Kayaks & Gators

I’m thinking of taking my kayak south for the winter this year. How safe is it to kayak where there are gators? I’ve seen them in the lake where we’ll be so I know they’re there!

We’ve paddled right past many gators
on the Loxahatchee in Florida and in the Okefenokee. They just lie there in the water with glazed eyes, doing nothing. If you don’t aggravate them, they will leave you alone. There HAVE been gator attacks on kayaks, but they are much more rare than attacks on swimmers. The worst gators are those that have been fed. Anyway, I’d say just paddle normally, stay at a respectful distance, and don’t worry. Gator attacks on boats are kind of like being struck by lightning. It happens, but infrequently.

Canoe Escape
Wondering this myself as I’ll be in the Tampa area in January…

Found this on the Canoe Escape website which is on the Hillsborough River:

Keep an eye out for the 16-foot alligator that has been spotted sleeping on the banks of this creek. After 15 minutes, turn back and retrace your paddle marks to the main river and begin a remarkable journey through time, zoology, and natural art. I have seen (and photographed) alligators of every size–from 3 feet to 14 feet, species of birds I’ve seen nowhere else–herons, ibises, limpkins, ospreys, roseate spoonbills, and eagles, and more turtles than I knew existed. The “gators” are not dangerous (i.e., not aggressive) in these areas; most will vanish beneath the water in fright of you. Some of the larger ones that are on the sunny banks will appear to be dead, for they are deeply asleep, their body temperature warmed to lethargic proportions. Please, do not be afraid, but do not be stupid. Stay in the canoe, and enjoy the thrill of such an adventure. And remember, the quieter your trip, the more you will see.

do not paddle
an inflatable kayak :slight_smile:

Like the others have said
steer clear but be aware. your boat is more likely bigger than most gators. like most wild animals, they are probably more afraid of you than you are of them. i’ve paddled in South Georgia numerous times and find them to be as described above; mostly chill but watching YOU. just stay alert and calm. and don’t go swimming if you are in gator territory.

i’ll HOPEFULLY see some in 3 weeks in the Okefenokee.

You should
I paddled out of Stephen Foster on a long day trip and they were out sunning on logs. Counted maybe four or five dozen and chose to get within 20 feet.

Dont feed them and all should be fine. I am a northerner who paddles with gators at least once a year… I find them photogenic but something to watch carefully…if they move back off.

Only One Issue
I’m from the Charleston, SC area and, while treating them with respect, we also tend to paddle to them when we see them to get a better look. Silly kayakers.

Only once did I have a male gator mark his territory on me by slapping his head in the water followed by a sweep slap of the water with his tail as he went under. We let him have that side of the creek.

I admit I was paddling closer to get a better look as he was the first one I saw that day.

Courtin’ season can be a bit iffy as you can hear them all over the place but don’t see them.

Nothing to worry about as long as you treat them with respect and give them a little room.

Maybe during mating season…

…they might be dangerous. Other than that, sometimes they are curious and will follow you.

I’ve waked up with them on campsites, and only once did I get momentarily challenged by one.

Don’t forget the camera.

So when is gator mating season? We don’t have gators in Mo., yet.

Leave your poodle at home.



…if the 'gator chases you, you can throw them the poodle while you get away.

You could

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carry a flair or a flair gun in your PFD.

My experience with gators has been that once they figure out that you don't have a gun they think of you as food.

I paddle and live around he salt water so there are no gators. There might be some on the fresh water lakes but they live in the fresh water rivers.

I had a few around where I lived for a while but they got real pesky. I had to fire a gun in their direction and then they gave me some respect. If not they will come up in your driveway at night.

In Florida they say there are two things in the woods at night, alligators and and alligator bait.

Who knows if someone else has fed them?

Puppy dogs. Spent my time around gators, in Louisiana and in SC. The only time they are problems are when they are fed, when ppl get too cavalier, and potentially during mating season.

Generally, all you need to fend off even an aggressive gator is a stick. As paddlers, we always have ‘sticks’ at hand.

Keep your distance, give them their due respect, and you’ll have no problem.

