FORT MYERS, Fla. - We've taken you deep into the Gulf of Mexico to explore the USS Mohawk Veteran's Memorial Reef on several occasions. Now, WINK News and the News-Press are diving the top five spots you, our viewers and readers, say are the best in Southwest Florida! We start our series with your fifth favorite dive site, a reef whose namesake has "illuminated" Southwest Florida.
Of the many monuments named for the great inventor, three bridges stand in Thomas Alva Edison's name in the United States, one here in downtown Fort Myers. Six lanes and two spans comprise today's Edison Bridge, towering 55 feet above the Caloosahatchee River. The original bridge had just two lanes and opened for traffic on Edison's 84th birthday in 1931. The Fort Myers winter resident was the first to drive across.
As Edison understood first hand, with time comes change, and 60 years after it opened, the monumental drawbridge was removed.
"The community here felt that it would be better served being memorialized as a reef honoring Edison..." explains Mike Campbell, Environmental Specialist Senior with Lee County DNR.
On March 1st, 1993, 28,000 tons of the original concrete bridge were deployed into the Gulf of Mexico, evolving from a route for cars into a home for marine life.
"Reefs tend to mature at around three years, so it's had a lot of years to sit there and collect growth and have an abundance of organisms on it," says Campbell.
Six pieces of the bridge create the Edison Reef, the most expansive in Lee county. Of our top five dive sites, the Edison Reef is the shallowest with a maximum depth of about 40 feet, making it accessible to divers of all abilities. Just 14 miles from the Sanibel lighthouse, this robust reef is also the closest to shore.
"If you just want to go speer fishing for a day, bring home a fish for dinner, you can get out there fairly quickly and get back home and have a fresh fish dinner," says Campbell.
Because of its proximity to the Caloosahatchee, visibility can be iffy, but the river's fresh water is also what makes marine life on the Edison so diverse.
"Well people have seen anything from the smallest gobies to spotted eagle rays, even dolphin there, so that's part of the excitement about that reef is that you never know what you're going to see," says Campbell.
Campbell says for the best visibility, visit the Edison Reef in late fall.
Each month, we'll show you a new dive site, ending with the number one spot in november. Coming up later this month, we'll take you to our number four dive site, a natural ledge off Lee county's shoreline.