Alligator Reef began as a shipwreck in the waters of the Florida Keys

Alligator Reef is marked by a 136' tall lighthouse. The depth here ranges from 6' to 70'. There are 10 mooring buoys, A1 thru A10. It’s located 3.5 miles southeast of Upper Matacumbe Key. This is a designated Sanctuary Preservation Area that means you can’t take any fish or lobster. Although catch and release fishing by trolling is allowed in this Sanctuary Preservation Area. The GPS coordinates are 24'51.779N and 080'37.339W.

This reef gets its name from the USS Alligator. An 86' man-of-war ship built in 1820. Her purpose was to escort ships traveling from the West Indies through the Caribbean Sea and into the Florida Straights. She carried large bronze cannons to fend off the Pirates of the Caribbean who were always present in these waters. During one battle in November 1822 while on her way to Key West her Commander was shot and later died of his wounds. In 1825 while on escort she ran aground on the reef as she was battling the Caribbean Pirates. The United States Government along with some Bahamian Salvagers stripped the ship of all her valuables and blew her up to keep the pirates from profiting from her. All that’s visibly left of her are two piles of ballast stones. They’re about 200 yards southeast of the lighthouse in the open water. They’re overgrown with corals, sponges and other marine plants. One of the piles has become home to a large green moray eel.

This reef has grown into one of the largest reef systems in the Upper Keys. It’s one-half mile long and it’s built on a shipwreck. The shallow part is 6' deep. There are spur and groove formations growing on a gradual slope all the way to the bottom. There are many large single coral heads on the ocean floor. You can expect to see nurse shark , rays, barracuda, grouper, schooling fish, lobster and huge parrot fish. The visibility is usually good here and the current isn’t strong.

About 300 yards west southwest of the lighthouse is Alligator Gully. It lined with high walls that form ledges and crevices laced with corals. This area attracts innumerable fish of all kinds.

Both recreational and commercial divers use this dive site. The commercial area is marked off and is easy to avoid. It consists of the rubble area and the surrounding flats. Commercial activities include collecting tropical fish and catching baitfish such as ballyhoo.

This is a great Florida Keys dive site that the whole family to enjoy.

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