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Safe Camping Near Alligators: Essential Tips and Destinations in the US

This post was updated on May 28th, 2024

Camping near alligators might seem like a dangerous thing to do, but to be honest, it doesn’t have to be. By using some basic alligator safety tips, you can camp near these beautiful creatures, observe them from a distance, and learn about just how wonderful they are. 

Understanding Alligator Behavior

First, it’s important to know that most gators have absolutely no interest in bothering humans and will actually go out of their way to stay away from us. You see, alligators like to eat things like fish, turtles, small mammals, and birds, and none consider humans a food source. That said, alligators that have been fed by humans will associate humans with food and will become a serious threat because of this. This is why you should never feed an alligator.

Alligators can seem scary because they can grow quite large, coming in at 15 feet long or more. However, many are much smaller than that, and even the large ones usually aren’t dangerous if they are left alone. 

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Gators like to live in still or slow-moving bodies of water—such as ponds, swamps, and slow-moving rivers—in places that are warm all year long. During the day, alligators are usually resting, so if you spot one, it’ll likely be very still. That said, at night, these creatures come to life. For this reason, it’s best to stay away from water in alligator habitats at night when camping near alligators. 

Where Alligators are Found in the US

The three states that play host to the most alligator habitats in the US are Louisiana, Georgia, and Florida. It is said that if you see a body of water in Florida, there is almost definitely an alligator in it, and in our time spent camping in Florida, we can say with confidence that this is indeed true. 

If you want to go camping near alligators, we recommend visiting one of the following locations:

Everglades National Park in Florida

We absolutely love visiting Everglades National Park. We always see gators while visiting this amazing place and have been lucky enough to go on guided nighttime walks with park rangers that allowed us to see active gators. We recommend camping in Flamingo Campground while visiting this park. 

Bayou Segnette State Park in Louisiana

Bayou Segnette State Park was our home base while visiting New Orleans. It sits just a few minutes outside of the city but is a wonderful escape into the swamps of Louisiana. If you walk the boardwalk trails in this park and keep your eyes peeled, you will almost certainly see a gator or two. 

Skidaway Island State Park in Georgia

We haven’t yet had the pleasure of staying at Skidaway Island State Park, but we have several friends who have enjoyed it immensely and it is on our travel to-do list. This park is located just outside of beautiful Savannah (one of my favorite cities in the country) and features miles of trails through the saltwater marsh where you are very likely to spot gators. 

Safety Tips for Camping Near Alligators

Learn how to safely coexist with Florida’s alligators, embracing caution and respect for these fascinating creatures of nature.

Now that you know where to find alligators, how can you stay safe while observing them? Here are our top tips for camping near alligators safely. 

Keep a Safe Distance

First and foremost, keep your distance. According to the National Parks Service, you can know if you’re far enough away by holding your arm straight out away from your face and putting your thumb up. If your thumb completely obscures your view of the animal, you are far enough back. If not, back up some more.

Never Feed Gators

As mentioned above, you should never ever feed an alligator. There is a saying that goes, “A fed gator is a dead gator.” This is because alligators that have been fed by humans expect humans to feed them. This can lead to aggression, which leads to the animal being put down.

Wash Dishes in Your RV

Avoid washing dishes in natural bodies of water. Not only is this gross, but the splashing and food scraps will attract gators to you. Instead, stick to washing dishes in your RV or in a tub at your campsite. 

Dispose of Food Properly

Always dispose of food scraps in the trash can. Never throw food into the bushes or trees, as this could attract alligators. 

Avoid Water at Night

As we said earlier, gators are most active at night. This is when they hunt, and thus when they could attack a human. For this reason, it is best to avoid bodies of water at night entirely unless you are on a guided tour on a raised platform. 

Fish Safely

If you plan to go fishing in water that could be home to gators, keep an eye out for the animals. If one approaches, reel in your line and move to another spot. If it continues to follow you, leave the water immediately. 

Swim in Designated Areas

If you plan to swim in natural bodies of water, do so only in designated areas. Make sure to keep an eye out for alligators and leave the water right away if you see a gator in the swimming area. 

