Gators on the Chattahoochee

We were on the search for alligators. And I wanted to see natural Alabama. We found Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge.

A landscape of 11,184 acres, upland rolling into lowland along the Chattahoochee River. Like a scene from Out of Africa. White great egrets arched over green meadows, against a backdrop of darker green canopies. Ibises darted their long curved beaks into shallows. Hawks and vultures drifted circles, looking after small mammals in the grass. A birder’s haven (click for birds list).

…and we in our silent hybrid action, cruising for gators. There! My daughter shouted. Her young eyes quicker than mine. In the water lily pads, a dreaded prehistoric hump the size of a truck tire broke the surface. That was one big dude. Reminiscent of the near-1000-pound gators pulled from these waters (click for more).

Encouraged, our eyes adjusted to what we looked for. We looked for dark bumps. Pairs of isolated eyes. A small knob of armor. Maybe moving, maybe still, submerging at our approach. Then in a bay, we saw one. Was that it? No, there’s another! And another!! Three eight-foot alligators cruising effortlessly back and forth, watching us.

Now we have the scent. We’re on the trail and see small adolescent dots here and there, in shallows of fields, in the edges of ditches. And we pull up to a secluded inlet covered with aquatic plants. The surface splashes alive as dozens of infant gators, all less than a foot long, jump into action. They croak their young call for their mother. Then a solid splash echoes from beyond a finger of grassy land across from us. The 10-foot-long mother slowly and silently glides into the inlet from deeper water.

Maybe that was enough gators for one day.

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