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Alligator Reef
Alligator Reef is located in Florida
Alligator Reef
Location in Florida
Alligator Reef is located in Caribbean
Alligator Reef
Location in Caribbean
Location Caribbean
Coordinates 24°50′50″N 080°37′11″W / 24.84722°N 80.61972°W / 24.84722; -80.61972
Country United States
Type reef
Alligator Reef
Fish beneath the Alligator Reef Light in 2006

Alligator Reef is a coral reef located within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. It lies to the southeast of Upper Matecumbe Key. This reef lies within a Sanctuary Preservation Area (SPA).


Alligator Reef is named for the USS Alligator, a ship assigned to suppress the trade of slaves coming from the African coast in the 1820s. In November 1822, the Alligator was escorting a convoy of merchant ships when it ran aground on the shallow reef. Despite efforts to save the damaged ship, the United States sank the USS Alligator to prevent pirates from pillaging the remains of the boat. The Alligator Reef Light sits on Alligator Reef. The wreck of the USS Alligator is located 200 feet southwest of the lighthouse and can be seen by snorkelers and divers year-round.


The protected reef is located four nautical miles offshore and is trademarked by the black and white lighthouse present within the reef. Four yellow buoys designate the perimeter of the reef; as anchoring in the SPA is forbidden, there are several buoys in the SPA for mooring boats. Anchoring on the reef is not allowed unless the anchor is fixed to the sandy bottom, as an anchor placed on the reef itself can damage and kill the coral. Tourists venture to the reef daily to relax in the serenity the reef provides. With a variety of aquatic species present, this reef is ideal for beginning snorkelers and divers; some parts of the reef lie at a depth of only eight feet. Many local dive and snorkel boats venture to the reef to provide guided instruction for beginners.

The status of a protected reef restricts any removal of aquatic life. Fishing of any kind is not permitted within the reef and the removal of any coral, sand, shells, or any form of life is prohibited.

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