"Fort Pickens is a rare taste of old Florida, and its undisturbed natural beauty makes it one of my favorite places to visit on the Gulf Coast."
- former U.S. Representative Jeff Miller
The USS Massachusetts is a protected underwater archaeological site within Fort Pickens Aquatic Preserve. The USS Massachusetts and the rock jetties in the Pensacola Pass both provide excellent diving and fishing opportunities within the preserve.
More than 280 species of birds have been identified in the aquatic preserve and its adjacent upland areas.
Bottlenose dolphins are often seen in and around the aquatic preserve, as well as multitudes of fish and shellfish of all sorts. Fort Pickens Aquatic Preserve is a benefit to commercial and recreational fishermen. Species such as snapper, mullet, sheepshead, flounder, blue crabs, shrimp, and redfish live a portion of their lives within the shallow areas of the preserve. All of these species can be caught by fisherman in the aquatic preserve, as well as grouper and mackerel.
Continuous Water Quality Monitoring
The Northwest Florida Aquatic Preserves office worked with the Gulf Islands National Seashore to maintain a water quality monitoring station near the pass at Fort Pickens. This station constantly recorded temperature, salinity, water clarity, PH and dissolved oxygen.
Seagrass Restoration Project
The Northwest Florida Aquatic Preserves office was awarded a Prop Scar Restoration grant from NOAA through the Gulf of Mexico Foundation. A small amount of the seagrass halodule was transplanted within the preserve in the eastern portion of Big Lagoon, adjacent to the Gulf Island National Seashore. Educational signs consisting of large maps of the area, showing grass flats, restricted areas, and landmarks were made and placed at local boat ramps.
The USS Massachusetts is an underwater archaeological preserve within the preserve on the Gulf of Mexico side. The ship was commissioned in 1896 and served U.S. naval operations until 1921. The wreck was added to the National Register of Historic Places in May 2001. The turrets of the USS Massachusetts are still visible above the water to boaters, and the site is very popular with divers visiting the area.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship – protecting our air, water and land. The vision of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is to create strong community partnerships, safeguard Florida’s natural resources and enhance its ecosystems.