Thursday, January 26, 2012

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge: Alligator Alley

December 29th, 2011. Between Christmas and New Year we took an overnight trip down to the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge in search of some sun and warmer weather. The weather was a little cool due to a northwesterly wind but it was sunny. The Savannah NWR is located on the east side of the Savannah River in Jasper County, South Carolina, just across the Savannah River from Georgia. We visited Argyle Island that is accessed from Alligator Alley.

The highway to Argyle Island is nicknamed ‘Alligator Alley’: in Georgia, it’s highway 25 and it becomes highway 170 in South Carolina. There’s something fascinating about alligators. I’ve seen them before but there I was really looking forward to catching a glimpse of one again on this trip. I wouldn’t have been surprised if we hadn’t seen one because it was quite cool but…

We saw alligators in three different places. On a bank just beside the tree grove; on a dike near the end of the drive; and at the bottom of the dike the drive was built on. The second and third locations were most photogenic.

Encounter #1: We were looking for good lines of water lilies to demonstrate how they grow in a line following the optimum depth at which they grow. This was one of those instances when you suddenly realize that ‘something is out of place’ and then you realize you’re looking at an alligator. This alligator had crawled out onto the dike – on the side sheltered from the cool wind that was blowing.

Can you see it?

Our first sight of it. It was about 10 to 12 feet long. It had been there for some time; it was dry. Then something interesting happened.

Another alligator, approximately the same size as the first, started to crawl out onto the dike.


A better looks at its tail.

It realized that there was another alligator about the same size already on the prime sunning spot. It seemed to be calculating the risk of a nasty encounter if it tried to crawl any further up the dike.

It finally settled down in that position but it didn’t really look like a comfortable position. When we returned later, it had disappeared.


Encounter #2. We nearing the end of our second drive around the loop when we spotted a smaller alligator, about 8 to 10 feet in length at the bottom of the bank below the road. It would have been easy to look out to the swamp past it without seeing it.

The view from the car window. This alligator was about 20 feet from us. We didn’t get out of the truck for fear of disturbing it

Looking out across the marsh. It would have been easy to overlook the alligator. Several cars drove past us without seeing it. You had to look down, not out.

It seemed unfazed by us being there but it was very watchful. It did move but its movements were almost imperceptible.

A closer view of its head and very watchful eye that is visible, even at this distance. If you enlarge this image, its large teeth are quite visible.
Click on an image to view a larger image


University of Georgia Museum of Natural History: North American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

Related posts:

- Savannah National Wildlife Refuge: The Evening Before

- Savannah National Wildlife Refuge: The Morning After

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