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Pensacola's Underwater Wonderland of Artificial Reefs

The Three Mile Bridge Rubble is an amusement park for divers. This maze of bridge supports off Pensacola, Florida, creates a towering artificial reef that draws in snapper, grouper and a host of marine life.
By Brooke Morton | Updated On June 7, 2024
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Pensacola's Underwater Wonderland of Artificial Reefs

A diver swimming near a large piece of underwater ship

The Three Mile Bridge Rubble covers an area that’s roughly the same size as three football fields.

David Benz
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Planning a dive vacation but not sure where to go? The scuba diving is just the beginning of your vacation experience when you visit Pensacola, Florida. Discover nearly 500 years of history, unique shopping, wonderful dining options, and amazing places to stay when you plan a trip here.

Along with the wrecks of the San Pablo and the Ocean Wind, the dive site known as Three Mile Bridge Rubble off Pensacola is a wonderland for marine life—and divers—thanks to its warren of hidey-holes and overhangs that create countless habitats.

This site served in its first life as the major thoroughfare connecting Pensacola with the town of Gulf Breeze. It spanned across the entirety of Pensacola Bay.

When it came time to demolish an existing structure to build a new bridge, county officials saw the bridge’s underwater potential. In keeping with the county’s long history of creating memorable and iconic artificial reefs, they developed a plan to include spans and supports across five dive sites.

A scuba diver swimming under a large concrete structure.

Site 5 of the Three Mile Bridge Rubble offers an especially captivating experience and a variety of marine life.

David Benz

Site 5 holds the most intrigue, standing a towering 40 feet tall in places. “It’s bridge rubble stacked to have swim-throughs, nooks and crannies,” says Kerry Freeland, owner of Dive Pros, a Pensacola-based scuba center. “The complexity of the site is amazing,” he says, referring to the layers upon layers of habitat at various depths, making the site ideal for multilevel diving.

Within weeks of the artificial reefing, the site swelled with snapper and grouper. Redfish, nurse sharks and lobsters also congregate here. Because the site was designed with caverns and overhead environments of many sizes, it also lures in larger marine life.

“Goliath groupers like those bigger holes and will be there for sure,” he says. The Three Mile Bridge Rubble is also overrun with schools of spadefish, often sheltering other fish. “You should always look inside the school of spadefish as there’s often a big red snapper or two hanging out inside,” says Freeland of the many surprises found at this site, a must-see for those looking to mix in something different alongside the line-up of hundreds of artificial reefs that have made Pensacola so famous as a domestic diving hotspot.

Date of Sinking Reefing began in 2018

Depth 85 feet to the sand

Length The rubble covers an area that’s roughly the same size as three football fields

Location 8.9 Miles southeast of Pensacola Pass

What You’ll Love These multi-level sites, especially number 5, give divers an easy multi-level experience with structures in depths from 85 to 45 feet. Take your time exploring, peering in, under and through the former bridge pilings and supports. Keep an eye toward the deeper water as the site draws in passing pelagics, including wahoo and amberjack.

A person in scuba gear underwater

The sugar sand beaches are just the beginning of your vacation experience when you visit Pensacola.

David Benz

For More Information Contact:

DIVE PROS

florida-divepros.com

MBT DIVERS

mbtdivers.com

NUIHI DIVE CHARTERS

niuhidivecharters.com

OCEAN STRIKE TEAM

oceanstriketeam.org

VISIT PENSACOLA

visitpensacola.com