Founded by the Alabama Gulf Coast Area Chamber of Commerce in July 2012, the Alabama Gulf Coast Reef and Restoration Foundation is a "non-profit formed to support artificial reef development in the northern Gulf and Alabama’s coastal waters." Below are some of the most popular wrecks and sites in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.
Sunk in 2013, The LuLu is a 271-foot retired coastal freighter. Originally named M/V Yokamu and purchased by David Walter of Walter Marine, the ship was renamed The LuLu by the project's title sponsor Mac McAleer, owner of Homeport Marina in Gulf Shores. At 57 feet tall, the upper portion of the artificial reef is accessible for first time divers while veteran divers can explore the deeper sections of the vessel.
At a depth of 40 feet, Poseidon's Playground is a group of shallow artificial reefs for scuba divers to explore just three miles south of Perdido Pass and the Gulf State Park Pier. With fun, whimsical statues including Poseidon, Venus of the Sea, Apollo and various marine creatures, this project adds to the diversity of dive sites along Alabama’s Gulf Coast and makes for a unique underwater selfie location. The site is perfect for kids and beginner divers, training classes, night dives and shallow-water fun. The first statues were deployed in December 2014, and the site continues to grow.
In 2015, a new theme was added to Poseidon's Playground with the introduction of the "Reefs of Fame." While Nicholas Cage was in Orange Beach filming "USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage," he, Cody Walker and director Mario Van Peebles placed their hands in concrete that was then incorporated into a fish pyramid reef. This is an ongoing project that continues to add the handprints of well-known artists, actors, etc.
Capt. Shirley Brown Memorial Reef
The Capt. Shirley Brown is a 128-foot long Ferro-cement vessel built in St. Marks, Florida, in the 1940s for the Tennessee Gas & Transmission Company (later “Tenneco”). Capt. Brown purchased the vessel from Tenneco in the 1980s and transformed it into a "party" vessel for birthday parties, community breakfasts and industry trade forums in Pensacola, Florida. After Capt. Brown passed away, his family donated it to the foundation for deployment as an artificial reef. The wreck sits at a depth of 85 feet and the top deck is approximately 75 feet from the surface.
Fairfield New Venture
The Fairfield New Venture is the newest dive site in Orange Beach. The former research and survey vessel was built in 1986 in Louisiana. The 250 ft. long and 56 ft. wide ship was deployed in late June 2018. The New Venture sits near The LuLu allowing divers to hit both dives in the same trip. Alabama's Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, Marine Resources Division, received grant funding from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation to purchase this vessel at $970,000. With the top wheelhouse being 60 ft. deep and the bottom sitting at about 125 ft. deep, this dive site is accessible to both novice and advanced divers.
For more information on the location of dive sites and dive operators, please visit www.gulfshores.com/diving.