Today when I was paddling with my wife in our Perception Carolina kayaks in a Houston, Texas bayou I was startled (to put it mildly!) as a 6 foot long alligator jumped into the water about 5 feet in front of my boat. It came from the shore that was about 2 or 3 feet higher than the water. We quickly backed up and paddled out of the area. I have seen alligators in the past but never has one leapt into the water like this one did. Are there any documented attacks on kayaks or canoes? What is the best way to paddle in alligator country?

Some past threads
I’ve enjoyed reading about the alligator experiences, as it’s a different world than I live in. Here’s a couple links from past conversations. I’m sure there’s more. Not trying to discourage further conversation. Just sharing some info.

Paul S.

My guess is that gator was suddenly …

– Last Updated: Nov-25-06 7:20 PM EST –

brought out of it's siesta by you and was just as scared of you as you were of it.
I have paddled in and around alligators for the past thirty years, and the only one that ever threatened me was was a moma whose baby I had just grabbed, and all she did was let out a hiss and then snap at the front of the kayak.
Most of the time when they are on a bank like that, they will stay put until you get into their personal space, and then take off like a bullet into the safety of the water, and that is what that one was doing.
I make any that are about up to eight feet move out of the way.
Eight or nine footers will always submerge or get into the water as you approach.
Many times the ten footers and above won't move, and I always give them the right of way.
The largest one that I have ever seen was in one of the Florida Springs runs about five years ago, and we were warned about it by a scared paddler who claimed that he had just been chased by a "gray" gator that had to be fifteen feet long.
I took it as another scared newbies exageration of a ten footer until we rounded the bend from where he had come from and watched the beast crawl up on shore.
Using the 1" equals a foot measurement from the eye to the nostril, I came up with about sixteen feet.
Needless to say we hugged the opposite bank and didn't waste any time for pictures.


Believe it or not, we have alligators here in North Alabama. We were having problems with beavers in the Wheeler Wildlife Reserve and they decided to bring in some alligators to take care of the problem. They reasoned that, with our cold winters, the ‘gators wouldn’t survive. Or if they did survive, at least they wouldn’t breed. Guess what? They’ve done both. In order to survive the winters they burrowed into the mud and hibernated. As for breeding, well they just did what comes naturally. As of about 5 years ago there were about 40 of them with at least one 12-14’ female seen. Don’t we ever learn from history??? Bringing non-indigenous animals in to solve a problem usually creates more problems than it solves.

Agree somewhat
They have brains about the size of walnuts. Rushing towards the water means safety to them, even tho the supposed threat is in the water.

We give all gators a wide berth. Never mess with the babies - that’s just asking for trouble.

Urban Gators
I paddled with Gators for many years and never had much trouble with them in the wild, but watch out for the ones that live in urban settings. They might well have been fed, and that makes them agressive toward humans.

Also, Gators love dogs. Watch your pets

I have urban barracuda!
I live smack downtown Ft Lauderdale (within a couple blocks of city center) and pretty much always have barracuda in the canal. Like a nursery for the little ones.

Used to have a small (@ 4’ gator). Thought the neighbors were kidding as this canal’s pretty salty and while they can take it they usually don’t hang around, but it was there. Haven’t seen it in a year or so.

Either the hurricanes flushed it out, it headed up river to fresher water/bigger game, or the Bull Sharks got it. Might have been driven off by the Gondolier’s singing too. He set up shop around the same time. He’s gone now, as demand for $50 rides to nowhere is down (even among tourists and millionaires), so maybe we’ll get the gator back. Or maybe a Croc. Been seen as close as 2 miles from me. Do they like small pets as much as gators do?

Watch Your Feet!
Barracuda are like any critter. Feed them and they lose their fear of humans.

I know from SCUBA diving that the bottoms of our feet are always light colored and look a lot like floundering fish from underneath!

Too small
Also I never go barefoot. I did mention “urban”, right? That means glass and metal in addition to the old coral/razor sharp oysters in black mud made of Muscovy duck crap/rotting veg/garbage -with high bacteria levels, particularly after rain runoff. Tropical paradise.

