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Alligator Reef


Alligator Reef Light is located 4 nautical miles east of Indian Key, near Islamorada. It marks the location of a reef teeming with more than 500 species of marine life, a pirate-hunter shipwreck, as well as the 144-year-old lighthouse. Built in 1873, Alligator Reef Lighthouse stands guard in honor of its namesake, the USS Alligator.

The station was first lit in 1873. This lighthouse was expensive for the time, costing $185,000 to build. The structure is an iron pile skeleton with a platform 136 feet above the water. It is a white octagonal pyramid skeleton framework on a black pile foundation, enclosing a square dwelling and a stair cylinder. To support the tower, a 2,000-lb hammer was used to drive the 12-inch iron pilings ten feet into the coral. The lantern is black. The original lens was a First Order Fresnel.

The name of the reef and its lighthouse honors the US Navy schooner Alligator, part of the Navy’s Anti-Piracy Squadron that had been established in Key West. The Alligator went aground at this location in 1822. It was blown up after removing as much as possible from it, to prevent it from being used by pirates. Countless vessels had also sunk here on the reef's jagged coral.

Alligator Reef Lighthouse was automated in 1963 and was last operational in July 2014. It was replaced by a 16-foot steel structure with a less powerful light, located adjacent to it.

A 52 Weeks of Fun Fascinating Fact about Alligator Reef

Alligator Reef Lighthouse stands guard in honor of its namesake, not for the reptile that is known to occupy Florida waters, but for the Navy schooner USS Alligator.

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