What To Know & Where To Dive Them In The USA

There are many kinds of artificial reefs in the United States and some of them may surprise you – being made out of NYC subway cars and tanks.

It was noted that when the odd and abandoned Dome House in Florida was reclaimed by the rising sea level, it became a popular place for the fish and other marine life to hang out – it became an artificial reef. There are many artificial reefs in the oceans today ranging from sunken ships to stacks of tires.

If one would like to visit the largest reefs in the world then Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is the largest and most impressive reef system in the world. This reef is considered one of the natural world’s greatest treasures. The second largest reef system is the Mesoamerican Reef in the Caribbean.


Creating Artificial Reefs

Many structures form unintentional reefs – like oil and gas platforms, bridges, lighthouses, and even off-shore wind farms.

When it comes to deliberately constructing reefs, a number of materials have been used to form the environments many marine creatures need to live and hide. These have included cinder blocks, rocks, old tires, and wood.

  • Materials: Can Be Rocks, Old Tires, Wood, and Cinder Blocks

According to the National Ocean Service:

Nowadays, several companies specialize in the design, manufacture, and deployment of long-lasting artificial reefs that are typically constructed of limestone, steel, and concrete


Boskalis is one of the companies that is dedicated to this task. They say they are dedicated:

to provide solutions for environmental enrichment in our offering to clients by using artificial reef technology as an enabler for marine infrastructure or coastal protection works

One of the benefits of manmade reefs is that they can provide local economic benefits by attracting fish to particular locations for the benefit of snorkelers, divers, and fishermen.

Generally, the areas where artificial reefs are created are places where the ocean floor is a featureless bottom. They can also be to control erosion, block the use of trawling nets, and block ship passage. They provide hard surfaces where algae and invertebrates (like oysters, corals, and barnacles) can attach.


Related: Reef Adventures: Places Where You Can See An Entire Underwater World Just By Snorkeling

Sinking Ships As Artificial Reefs

In the oceans today, shipwrecks are the most common form of artificial reefs.

In 2002 the retired American naval ship, the USS Mirror Grove, was sunk in the waters of Key Largo. At the time of its scuttling, it was the largest vessel to have ever been intentionally sunk to create an artificial reef (it is 510 feet or 155 meters long).

  • USS Mirror Grove Largest Ship To Have Been Deliberately Scuttled to Be A Reef in 2002

Another ship that has been sunk to create a reef was the Thunderbolt in 1986 (she was 120 feet or 36.6 meters long). She was sunk four miles south of Marathon and Key Colony Beach in Florida. Today, instead of being the home of seaman, she is the domain of colorful sponges, corals, and hydroids. These support the ocean food chain and create a habitat for various sea creatures.


  • Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary: Home To A Number of Sunken Reefs

Many of these ships can be dived and discovered today. One can see how the ocean is claiming these wrecks. In the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, one can find a number of these vessels that were sunk to provide for diving or even fishing opportunities (that was before it was designated as a national marine sanctuary).

Related: Why Neptune Memorial Reef Is So Much More Than An Ecosystem

Georgia’s Artificial Reefs

Georgia has rather odd artificial reefs. One’s that people may not think of at first glance as being environmentally friendly. These reefs are made up of a whole bunch of junk piled into the ocean – including battle tanks, New York City subway cars, and World War II cargo ships.


  • Made Of: Tanks, NYC Subway Cars, Ships, And Other Stuff

Much of the continental shelf along the Georgian coastline is just a vast sandy wasteland – something like a vast watery sandy desert. When the ocean floor is like that. then real biodiversity can’t happen – it happens in reefs.

  • The 1970s: When Georgia Started Creating Reefs By Dumping Stuff In The Ocean

The idea wasn’t that they would form a gigantic hump of litter but rather an oasis in the middle of a desert. The junk has been deposited there over the last 50 years.

Georgia’s coastline and weather are quite dynamic and so some of the things down there have moved around. Recently there have been efforts to properly map Georgia’s junk-made artificial reefs. One can read more about these Georgian reefs on Wabe.org.

  • Where: Mostly 6-23 Nautical Miles Offshore
  • Number of Reefs: There Are 20 Offshore Artificial Reef Sites In Addition to 8 Decommissioned Department of Defense Tactical Air Crew Training System Towers and two Beach Reefs

Most of Georgia’s artificial reefs are between six and 23 nautical miles offshore and are in 30-75 feet of water. In addition, the state has two experimental deep-water reefs in 120-170 feet of water 50-70 nautical miles offshore according to Saltstrong.com.

Next: A Shocking Comparison: 5 Photos Of The Great Barrier Reef 10 Years Ago & 5 Of It Today

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