Florida Paddling Hazards?

My family is new to the St. Petersburg, FL area. We have SOT paddling experience back north, and look forward to paddling in our new location. However, we have some apprehension about alligators and snakes as paddling companions, something we didn’t have to worry about in New England. Anyone have advice on whether we should be worried, where to paddle, what to avoid, etc.?

Alligators, snakes,etc.
I live in south Alabama, but paddle a lot in Florida. I’ve seen lots of alligators and snakes in both states while paddling, but none have ever bothered me. I love to paddle the Silver River in the Ocala Forest. There are always alligators lying on the banks. Don’t bother them and I think you will be fine.

you’ll be fine
probably. disclaimer included, i’ve paddled florida rivers, bays and oceans for six years and have never had a major animal incident. gators are typically afraid of humans. snakes are around, though. just don’t piss them off. sharks, power boaters, crocs, pythons, we’ve got it all. but manatees have caused me more headache than anything. at least a dozen “encounters” and one upset when a manatee lift my canoe out of the water with its tail and flipped me over. the manatee didn’t mean to do it, but i spoked it and they have a powerful tail. it was funny, though. :slight_smile:

Look on the brighter side…
No hypothermia or thin ice to fall though…

I’d take
Hypothermia and thin ice any day over alligators and the like (shreek!!!).

Sweetwater Kayaks
In St. Petersburg is about as good a kayak shop as you’ll find anywhere. Tons of local knowledge and you may get more out of a visit than you expect.


raccoons and fire ants
are probably your worst enemies. Florida coons are fierce and vicious and will try to eat through anything.

Most New Englanders dont pay attention to ants. Watch those big anthills. Fire ants crawl up you by the hundreds but you dont notice. Then they all bite simultaneously. You notice…for a loong time.

If you bump a log just keep going… I do hate it when sometimes everywhere available that you could get out is taken by a gator…

Yep, racoons and fire ants are horrible
Racoons parade about in broad daylight and enter vans and tents without knocking. And fire ants are sneeky. Gators are shy and need to be kept at a distance, but fun to paddle (swiftly) past. Enjoy your paddles.

Alligators & snakes are no problem
I paddle around both all the time. I’d worry more about getting a good sun block. KK

This from a life-long florida paddler…

Only ones you need to worry about are the ones are females guarding their nests, big bull gators during mating season, and human-habituated gators (those fed, harassed, or living within urban areas). Do NOT let any pet (especialy dogs) near the edge of any body of water. Gators consider them a gourmet food item.


They prefer both coasts of South Florida and the Keys. Although they too, can grow quite large they are very shy and there has never been a recorded attack on humans. They feed primarily on fish.


We do have some that are very dangerous with the Bull Shark, having the highest testosterone levels of any living animal, is responsible for most of the deadly attacks here in Florida.

Others are tiger, blacktip, makos, and hammerheads. Great whites have been known to occasionally come into Gulf waters but only during the winter.

Sting Rays:

You and your family know how to do the “stingray shuffle” don’t you?

Portuguese Man-o-war:

A floating jellyfish with a tranluscent float 4 - 8 inch long and threadlike tentacles up to 150 feet long and has been known to kill humans.


Ones living in parks can get aggessive. They’re intelligent and can open just about any food or water container that isn’t locked.

For more info on Florida’s dangerous flora and fauna as well as edible, medicinal, and otherwise useful flora email me.

plenty of hypothermia in Florida NM

The shop is called Canoe Country …m
Outfitters. It is on 54th Avenue. Here is their website www.canoecountryfl.com We just bought our Candienne from them. Jeff who is the manager there is awesome. He is extremely knowledgeable and the shop has been there for over 20 years. As Jeff told us, if there was a problem with critters, you would heard about it more often.

I’m a Florida native and have worked out on Lake Manatee and I can tell you the gators will leave you alone. Even the females with young will leave you alone if you don’t mess with their young ones. Racoons will only be a problem if you are camping and even then they aren’t really a problem. We have camped for years down here and never had a problem.

If you stay in the rivers and brackish waters, you won’t see sharks. The gators also don’t usually like the brackish waters. We live on tidal water on the Manatee River and we’ve never seen a gator. As far as crocs go, the are found in extreme South Florida, but are so rare and shy of humans, you should have a problem at all.

