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American Shoal, A Shipping Nightmare Is A Scuba Adventure

The American Shoal lighthouse was built in 1880 and was the last of the lighthouses to be placed in the Florida Keys.

Operational today, this Florida Keys lighthouse warns passing ships of their pending proximity to this beautiful, and dangerous coral reef.

In fact, this is considered to be one of the more dangerous reefs in the Florida Keys.

Over the centuries, this reef has wrecked numerous ships. On your next Key West dive you should easily be able to discover scattered bits and pieces of their remains.

Many of these remnants will be encrusted with coral, while some will be partially buried in the sandy bottom.

If you're scuba diving in Key West, you, or your companions, will find that this is also a great Florida Keys snorkeling site. At the lighthouse, the water is the shallowest at 4 feet in depth.

American Shoal Lighthouse

Florida Keys Last Lighthouse To Be Built

Further out, it drops to a depth of 94 feet making this also good for reef diving. This diversity in depth is one of the reasons why diving parties pick this site. It's the perfect combination for groups that include advanced divers, novices, and snorkelers.

Another bonus is that this Key West dive site is less frequently visited than Looe Key Reef. This makes it's a more relaxing, less congested Florida Keys dive spot.

However, don't discount Looe Key Reef. It consistently ranks in the top 10 dive sites, and if time permits, you could even squeeze in a wreck dive on the popular Adolphus Busch.

You should realize that this reef dive is a fairly long way out from Key West Fl. This means dive trips from this major hub aren't that plentiful. You may have more luck with Florida Keys dive charters located further up the Lower Keys.

Don't let the distance dissuade you however. This is an absolutely beautiful coral reef and the lighter traffic is a true bonus.

At-A-Glance Reef Dive Description
and GPS Coordinates

American Shoal
15 miles east of Key West
GPS Co-ordinates
24 31.568N 081 31.383W
109' lighthouse
Novice - Advanced
4 - 94'
Reef Site Description
Shallow at the lighthouse. Good spur and groove formation. Relatively close to Looe Key Reef but not as busy. There are also bits and pieces of coral encrusted ship remnants scattered over the ocean floor from the many vessels that have wrecked here over the centuries
Snorkel Site
Snorkeling is best around the base of the lighthouse

Marine Life
Grouper, mangrove snapper, yellowtail, barracuda, nurse shark, moray eel, hogfish, coral heads, brain coral, purple sea fans, permit, blackfin tuna and larger pelagic species such as sailfish are found at deeper levels

Even though it's a bit further out, American Shoal is one of the nicer Florida Keys dive sites. Especially since it has the value of the added depth which many of the Florida Keys coral reefs don't.

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Local Weather Zip Codes

Key Largo - 33037
Marathon - 33050
Key West - 33040