Within the sanctuary, there are many opportunities for divers and snorkelers to explore Florida Keys history and heritage. Thousands of years of human activity in the area has left shipwrecks, navigation aids, and other structures and sites on the seafloor. Many shipwrecks are easily identified as historical resources, but fragmentary remains in the form of pottery, wooden timbers, iron spikes, and glassware are all evidence of the past. Unlike other natural resources in the sanctuary, historical resources are non-renewable and cannot re-grow. Please help ensure that this heritage is available for future generations to enjoy by not disturbing or removing historical resources.

Divers with flashlights swimming around a wheel-like structure on the seafloor

Shipwreck Trail

Of the many historical shipwrecks in the Florida Keys, nine have been designated as part of the Florida Keys Shipwreck Trail.

Drawing of paddlewheel steamship

Historic Navigation Aids

In the 19th century, the U. S. Government sought to prevent shipwrecks by installing unlit navigation aids in addition to the iconic reef lighthouses. Today, sunken remains of these beacons can be found in shallow water to explore.

Metal shipwreck structure with many soft corals growing on it


Learn about sanctuary shipwrecks that have been archaeologically investigated.

People standing on a boat holding large marine sponges

Historical Ecology

Historical ecology provides a means to understand the current state of the sanctuary's ecology by examining past human activities and environmental forces.

Two divers, using a measuring tape, document a shipwreck

Historical Resource Permits

Individuals and organizations desiring to conduct archaeological research within the sanctuary must apply for a permit.

Diver and large historic anchor

Historical Resource Protection

Learn more about how the public can help protect the sanctuary's maritime heritage and where to view artifacts recovered during archaeological investigations.

Multiple divers mapping a shipwreck

Maritime Heritage Partnerships

Many individuals and organizations have contributed to maritime heritage documentation and conservation in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Two divers inspecting a shipwreck on the seafloor


Reference materials used to compile information about maritime heritage and history in the Florida Keys.