced
Location: 2457.11 8027.57
 
The most remarkable aspect of this reef is its proliferation of barrel sponges covering much of the reef area; the second is its depth. The upper section of the slope lies at an average depth of 50 ft., but its base extends to 90 ft. where a wide strip of sand running parallel to the reef lends added definition to its contours. You will observe a variety of gorgonians and reef species, and thanks to the depth its not unusual to view pelagic fish.
 
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LITTLE CONCH REEF
 
Depth Range: 30 feet
Experience Level: Intermediate
Location: 2456.49 8028.59
 
A level, comparatively long reef full of coral heads, rocks, low profile spurs and grooves, crisscrossed by ledges especially in its western section. Tube sponges and seafan colonies grace the area.
 
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THE SAN JOSE AND THE INFANTE
 
Depth Range: 12-15 feet
Experience Level: Novice
Location 1410.85 4326.77
 
Two galleons belonging to the famous Silver Plate Fleet of 1733 were lost in a hurricane off the Keys and went down within a mile of one another. Not much is left of the Infante except some timber planking originally from the ship's deck and ballast stones of all shapes and sizes scattered over roughly an acre. The San Jose collided with the sand flats, her stern section disintegrated and became detached from the main hull which sank another 200 yards away with its ballast stones.
 
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DAVIS REEF
 
Depth Range: Shallow to 80 feet
Experience Level: Novice
Location 2455.58 8030.10
 
A popular outer reef on the edge of a flat shallow bank. Hugh schools of fish have made this reef famous along with four green morays who are permanent residents here. Another attraction adorning this reef is a statue of a Buddha that sits on a concrete block in the middle of a sand plain.
 
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CROCKER REEF
 
Depth Range: 40-80 feet
Experience Level: Intermediate
Location: 2454.20 8031.60
 
An extensive collection of formations which should probably be treated as a series of individual dive sites each with its own name.
 
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HENS & CHICKENS REEF
 
Depth Range: 20-22 feet
Experience Level: Novice
Location: 2455.90 8032.90
 
A group of patch reefs whose coral formations from the air appear to radiate outwards from the center like a mother hen surrounded by chickens. A shallow inshore site this reef displays a remarkable proliferation of fish and corals.
 
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ALLIGATOR REEF 
 
Depth Range: 25-30 feet
Experience Level: Intermediate
Location: 2450.72 8036.93
 
The reef was named after the USS Alligator, a schooner which ran aground here in 1825 and whose remains are still visible in the open waters southeast of its famous light tower. The reef displays spurs and grooves coursing down a moderate slope as well as more isolated coral heads. It is especially noted for its size, its deep ravines and intricately patterned coral crevices.
 

MARATHON DIVE SITES

 
SOMBRERO REEF
 
Depth Range: 6-25 feet
Experience Level: Novice
Location: 2437.50 8106.50
 
Marked by Sombrero Light, this beautiful reef features well-defined spurs or fingers of reef building corals separated by wide channels of gleaming white sand. Brilliant colors and diverse marine life make this a most popular dive site along with a eight feet high natural coral bridge known as "The Arch".
 
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DELTA SHOAL
 
Depth Range: 6-25 feet
Experience Level: Novice
Location: 2437.78 8105.49
 
Another popular dive site eastward of Sombrero Light, features massive coral fingers and broad expanses of sandy bottom that separate the spurs that form this reef. Two interesting wrecks lie in this area - the Delta Shoals Barge behind the east end features typical shallow water soft corals and an abundance of fish life, perfect for snorkeling. The other is the Ivory Coast Wreck, a sunken slave ship lost in 1853, although little is recognizable any more.
 

MARATHON'S MIDDLE REEFS

 
COFFINS PATCH
 
Depth Range: 10-25 feet
Experience Level: Novice
 
Marathon has a wide variety of prime shallow dive locations throughout their middle reefs. Most are typically no deeper than 25 ft. and all feature an abundance of fish and a variety of coral growth. A stake marks this location by an iron pipe that extends several feet out of the water. Legend has led us to believe it is the remnant of a mariners light structure destroyed in the horrific 1935 Labor Day hurricane.  Beware the stake is totally encrusted with fire coral!
 
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THUNDERBOLT WRECK 
 
Depth Range: 75-120 feet
Experience Level: Advanced
Location: 2439.48 8057.90
 
A 188 ft. research vessel once used for studying lightning and sunk in 1986, rests upright in 120 feet of water. At 85 feet, her bow is dominated by a huge horizontal reel, dropping over the stern of the vessel divers can examine huge twin props. Large hatches off the main deck open into the engine compartments where it is possible to descend into the hull to 110 feet.
 