Only thing that’s taken a bite out of me at my put in was a big aquatic beetle. Swam right up and nipped off a bite. One big bad guppy hunter. Glad they don’t eat much and there weren’t more.

Holy crap Jack, my girl friend is never going to see these pics! That is one BIG beast.

I’ve paddled west of Houston
for years. It’s unusual to get so close to a gator. Even harder to get a good photo. I’ve only had one scary encounter. While paddling Texana lake where the drowned dead trees are, I noticed a couple of branches protruding just out of the water about 50’ away. With imagination they looked like the nose and eyes of a gator but were too far apart to be the real thing. I paddled on and the aberration came alive. It cut through the water like a power boat, then submerged and swam back. I felt it pass under my canoe as I skedaddled away. I was paddling so fast I didn’t take the time to look back but I had the feeling I was being escorted out of its territory. It was such wierd behavior and so close to shore I believe it was protecting its babies. Maybe a gator in a fishing and skiing lake is more apt to lose its fear of humans than a river gator in secluded areas.

I don’t expect anything like that to happen again while on the water. I still sneak float up to river gators to get photos and they always flee once they spot me. The closest they surface is 20 feet or so just to take a look.

After the encounter with the lake gator I searched gator attacks on the web. I figured I’d read about a swimmer or two grabbed by mistake. It was a surprise to learn about reports of Florida gators grabbing folks on land. I camp on gravel or sand bars in a mosquito net tent. I used to sleep anywhere convenient, even right close to the river. After reading about “land grabs” I now look for places further away from the water. I don’t use fires or lights and I figure in the dark I might look like food to a hungry gator when I’m moving about in my sleep. When its possible I put my canoe between me and the river to block a gator’s view.

Just in case I do get grabbed I keep a slingshot in the tent with me. I’d hate to hurt a huge gator but if he starts it…

I know it seems rather obvious but…
don’t go swimming when your naked and high on crack in a gator-populated area at night. Some dum-ass doper got bit on the ass (litterally), as well as got both arms mangled while wading naked and high on crack in Lake Parker in Lakeland, FL. just two nights ago. It was almost 12 ft in length. Lucky for him the evening temp was 70*f that night or he wouldn’t be around to be ridiculed. It’s a shame that the authorities took the gator to be killed. One that big could be used to reduce the meth-freak and crackhead population around here. They’re far more dangerous than any human-habituated gator. I say put them both in a pit and let the winner survive.

Alabama ecologists (nuff said)

Lake Parker, I Know It Well
I used to live in Lakeland

You’re right about that. A lot of gators
were killed after the snorkler tempted fate on Juniper Creek, too. I paddle around gators all the time; if one ever gets me it will be because I was doing something stupid, and my friends know I wouldn’t want the gator killed.

By the way, Bruce, we finally made it to the Chassahowitzka when the tides were just right—loved all the spring runs, but Ruth Spring is as pretty a place as I’ve seen. The birds were amazing. We plan to get over there often.

Did you take a dip in the “Crack” ?
If you didn’t, let me know and I’ll give you some directions.

A real neat place, but can be tricky to find.



Nope, we found it,
but did not take a dip. We really enjoyed the Salt Run, too, with all its varied streams. Yakdave has an excellent review of the Chassahowitza in Places 2 Paddle.

I’m guessing that was Armand or another
bayou closer to the coast. Buffalo has a lot of gators also. The gators in Houston’s bayous aren’t overly aggressive. So far, we don’t have many damn fools trying to feed them. What you experienced is not unusual. I’ve had them pop up right next to my kayak on Sheldon Lake in East Houston, but none have ever tried to bother me. It can happen, usually during mating and nesting season. Mostly, leave 'em alone, they’ll leave you alone.

I agree with JackL
I, too live in Houston and paddle around gators. They do that jump in the water thing that can be kinda freaky, looks like they decided you look tasty, but the truth is they do it because you scare them and they feel safer in the water.

Brazos Bend State Park gators
Those guys are too friendly for my taste. So are the raccoons there, for that matter.