Elbow Reef has claimed more shipwrecks than any other in the Florida Keys

Elbow Reef is marked by a light tower that stands 36' tall. The depth here ranges from 12' to 85'. There are 10 mooring buoys, E1 thru E10. Absolutely no fishing or lobstering or the taking of anything is allowed here. It’s located inside John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park . The GPS coordinates are 25'08.820N and 080'15.190W.

The reef gets its name because of the angular shape. From the air it looks like an elbow. This reef is out further from land than most other reefs. It’s close to the Gulfstream. This assures great visibility most of the time. The trade off for the great vis is moderate to strong currents.

There are beautiful coral formations. The reef is spur and groove. Some of the spurs are so large they create a wall effect. There are large formations of elkhorn coral with schools of fish swaying in the current underneath. There’s lots of ledges to explore. One of the best is in the southern part of the reef it’s called Nelson’s Ledge. At this point the reef drops off fast to the bottom at 85'.

Nurse shark sleeping under ledge

A big draw for divers at this dive site is the many wrecks this reef has claimed. The City of Washington is in 25' of water on the east northeast side of the light tower. Mike’s Wreck, a steel barge is in 18' to 20' of water at mooring buoys E2 and E3. The Tonawanda a 300' steam freighter is in 20' to 30' of water, it sank in 1866. It's at the E7 buoy. About 100 yards west of it is a 6' long cannon off a really old wreck. There’s a train wheel and the bones of the ship that was carrying the cargo of train wheels when she hit the reef and sank. And there’s the Civil War Wreck, it was a 752 ton steamer that sank in 1866. There’s not much left of her now, just some fasteners and wooden beams.

All the wrecks and beautiful coral formations that have grown around the old wrecks make this a great site for underwater photography. Maybe it’s sharks and barracudas you’re into. They’re usually hanging around the wrecks. This site will keep you swimming for a long time.

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