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Dive deep at an artificial reef

Dive deep at an artificial reef in the Gulf of Mexico. Image courtesy of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Artificial Reef Program

The Gulf of Mexico teems with marine life, much of it gathering around artificial structures such as sunken ships and abandoned oil rigs. These artificial reefs provide an opportunity for creatures of the sea to flourish and create an underwater wonderland for anglers and scuba divers.

The artificial reef program in Texas was created in 1990 by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The Gulf of Mexico doesn’t create is own reefs because the waters are too cool and murky and currents too strong. The flat, desert-like ocean floor also gives marine life no place to stick — until oil platforms came along.

About 3,000 oil platforms, many of them already abandoned, have been built in the Gulf of Mexico. Federal law requires that decommissioned platforms be removed, but divers and fishermen object and want them to stay put. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department came up with a compromise solution.

Working in partnership with other organizations, the department dismantles the rigs and submerges them on the sea floor, out of the way of boat and ship propellers. TPWD also submerges specially created concrete as well as heavy-gauge steel structures and large marine vessels no longer in use. All materials meet state guidelines for environmental safety.

Currently, divers can explore more than 4,000 acres of reefs composed of decommissioned rigs, ships, and highway bridge materials. The reefs provide homes for coral, sponges, and schooling fish, including red snapper, the most sought-after catch in the Gulf.

Where to Find Coastal Bend Artificial Reefs

Corpus Christi scuba diving enthusiasts can explore artificial reefs between Packery Channel and Port Aransas off Mustang Island. North Padre Island has large clusters of artificial reefs as well. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has an interactive map of artificial reefs near Corpus Christi and environs, which can help scuba divers plan their excursions.

Diving Services in the Coastal Bend

Suit up with help from the following diving services:

Copeland's

4041 South Padre Island Drive

Corpus Christi, TX 78411

(361) 854-1135

Ascuba Venture

6121 South Padre Island Drive

Corpus Christi, TX 78412

(361) 985-1111

Transformation Scuba

(361) 739-0536

Deep Blue Scuba

2170 Interstate 35

Aransas Pass, TX 78336

(361) 788-3483

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