What’s a visit to Florida without a little Alligator viewing? No need to travel to the Everglades to see these prehistoric reptiles - we have an abundance right here in the capital city! That’s right; Tallahassee has gators galore, right within the city limits! Whether by boat, foot or bike, there are areas to explore and spot alligators; many tipping the scales and stretching above 10ft. But don’t worry, treat them with respect and they’ll do the same, after all, they’re just as frightened of you as you are of them. So where are these alligator alleys you ask? Well here are a few of my favorite spots for spotting our dinosaur friends.
#1) Wacissa River. This 15 mile stretch of river boasts about thirteen spring heads, making it a life line for all walks of life, and there are no shortage of alligators. Of course, in my opinion, the best way to explore this crystal-clear river is via kayak. It puts you right up close with some of Florida’s most prehistoric reptiles. A short paddle among the headwaters should yield many young to adolescent alligators, but be sure to have a sharp eye, because they can be hard to spot among the plentiful foliage along the river. To spot some of the larger alligators that call this river home, take the ten mile journey down to Goose Pasture, where you’ll leave the comfort of civilization and enter into the reptilian kingdom.
#2) Wakulla River. Although this river is much more populated with houses, boaters and of course, kayakers, it is no stranger to the American Alligator. Some may say that the human population along this river may contribute to the everyday sightings of alligators, and I would agree. They don’t up and flee every time a kayak or powerboat comes. But at the same time, you’re not seeing those big boys I referred to earlier. So where else…..
#3) Lake Lafayette Paddling Trails/Piney Z. Lake Lafayette and Piney Z lake is an ecological gem located within Tallahassee. A popular area among walkers, fishermen/women, cyclists, and more, it’s a great place to unwind after a long day in the office. But as populated of a place it is, there are big gators! Take a stroll in either early evening or morning for your best bet to spot an 8ft. (or larger!) alligator, or paddle among the fingerlings to get a closer view of Tallahassee’s resident gators. For a true adventure, paddle from the east end of Lake Lafayette, and head west toward Piney Z Lake.
#4) St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. This is the ultimate alligator viewing spot! Being a National Refuge insures protection for all species of animals that take residency in this area; alligators included. Bike or hike the multiple dyke systems that cut up the area, and you’re sure to see some of the biggest alligators around! It’s not uncommon to see alligators upward of 10+ feet. Although I haven’t witnessed it myself, I have heard stories of alligators taking up the whole walking path, leaving no room to get around. On my latest trip with some out-of-town guests, we counted well over 20 alligators, many being very large.