Average Depth: 20 ft.
Max Depth: 55 ft.
Elbow Reef: The reef is home to numerous wrecks which in themselves are well worth exploring. Mike’s Wreck now finally known as the Hannah M. Beel, the City of Washington, and the Tonawanda are underwater photography meccas well worth planning dive trips to.
Elbow Reef is a popular dive spot because of its beautiful reefs that have grown up around some very old shipwrecks. The Gulf Stream passes closer to Elbow than many other Key Largo reefs which means in exchange for a bit of current, the water on Elbow is usually clear blue. The area is sometimes called “wreck reef” because of the many ship remnants that have been found at this spot. Some of the wrecks have been down for over 100 years and have fostered a great deal of coral growth. A large variety of sea creatures inhabit Elbow.
Elbow is marked by a 36-foot light tower. On the east-northeast side of the tower lies the shipwreck, City of Washington, which is the most intact ship in The Elbow and went aground in 1911. This is a great spot for snorkeling. Mike’s Wreck is also nearby and is in 18 to 25 feet of water. The “Civil War Wreck” is close to the tower and is a favorite spot of photographers. The wreck is nearly disintegrated except for piles of timber with bronze fastening pins. The area is small but home to lots of colorful fish and invertebrates. Tonawanda, a 300-foot long steam freighter sank in 1866 and lies in 20 to 30 feet.
Just southeast of this area you’ll want to explore another spur and groove formation. This is aptly named the Fingers for it’s massive elkhorn gorgonian coral. It’s famous for the beautiful coral and the hundreds of tropical fish that dart and swim in and around it’s colorful branches.
The deepest portion of the reef is the southern section which is marked by a buoy. Here the bottom slopes toward a ledge known as “Nelson’s Ledge”. At the ledge the bottom drops more steeply to sandy bottom at 85 feet. Giant barrel sponges, brain and star corals cover the bottom.
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