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ADELAIDE BAKER - (The "Duck Key Wreck")
 
Depth Range:  18-29 feet
Experience Level:  Novice 
 
The Adelaide Baker was built in 1863 and was 153 feet long with a beam of 35 feet and a hold of 21 feet.  She was a three masted barque.  She wrecked on January 28, 1889 while bound for Savannah with a load of sawn timber.  There was no loss of life.  What is left of the wreck covers over 1400 feet. 
 
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PORKFISH
 
Depth Range:  16-27 feet 
Experience Level:  Novice
 
This is a nice ledge reef with one of the mast sections of the Adelaide Baker on the reef edge.  Nurse sharks are frequently seen in addition to the teems of tropical fish.
 
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CRITTER RIDGE
 
Depth Range:  18-31 feet
Experience Level:  Novice
 
A beautiful long coral ledge, easy to navigate with every sea critter you can think of... turtles, eels, angelfish, conchs, skates, overhangs with deep crevices and beautiful varieties of corals, including a small patch of pillar coral. Dolphins may visit underwater as well!
 
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THE GAP
 
Depth Range:  50-80 feet
Experience Level:  Intermediate
 
A drop off reef running east to west.  It slopes from 50 feet north to 80 feet south.  You'll see larger than average angel fish due to the depth.  Occasional strong current.
 
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40-60 REEF - (Also known as "Edge of Night")
 
Depth Range:  40-60 feet
Experience Level:  Intermediate
 
A large reef patch with a sloping edge that drops from 40 to 65 feet.
 
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DONUT
 
Depth Range:  8 to 22 feet
 
Experience Level:  Novice
 
This reef is quite easy to navigate due to it's shape like a donut.  Very popular for night dives. There are many beautiful coral heads.  Plan on taking about 30 to 45 minutes to circumnavigate the reef.  Once complete then go into the center.  The Northwest is the best ledge.
 
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SHRIMPBOAT REEF
 
Depth Range:  35 to 55 feet
Experience Level:  Intermediate
 
Sloping reef with scattered remains of a shrimp boat.  Due to the wreckage, walls of fish varieties and colorful corals with occasional underwater dolphin visits.
 

LOWER KEYS DIVE SITES & KEY WEST

 
LOOE KEY REEF
 
Depth Range: 5-35 feet
Experience Level: Novice to   Intermediate and Advanced
 
One of the loveliest and most prolific reefs in the Keys. The frigate, H.M.S. Looe, accidentally ran hard aground in 1744; remains of the ship lie between two fingers of coral near the eastern end of the reef although only the ballast and anchor remain visible to the trained eye. Totally unlike any of the reefs in the Keys, containing a variety of corals, monastera, sea fans and innumerable fish species this makes for an exceptional diving experience. Looe Key is a designated marine sanctuary.
 
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ADOLPHUS BUSCH
 
Depth Range: maximum depth 110 feet
Experience Level:  Advanced
 
Located about 5 miles off shore of Cudjoe Key, it is 3 miles west of Looe Key.  The Adolphus Busch was cleaned and prepared for divers with large holes cut for nice swim through and was sunk December 1998 as an artificial reef.  There are three resident Jewfish living on the wreck and are seen on many dives.  The largest weights in at about 400 pounds.  The ship is 210 feet long and the maximum depth is 110 feet, a very good dive for nitrox.  This dive should be considered an advanced dive and divers wishing to dive the ship should have an Advanced Open Water certification or plan to be accompanied by an instructor or divemaster.
 
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CONTENT KEYS
 
Depth Range: 8-15 feet
Experience Level: Novice
 
Positioned on the Gulf side southwest of Marathon, this area is sheltered by the Keys and is a good alternative for shallow diving on a windy day. Rounded starlet corals grow here and numerous potholes and cracks in the coral rock make this an ideal home for both lobster and stone crab.
 
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SOUTH BEACH PATCHES 
 
Depth Range: 15 feet
Experience Level: Novice to Intermediate
 
Scores of coral patches and reefs run along the southern shore of Key West. The most prominent ones are off the foot of Duval Street, Simonton Street, Casa Marina Hotel, Bertha Street, main bathing beach and off the airport. Almost any fish life that you might normally find on the outside reef can be found here.
 
