American Alligators

Ask someone who ain’t from around here where they can find American alligators, and they’ll probably tell you Florida or Louisiana – but locals know: eastern North Carolina is slap full of gators.

American alligators are notorious for blocking traffic in Wilmington and surfing Brunswick County waves. I remember Mama pointing them out to me when I was growing up.

The giant reptiles weren’t as common in the 1980s, so you had to know where to find them. Mama usually took me to Greenfield Lake or the USS North Carolina – both places always had a few hanging around.

Those trips to see the gators were made during the spring and summer. You don’t see them when it’s cold out. Alligators brumate when temps drop down to 40 degrees.

When gators brumate, they stick their noses out of the water and shut down. They don’t eat during this time. Instead, their metabolism slows to conserve energy. Though they don’t move or eat during brumation, brumating isn’t a true hibernation because the alligators aren’t asleep.

Spring is mating season for American alligators. It’s easier to spot them from May to June since they are out looking for mates. But it also makes the usually docile creatures more aggressive.

We found the big male above at Orton Pond earlier this month. He was with a smaller female. When I stepped too close to take pictures, he bellowed at me. I took a few steps back, and we were both happier for it.

Belle spent most of her life in Wilmington but never saw a gator in the wild until a few years ago. I’m not sure how that happened. We’ve made up for it, though. Every time I take her down towards the coast during spring and summer, I make sure we stop to visit the alligators.

Below are some of our favorite spots to see gators in southeastern North Carolina.

Where to see American Alligators in Southeastern North Carolina

  • Greenfield Lake
  • USS North Carolina
  • Town Creek
  • Cape Fear River
  • Orton Pond
  • Lake Waccamaw
  • Black River
  • Fort Fisher Aquarium
  • Smith Creek
  • Bald Head Island

Did I miss any? Where’s your favorite spot to go see the alligators?

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