American Shoal Dive Site Near Key West Has Taken Ships To Their Deaths. Dive And Discover

American Shoal

The American shoal is a closely connected dive site to Maryland and Pelican Shoals.

Found underneath the waves down near the Summerland and Cudjoe Keys, this Key West dive site is particularly appealing to many experienced divers due to the variety of fish to be seen, and the absence of other divers in the area.

It’s a fair way off shore, which seems to put many divers off, which says more about the plentiful supply of reefs around these waters as it does the apathy of those taking part.

As with many of the beautiful and appealing reefs found around the Florida Keys, this one is particularly dangerous to boats and ships.

It has brought to a nasty end many boats and lives throughout the centuries, and so it’s no surprise that it has its own lighthouse marking the area, much to the relief of sailors navigating through the waters.

The American Shoal lighthouse has been around for quite a while now, even though it’s the last of its kind to patrol the Florida Keys waters.

American Shoal

The Last Of The Florida Keys Lighthouses At American Shoals

Photo courtesy of

First dragged into place back in 1880, the still operational lighthouse shines brightly from its height of 109 feet above the water, and makes it much easier for divers to locate the reefs that they want to explore.

If you are interested in reading more about the Florida Keys lighthouses then check out this great resource, which provides more information than just this dive site.

But getting back to the diving, which is why you found this site after all, the dive site is a live coral reef, so will have grown over many of the victims that have sunk tragically to the bottom over the years.

You can see the odd remnants of decks and masts as you scuba or dive, poking out of the sand.

But the really wonder of the reef is the range of fish that you can encounter.

The Florida Keys are of course renowned for these, but at the shoals Blackfin Tuna, Barracuda, Wahoo, Dolphin, Hogfish and sailfish are all active and swimming around.

So don’t be surprised to see the shadow of a boat full of eager anglers casting their rods in a round you, as of course the fishing is a good as the diving.

If you fancy participating in some scuba diving, and are willing to make the effort to travel so far off the shore, you can hire charters who will be willing to take you out to the reefs.

They will place you right on top of the lighthouse, which is probably where the scuba diving is at its best, with depths around 4 feet only.

The lighthouse is certainly the shallowest of all the reefs surrounding areas, as not far away there are some more substantial drops to near 95 feet or so.

This is where we would recommend the more experienced divers set out to get the best diving experience.

Another good resource for showing the fluctuation of reef and drops can be found at the following link.

It is quite technical and probably more for students of geology, but some of the diagrams of the site are good to get a basic feel of the layout below the waves.

Site Diving Information

GPS Co-ordinates

24 31.568N 081 31.383W


109' lighthouse


Novice - Advanced

Depth of Water

4 feet to 94 feet - reasonably shallow

Best period for diving

January, February, March, April, may, October, November, December

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