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KEY WEST HARBOR
 
Depth Range: 30 feet
Experience Level: Advanced
 
Watch for heavy commercial boat traffic in this harbor which has been in use since the middle of the 16th century. At the north end of Simonton Street is a public boat ramp and dingy landing area that gives access to this advanced diving area. Interesting artifacts have been found in this location.
 
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SAND KEY
 
Depth Range: Awash to 3-65 feet
Experience Level: All Levels
Location: 2427.19 8152.58
 
Probably the most popular dive and snorkeling spots in the Lower Keys, it is a simple ground-up coral and small shell island without vegetation, topped by a red iron lighthouse built in 1853 and now on the historical register. The reef itself consists mostly of rock fingers and gullies with sandy bottoms between cliff-like structures and extensive areas of staghorn and elkhorn coral.
 
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OUTSIDE REEFS 
 
Depth Range: 40-210 feet
Experience Level: Intermediate and Advanced
 
For the more experienced diver, all along the Keys south of the main shallow reefs, are the Gulf Stream reefs. A prolific gallery of deep-water corals and fish, these deep dives are different from anything anywhere else in the Keys.
 
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ROCK KEY AND EASTERN DRY ROCKS 
 
Depth Range: 5-35 feet
Experience Level: All levels
Location: 2427.21 8151.60 Rock Key
Location: 2427.50 8150.44 Dry Rocks
 
Two popular dive spots typical of most reef formations in the area with long fingers of coral with sand and coral-filled canyons in between. But their real claim to fame are their 19th century wrecks - providing huge quantities of ballast and artifacts.
 
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WESTERN DRY ROCKS
 
Depth Range: 5-120 feet
Experience Level: Novice to Advanced
 
Further away from popular reefs closer to Key West, this area has not suffered the reef damage associated with heavy usage. Large quantities of elkhorn and staghorn coral, numerous crevices and caves, and large marine life make this well worth a long trip.
 
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ALEXANDER'S WRECK
 
Depth Range: 30 feet
Experience Level: Novice to Advanced
 
A destroyer escort, purchased from the Navy and sunk by local commercial salver Chet Alexander, is a popular dive spot but only occasionally visited by commercial dive boats. The wreck is broken in half, with the stern section lying 150 yards or so north of the bow, which is awash on most tides. Despite the fact that part of the hull is clear of the water, the wreck is difficult to see - a number of captains have hit the jagged metal tear that juts above the water, ruining props and rudders. This former navy vessel lies on its side and is home for thousands of fish and the hull itself is covered with Leavy oysters.
 
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THE AQUANAUT
 
Depth Range: 75 feet
Experience Level: Intermediate to Advanced
 
One of Chet Alexander's other dive sites is the wreck of the tugboat Aquanaut. This 55' wooden salvage tug sits upright in 75 feet of water on the edge of the Gulfstream on a flat sandy bottom. The tug is intact and in nearly perfect condition. The wreck hosts a variety of fish life, when on the deck of the ship a macro closeup lens is very useful.
 
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JOE'S TUG
 
Depth Range: 65 feet
Experience Level: Intermediate to Advanced
 
A small tugboat, discovered recently by a local diver, sits upright and is an easy swim through. Open access to the wheel house and aft deck make this an enjoyable dive. Visibility is usually good due to its location outside of the reef and offers a great photographic location with a wide variety of corals and marine life.
 
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COTTRELL REEF (GULF SIDE REEF)
 
Depth Range: 3-15 feet
Experience Level: Novice or Intermediate
 
An excellent reef for beginning snorkelers and an alternative dive spot when the weather is bad on the Atlantic side of the Keys. Covered with gorgonians and sponges, the ledges and banks of this reef provide a wide variety of reef fish.
 
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THE LAKES
 
Depth Range: 5-30 feet
Experience Level: All Levels
 
A fascinating snorkeling area, this shallow area is a series of grassy flats and banks completely encompassing a shallow lagoon protected by a string of islands and reefs directly west of Key West.
 
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MARQUESAS KEYS
 
Depth Range: 5-30 feet
Experience Level: All Levels
 
The only known atoll in the Atlantic Ocean. The circle of islands is about 3.5 miles across and 22 miles west of Key West and like most of the lower Keys is a bird sanctuary and National Wilderness Area. Wrecks in this area attract large marine life and huge clusters of coral heads can be found off the entire southern edge of the islands in about 8-12 feet of water. Several of the islands have long, white, sandy beaches and excellent anchorages can be found.
 

 
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