I’ve never paddled where there weren’t
gators, a lot of them much bigger than my little boat, and I sit here as living proof that they aren’t usually aggressive. They are defensive if you get too close or surprise them. Paddling alone, I have had mud slung all over me by a gator who didn’t see me coming before I got on top of him—this on the Myakka River once, and the St. Johns twice. I now try to not be so quiet when alone.

In 8 years of paddling usually two or three times a week, I’ve never been attacked by a gator. I was, however, in a party of 6 on a spring fed creek last May when a gator suddenly surfaced with its mouth open and clamped down on the bow of my friend’s Perception Carolina, leaving teeth marks in the top and bottom of the hull. The gator then released the boat and retreated. It was mating season.

You mention that you’ll be paddling on a lake, and unless it is one of the gator infested lakes like Lake Jessup or Lake George, you probably won’t even get close to them when they’re in the water. Just don’t come too close to where they are sunning. Don’t swim or snorkle where they are. A little respect and common sense should keep you safe, bearing in mind that they are wild animals and there will always be a certain element of unpredictability.

It is perfectly safe to paddle with and

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around them if you respect them as they respect you.
I have been paddling and studying them for the past thirty years.
My criteria for what it is worth:
1. If they are approximately eight feet or less, I make them move out of my way, which they will do, unless they are cornered. If they are cornered, they will try to retreat until they can't go any further, and then they will hold their ground with their mouth open. If you are stupid, you can continue and have them take a swipe at your boat as they lunge to get by you or you can be smart and back off.

2. If they are larger than ten feet, and make no attempt to get off the bank or out of your way, then give them the right of way and a wide berth and they won't bother you. - If they go off the bank and head to the depths, don't worry about them, they are just getting away from you.

3. any of them that are in a area where fishermen clean their catch are best if left alone. Just like bears; they will associate you with a free meal of fish, and are unpredictable.

4.Mothers (which are usually only seven or eight feet long) that have eight inch long babies (new ones) are usually very tolerant of paddlers as long as you don't get between them and their babies. If you do get between them by mistake, she is liable to take a swipe at your boat, but even then it is just a warning that she is going to protect her little ones. - We have sat for an hour or so with the little ones swimming around the boat and the mother just watching.

5. You can tell the length of a gator by estimating the distance, (in inches) from its nostrils to its eyes, and then changing that distance to feet.

6. In short: Enjoy them ! they are another wild thing that is always exciting to see and paddle by, but also respect them.


Water Temperature
Gators generally stop feeding when the water gets below about 68 degrees. I have never encounterd a big gator over 6-7’ while paddling. Usually they will just submerge as you approach. My wife had one come within arms length once. It was about 4’ long and had obviously been fed. It swam around our camp all night and the next morning looking for a handout. We were very tempted to feed it but did not. A 4’ gator won’t be very cute when it grows up and sees people as a source of food.

The scarey thing for me is that gators are like sharks and snakes. You are just paddling swimming etc and then suddenly one is too close. That is when it is soooo important not to panic. while I doubt that a big gator would mess with a kayak…a kayaker swimming might be too much temptation. You know predators go for the weak and the stupid.

They Want To Be Left Alone
Gators really could care less about you. They just want to be left alone. Most stories you hear about gator attacks is because somebody decided to get too close and start messing with them. You’ll probably paddle over many a gator and never know it. They usually will go under water as you get close. You can enjoy good views of them as they sun.

Rule of thumb here in Florida is never swim in lakes after sunset. They are night predators and this is their feeding time.

Never never feed them.

Enjoy your paddling here - it is a great place to kayak with many rivers to explore.

It’s the little things that can kill you…

All of the gator advice is good.

Couple of things you don’t think about.

Watch for snakes in the trees when you go under low hanging branches. Cotton mouths (water moccasins) like to hang out on branches and can fall into passing boats if you hit the branch. If they fall into your sit in cockpit you’ve got a major problem. Look above you if you’re going under limbs.

Mosquitoes can be a royal pain. Bring some good repellant. Depending on the weather, these little bloodsuckers can be here in FL year round.

Good point on the swimming, which I
forgot to mention.

Never swim in black water or water that is not clear.

A swimmer is a whole different ball game for a gator than a canoe or a kayak is.