[graphic] National Park Service Arrowhead and link to NPS.gov
 [graphic] Link to Florida Home  [graphic] link to list of sites  [graphic] link to map  [graphic] link to essays  [graphic] link to learn more  [graphic] link to itineraries  [graphic] link to NR Home
[graphic] Property Title

Remains of USS Alligator
Photo courtesy of FLKeysDiving.com
The National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places, Archeology Program and Submerged Resources Center in partnership with the Florida Division of Historical Resources, Underwater Archaeological Section of the Bureau of Archaeological Research and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers invite you to explore Florida Shipwrecks: 300 Years of Maritime History. This travel itinerary highlights 13 historic shipwrecks listed in the National Register of Historic Places that are accessible to divers and reveal the wonders and mysteries of Florida's maritime past.

The waters around Florida have been swarming with ships for more than 6,000 years. American Indians used dugout canoes to travel up and down Florida's rivers and around the coast. When the Spanish first explored and later colonized Cuba and the Florida Panhandle, their wooden-hulled sailing ships were common sights in Florida's waters. Until the advent of railroads on the Florida Peninsula, ships and boats were vital to the development of the region as they were the most efficient means of transporting goods and passengers. Ever since the earliest European contact with the American continents, Florida has been a converging point for maritime trade routes connecting Europe, North America, the Caribbean, Central and South America and the Gulf of Mexico. Traversing Florida's waters could be hazardous; the water currents, offshore geography and geological hazards, including the Florida Reef and the Gulf Stream, traversed with narrow, shallow channels, are compounded by powerful hurricanes, and have caused many ships to founder and wreck. Not surprisingly, there are a large number of shipwrecks in the seas surrounding Florida. These vessels are time capsules from an earlier age and contain a wealth of information on the history of commerce and transport in Florida and the greater Caribbean area.

[photo] Aerial view of Bird Key Wreck in Dry Tortugas National Park
Photo by and courtesy of National Park Service Submerged Resources Center

Florida's shipwrecks are important for many different reasons. The story of each shipwreck adds to the intricate tapestry of local history. Dugout canoes provide information about American Indians who occupied the area for thousands of years. During more recent times, some vessels were locally famous and contributed to the development of Florida's economy. Others provide information on the history of commerce in the region from the days of Spanish treasure fleets up through the age of steamboats and continuing into present day. Shipwrecks contain important information not found in history books or archival records and can supplement our understanding of the past.

Florida Shipwrecks: 300 Years of Maritime History offers several ways to discover the places that reflect this significant aspect of Florida's maritime history. Each highlighted shipwreck features a brief description of the wreck's historic significance, color photographs and public accessibility information. At the bottom of each page the visitor will find links to three essays: Florida Maritime History, Partners in Preservation and Why Preserve Shipwrecks. These essays provide historic background, or "contexts," for the places included in the itinerary. In the Learn More section, the itinerary links to regional and local websites that provide visitors with further information regarding cultural events, special activities, and lodging and dining possibilities. Visitors may be interested in Historic Hotels of America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, located in Florida. The itinerary can be viewed online, or printed out if you plan to visit Florida in person.

Diver at Half Moon

Photo courtesy of the Florida Division of Historical Resources
Most of the shipwrecks listed in this travel itinerary are easily accessible and fascinating dive locations. Some of the shipwrecks are located within Dry Tortugas National Park, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary or one of Florida's Underwater Archeological Preserves. The others are within the territorial waters of the United States and under the jurisdiction of the state of Florida. Near most of these shipwrecks visitors will find local dive shops with further information, mooring buoys, marked underwater trails, laminated underwater maps for diving and snorkeling, shore-based exhibits with artifacts that interpret the sites for divers and non-divers alike and brochures. Except for the Maple Leaf (closed to divers), all sites are within generally accepted safe recreational diving limits and everyone is welcome to explore the sites, enjoy the surrounding undersea marine life and learn more about Florida's exciting maritime history. As with all historical and archeological sites on public uplands or submerged bottomlands, the shipwrecks are protected in accordance with Federal and/or Florida laws. The government agencies responsible for their management have established programs for their preservation, protection and interpretation, and for authorizing any excavation, disturbance or removal of artifacts. Living coral also are protected by law in Florida and must not be disturbed. It is important to remember that many of these shipwrecks have been damaged or are in an advanced stage of deterioration due to their being submerged for so many years. Divers today can help preserve these wrecks for future generations by not touching or removing anything from the shipwrecks or disturbing the surrounding sediment or marine life. When diving, always display the "diver down" flag and use mooring buoys to prevent anchor damage to the wreck sites.

Florida Shipwrecks: 300 Years of Maritime History is part of the Department of the Interior's strategy to promote public awareness of history and encourage visits to historic places throughout the Nation. The National Register of Historic Places partners with communities, regions and heritage areas throughout the United States to create online travel itineraries. Using places nominated by State, Federal and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices and listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the itineraries help potential visitors plan trips by highlighting the amazing diversity of this country's historic places and providing public accessibility information for each featured site. Florida Shipwrecks: 300 Years of Maritime History is the 38th National Register travel itinerary in this ongoing series. The National Register of Historic Places hopes you enjoy this virtual tour of Florida Shipwrecks. If you have any comments or questions, please just click on the provided e-mail address, "comments or questions" located at the bottom of each page.

[graphic] Florida Shipwrecks' Essays

[graphic] National Park Service Arrowhead and link to NPS.gov