Walk Among the Closest Thing to Dinosaurs in Florida’s Everglades

Allison Burney

Jack Kelly/Unsplash

I’ve heard many things about Florida’s ‘Alligator Alley’ over the years.

I even drove through parts of the Everglades on a road trip a few years ago, but unfortunately I didn’t have enough time on that trip to make a proper stop in what Nat Geo WILD refers to as “a real Jurassic Park.”

It’s actually a fair description, given that some of the plants and trees in the Everglades’ swampy wetlands were around in the days of the dinosaur, and the alligators you’ll see are the “closest living creatures to dinosaurs on the planet.”

One of the best places to see the American alligator in the wild is the Shark Valley Trails in Everglades National Park.

Here, you won’t have to search too hard to find them—especially if you go on a nice, sunny day when the alligators are likely to be sunning themselves to warm up their body temperature along the banks at the sides of the Tram Road.

This 15-mile round-trip road is paved and provides easy access to view the wildlife of the Everglades, and there are many ways to travel the loop. You can walk, bike, or take a 2-hour guided tram tour with a park ranger, who will teach you about the alligators you’re viewing at the same time.

In the United States of Animals, ranger Nicholas Roger of Everglades National Park says,

The alligators that you see are nothing less than a living dinosaur. Alligators have not changed for over 200 million years.

Bike rentals are available from Shark Valley Tram Tours, and access to the trails is located just behind the Visitor Center for those wanting to explore the area on their own. There are also boardwalks and an observation tower to give you a better view of the area.

Just be sure to remember what you’re dealing with as you view these animals in their natural environment.

A full-grown alligator can weigh as much as 1000 pounds and be up to 15 feet long. Plus, they can have up to 80 teeth with an incredibly powerful bite force that you don’t want to be anywhere near! Rangers recommend keeping a distance of at least 10-15 feet between you and an alligator at all times, but more is obviously better.

Mark Parry, a wildlife biologist at Everglades National Park, says,

Any time you have an animal with big, visible teeth and a big mouth, people tend to be a little afraid of it. It is kind of a primal fear that a lot of people have of something that’s creeping around in the water, perceived as sneaky.

And it’s not a bad thing to be a little afraid and give them plenty of space, because these living dinosaurs are much faster than they look!

According to National Geographic, they can move at speeds of 11 miles per hour on land and 20 miles per hour in the water. When you compare that to Michael Phelps, who is regarded as the fastest human swimmer, traveling up to 6 miles per hour, you could be in serious trouble!

So while it’s best to stay back from the water’s edge, you can still safely view alligators throughout the year in Florida, and different seasons provide different opportunities.

Late spring and summer is mating season, where you’re likely to hear the loud “roars” of bellowing male alligators trying to establish their territory. But late summer or early fall is best if you want to see babies hanging around with their mothers learning how to be alligators.

No matter when you choose to visit, strolling along a road dotted with alligators will be a walk that’s hard to forget!

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Writer & proofreader. I love travel, reading, coffee, and exploring nature. On a mission to keep learning, growing, and enjoying this adventure we call life.


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