Molasses Reef is the most visited reef in the Upper Florida Keys, and there’s a good reason for that!
Molasses Reef is marked by a 45' light tower. The depth here ranges from 5' to 80'. There are 40 mooring buoys, M1 thru M40. It’s located 6 nautical miles off Key Largo near Rock Harbor. This is a Sanctuary Preservation Area that means no fish or lobster or anything can be taken from here. This includes coral, both dead and alive. The GPS coordinates are 25'00.579 N and 080'22.471 W.
This is one of the worlds most popular dive sites. It’s also a great site for a night dive. It’s made up of a group of separate reefs. There are lots of boulder coral, many well developed spur and groove formations, and a deep wall that falls off from 55' to 80' at the bottom. There’s all kinds of colorful sponges here. This attracts Green Sea Turtles and Hawksbill Turtles, they enjoy feeding on the sponges. This reef contains caves, ledges and holes. The north part close to the light is the best place to snorkel due to the shallow depth of the water. The south part is the deeper water and the best part for scuba diving. Spur and groove formations can be found beginning in the 25' of water and extending down to the 50' depth.
This reef has great concentrations of corals both soft and hard, sponges of all colors and shapes, sea fans, sea whips, moray eels and spotted eels, sea turtles, reef fish, small tropical fish and a few larger pelagic fish such as shark, jacks and barracuda.
It’s located out from land far enough that the Gulfstream water covers it most of the time. The visibility here is usually 60' to 100'. It’s not unusual to have a moderate to strong current.
Molasses Reef gets its name from a barge that ran aground here and sank. It was carrying a cargo of molasses barrels. There’s another wreck here. It’s at mooring buoy M8. She was a 178' Wooden Schooner named Slobodana. She hit the reef and sank in 1887. All that’s left of her is a winch, and it’s grown over with many corals and sponges of all colors. The locals have named this site the Windless Wreck or The Winch Hole. A little ways southwest of M8 is a nice coral ledge that has a hole in it big enough to swim thru. It’s called the Hole in the Wall. At mooring buoy M3 is an old 8' Spanish Anchor. It’s unknown what wreck
this anchor belonged to.
There’s one damaged area of the reef you’ll want to stay away from. It’s on the east side. The mooring buoy’s here are M11 and M12. This is where a 400' freighter named Wellwood ran up on the reef in 1987. But just outside that is a rubble field caused by the grounding. It’s an interesting dive.
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