Keeping Pets Safe While Camping Near Alligators

When it comes to camping near alligators, the safety of our pets is just as important as our own. Pets, particularly dogs, may be more curious or less aware of the dangers posed by alligators. Here are some tips to ensure your pets stay safe while you’re enjoying the great outdoors together:

Keep Pets on a Leash

Always keep your pets on a leash when in areas known for alligator activity. This simple measure can prevent pets from wandering too close to the water’s edge where alligators might be lurking.

Avoid Walking Near Water at Dawn and Dusk

Alligators are most active during the cooler parts of the day, especially near dawn and dusk. It’s best to avoid walking your pets near bodies of water during these times to reduce the chance of encountering an alligator.

Do Not Allow Pets to Drink From or Enter Unknown Bodies of Water

Prevent pets from drinking from or entering still or slow-moving waters, as these are prime habitats for alligators. Instead, bring along fresh water for your pets to drink.

Be Extra Vigilant During Alligator Mating Season

Alligator mating season typically runs from April through June. During this time, alligators may be more aggressive and territorial. It’s particularly important to be vigilant and keep pets secured during these months.

By following these tips, you can help ensure that your camping trip is safe and enjoyable for both you and your pets. Remember, the goal is to observe nature’s beauty without interfering or becoming a part of it. With a little preparation and awareness, you and your pets can safely enjoy the wonder of camping near alligators.

What to Do if You Encounter an Alligator

All of the tips above should help prevent any issues that could come up while camping with alligators. However, if an alligator does decide to come after you, you’ll want to know what to do. 

First, run. Run as fast as you can in a straight line away from the gator. Don’t zig-zag, as this won’t confuse the gator and will just slow you down. If an alligator bites you, avoid trying to pry its mouth open. Instead, smack its snout and eyes using a stick if possible. 

Once you escape the gator, report it to the authorities immediately. Find a park ranger to alert of the situation and call the department of wildlife to let them know as well. 

The FWC provides additional tools and safety advice to help you and your family have a safe and fun trip, such as a videoinfographic, and brochure

Conclusion

Alligators are amazing creatures, and generally, camping near alligators is a safe thing to do and a great way to observe the creatures at a distance. Just make sure to use the safety tips above and you will be able to have a wonderful time observing and learning about these amazing animals.

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2 thoughts on “Safe Camping Near Alligators: Essential Tips and Destinations in the US”

  1. My wife is a native Floridian who grew up on a creek that had Gators. I have lived more than 42 years in Florida. When we were first married we also lived on a creek with Alligators in it. Our property had a chain link fence between us and the creek. I thought we were relatively safe until on the ST. Pete news one night they had a video of a Gator climbing over a fence just like ours after a dog. So, we do have some idea about Gators.
    In the first place they are Reptiles, not Animals. To go camping with Gators, just for the thrill of it is in our opinions a recipe for disaster. They are very unpredictable and knowing human nature, someone will try and get just a little bit closer so we can get a good picture. Saw a woman at an Alligator farm not far from us reach down to pet one. She was very lucky to escape without losing a hand. Camping just about anywhere in Florida, especially South Florida, will have Gators if there’s water anywhere around. Like Chelsea said, the best rule is the rule of thumb she mentioned. Far, far away is best.
    Happy Camping, Be safe.

    Very interesting article,

    Reply
  2. In Florida, always double check a pool before jumping in. Alligators frequently break into screen rooms to swim in pools.

    Look outside before going out, they frequently approach front doors. They are out and about in mating season in broad daylight. If not gators, snakes even more so , be sassin’ for your ring camera.

    Puddle in the road? There’s a gator in it.

    If you put your drinking glass of water down for a minute, check it for gators before resuming your refreshment.

    As more and more territory is lost to development, they haven been known to enter buildings. It’s not the least infrequent to find snakes in the loo. Look before you sit, especially at night.

    It’s true most wildlife goes out of its way to avoid you. However, like the other reviewer said, it’s a reptile, not a higher thinking animal. A giant reptile capable of killing humans with ease. Faster than you can imagine at times. An alligator sees anything moving as potential prey. It’s basically an eating machine and tourists are a favorite snack.

    Tourist? Never walk your dog along ponds and swamps. Many injuries are a result of dog/creature interaction and humans trying to save them. If it happens, RUN. Leave the alligator/dog rescue to Florida Man. There are no do-overs.

    One doesn’t have to be afraid to visit, they just need knowledge and deep appreciation for predators.

    Reply

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