Ditto on the fire ant warnings if you store your boat outdoors. Their bite is very painful and some people, although rarely, are allergic to the bite. As someone else said, though, I’d be more concerned about sunblock a hat and and making sure you have plenty of water to prevent heat stroke.

You are in the friendliest paddling
area in the world where you can gain a wealth of knowledge on a variety of reptiles, mammals, birds and fish.

Enjoy it, respect any critters that you see and they will respect you in return.

I don’t think any one paddles deeper and as often into the wilderness in Florida than my wife and I and we have never had a problem with the critters.


Homo Sapiens can be very dangerous



Florida Paddling
There’s a good chance that you’ll make it. I’ve paddled in Florida and haven’t been snake-bitten more than 10 or 12 times. Sadly every one of the little critters died just a few days after biting me. I’ve only had to wrestle gators the 6 times but came through every one of them. Of course I always paddle with a large hunting knife between my teeth. Those gator ( and 1 croc) hides look good on my wall and the teeth marks on my extremities are great conversation pieces.

Seriously, do not worry. I’ve been out there for decades and never had a real problem. Just stay away if you see one. Estimates from emergency rooms are that 80 % of snake bites result from a mix of adult beverages and the imbiber trying to handle the animal. Gators are total opportunists and will not attack anything larger than they. Just don’t try to swim with them or dangle feet or hands in the water. Have fun, there’s some great paddling in Fla. and lots of wildlfe to be seen.


RE: rivers and brackish waters
See: Bull Sharks!

They love shallow/murky/brackish water, particularly around inlets - can stay in pure fresh water for very long periods, maybe indefinitely, - and can range far up many rivers. You just rarely see them there, and that’s how they like it (leave a stringer of fish overboard in the prime areas and that can change pretty quickly…).

I very rarely see gators in brackish - and then usually only after heavy rains.

There was a croc sighted in broad daylight swimming across Port Everglades (a busy urban port) a couple years ago. They are spreading back to former range it seems - slowly, quietly, in small pockets. There is supposed to be a breeding pair in a couple mangrove lined salt water lakes (no-motor zone park) just south of the port that have been there several years now. Usually only spotted by park workers who are there a lot, and very unlikely many others would be lucky enough to catch a glimpse. Park is also a prime Bull nursery area (whole area used to be before development took out most of the mangroves). Don’t tell the tourists renting canoes there.

I agree on the fire ants
they are the only problem I have had. Wanna see my bite marks?

Be sure to go see the guys at Canoe Escape for a trip on the Hillsborough. LOTS of wildlife (more than the Silver).

Or take a guided canoe tour with me
for free at the Hillsborough River State Park. The only thing you pay for is the $4.00 entry fee. The tours start at 10:00AM sharp on Tuesdays and Fridays (weather and water levels permitting). The trip lasts from two to three hours.

You’ll see good-sized gators. Right now you can see a mother gator with her new hatchlings (less than 3 weeks old) occassionally perched on top of her head.

If you wish for info on Florida’s flora and fauna I’ll be happy to answer whatever questions I can.

The Conopsis (Green-fly) orchids are in bloom now and the muscadine grapes almost gone but other grape varieties will soon be ripe.

The park is located Northeast of Tampa, roughly 9 miles north of Fowler Ave. on US Hwy301. Call the park for an appointment a few days ahead at (813)987-6771.

Skin Cancer
Protect against that before you worry about a bunch of largely harmelss critters.

A note of caution!
A lot of baby gators are hatching right now. If you see one or a few or hear a “chrrrt, chrrrt, chrrrt” nearby DO NOT invistigate, DO NOT go within 30 FEET or less of the source. The sound you are hearing is from baby gators telling mama something’s scaring them and she don’t care how big your canoe or kayak is (she will fend off big bull gators more than half again her size and bigger to protect her young) she will instinctively do what she feels she has to do to protect her young.

If she starts heading toward you back way as quickly as possible.

If you see her start to arch her tail and back and you hear a low growl she is warning you that you are already too close and she is about to rush you!

Take all the pictures you want but do it with a zoom or telephoto lens at least 30 feet away.

I’m sure you human mothers understand. Someone or something threatens your newborn baby your going to do whatever it takes to remove that threat, not worrying about losing your life and caring a whole lot less about the life of whatever it is the life of your baby. So let’s give ALL mothers their propers and keep a good distance from ANY new-born babies so we can live peacefully.

Got That Right!!!