Best Places for Gator Spotting
Atchafalaya National Heritage Area, Louisiana
Not far from the state capital, Baton Rouge, the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area celebrates the region’s unique cultural and historic character including its significant contribution to American music, literature, cuisine and the English language. The pristine cypress swamps are a main attraction, perfect for wetland boat and swamp tours and the chance to see a lazy gator on the bayou. Photo by Gary Fellows courtesy of Atchafalaya National Heritage Area.
Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia and Florida
Located on the Georgia-Florida border, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge takes its name from the American Indian word for "trembling earth." More than 400,000 annual visitors eagerly take part in outdoor recreation in this 438,000-thousand-acre peat swamp that’s home to American alligators as well as black bear, gopher tortoises and sandhill cranes. Photo courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife.
Spirit of the Swamp, Central Florida
If you find yourself in Central Florida and not interested in Mickey Mouse, a tour with Spirit of the Swamp might be the kind of adventure you have been seeking. The owners, Debi and Captain Harold, are airboat-swamping professionals. While the Captain fishtails around cypress trees, Debi spots wildlife. Together, the duo takes visitors deep into remote and unchartered gator country. Photo courtesy of Spirit of the Swamp.
Babcock Ranch Preserve, South Florida
The 73,239-acre Babcock Ranch Preserve near Punta Gorda and Lake Okeechobee shelters a diverse range of ecosystems from cypress domes and swamps to pine flatwoods and dry prairie. Babcock is home to the American alligator along with several other endangered and threatened species. Also in the area, the Peace River has a number of kayak and airboat tours. Adventurous types can even bowfish or fossil hunt, just don’t let the gators "getcha." Photo courtesy of Babcock Wilderness Adventures.
Coastal Expedition to Bull Island, South Carolina
Based in Charleston, Coastal Expeditions has set the region's standard in environmental stewardship, outdoor education and guiding. One of their premier trips is a multi-day expedition to Bull Island, an undeveloped barrier island home to a large undisturbed population of American alligators. Photo courtesy of Coastal Expeditions.
Suwannee River, North Florida
The Suwannee River State Park and Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge are both outstanding destinations for boating, camping, fishing, hiking and photography. Due to low water levels, spring and early fall are ideal times for overnight camping and spotting gators. Photo by Karen Parker courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife.
Gatorland, Central Florida
Not far from Disney World lies the self-proclaimed "Alligator Capital of the World." Gatorland is a 110-acre theme park and wildlife preserve home to over 1,000 alligators and crocodiles. The park features a breeding marsh with swamp boardwalk, observation tower, aviary, reptile shows, zip line, educational programs and petting zoo. Photo courtesy of Gatorland, Orlando.
Everglades National Park, South Florida
Spanning across 1.5 million acres, Everglades National Park is the third largest national park in the lower 48 states. It’s home to 36 threatened or protected species including the Florida panther, West Indian manatee and American crocodile. The Anhinga Trail is a 0.8-mile trail that winds through sawgrass marsh and is considered one of the most popular places to spot alligators and other wildlife in the entire park. (You can also spot them from the safety of home on the Everglades National Park Anhinga Trail webcam.) Photo courtesy of Everglades Complex of Wildlife Management.
Ocala National Forest, Central Florida
The Ocala encompasses 607 square miles of national forest, riddled with hundreds of lakes, ponds, freshwater marshes and spring-fed rivers. The diversity of aquatic environments makes Ocala National Forest rich with wildlife, and the American alligator is chief among them. Photo by Tim Donovan courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife.