Location: Middle Keys, FL
Perhaps the crown jewel of technical wreck dives found in the Florida Keys, the USS Wilkes-Barre was formerly a 608-foot long Cleveland Class cruiser built in 1942 and commissioned on July 1, 1944. The USS Wilkes-Barre is by far the largest ship to be reefed in the Florida Keys, even bigger than the Spiegel Grove. For the technically qualified diver, the USS Wilkes-Barre offers an exciting adventure at deep depths (200+).
The Wilkes-Barre saw quite a bit of action during World War II. She was decommissioned on October 9, 1947, and placed at Philadelphia until January 15, 1971, when the Navy struck her from its list.
On May 12, 1972, this ship was used as the subject for underwater explosive tests. The explosion broke the ship in two. Her stern sank quickly, but her forward section needed an additional scuttling charge to send her to the ocean's floor. Today the Wilkes-Barre rests in two separate pieces in 140 to 250 feet of water and serves as an artificial reef. Each half is a separate dive. The stern is upright with a profile of 140 to 250 while the bow lies on her starboard side and gives a profile of 200 to 250 feet deep.
Because of her deep resting spot, the Wilkes-Barre can only be dove by very experienced deep divers. Her superstructure can be reached at 145 feet.