In 1987, Florida began to develop a statewide system of underwater parks featuring shipwrecks and other historic sites. The shipwreck preserves have become popular attractions for skin and scuba diving visitors to witness a part of Florida's history first-hand. They contain not only interesting archaeological features, but also an abundance of marine life that make the parks living museums in the sea. Each site is interpreted by an underwater plaque; a brochure and laminated underwater guides are available from local dive shops. The parks are open to the public year round, free of charge. There are eleven parks at present, and several others under development. For a virtual experience on these sites please visit www.museumsinthesea.com. Each Preserve has underwater video footage of the wreck a nd the marine life, as well as a video about the history of the vessel.
If, in the course of your underwater explorations, you find a site that might be a potential candidate for a new Underwater Archaeological Preserve, you are encouraged to nominate it for consideration. For a nomination form, please use the following link (Underwater Archaeological Preserve Questionnaire - .PDF). The Bureau of Archaeological Research invites nominations for new underwater preserves throughout the State of Florida, whether located in inland waters, or offshore within Florida's territorial waters. A preserve should have public access, favorable diving conditions, and interesting cultural and natural site features. If selected, a site may then be designated as a preserve through a cooperative project between government and the public. The development of a new park is an excellent opportunity for a diving group to become involved in an underwater project with lasting results.
The parks are only made possible by a cooperative effort on the part of state and local government, waterfront businesses, and volunteer divers who appreciate Florida's heritage. By placing underwater resources in the public trust, and by explaining their archaeological and historical value to visitors, these sites become important for everyone to preserve. At present, California, Maryland, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, and Vermont have established similar programs. Other state governments are likely to follow this example of education through recreation in the near future.
Visit Our Preserves
Visit our eleven underwater preserves at