Gators in the Creek: Not Just an Urban Legend!

Finally, after twenty years of glancing warily at Cypress-Creek, I saw one of the mythical alligators I’ve heard so much about. Twenty years ago, when the Kickerillo-Mischer Preserve was owned by Compaq, you could borrow a paddleboat and take it out onto the lake. You had to read a pamphlet about snakes and alligators and sign a paper saying that you’d been warned. I took my daughter out in a paddleboat, fibbing a bit about the pamphlet I hastily shoved into my pocket: “It’s just an educational thing about the wildlife in Texas!” We had a good time paddling around the lake on the water.

Of course, if you read my first post about the preserve, you saw the Gator Etiquette sign. Maybe you read my post about asking the park ranger if the gators were just a myth. He told me the best places to spot them and assured me they were real. He even showed me a picture of the 11-footer that likes to hang out near the old dock.

I still wasn’t convinced.

Imagine my excitement, this morning, when I spotted this big fellow:


I spent 20 minutes of my walk time chasing it around the dock, trying to get a better photo. When it headed toward the shore on the far side of the lake, facing a group of people enjoying their morning on a park bench, I ran around the dock, hoping to catch it with its mouth open. And to warn the people, of course.

They were so kind, they encouraged me to move in closer for a photo. Didn’t mind me getting in the way of their Skype call at all. Smiled sympathetically when I finally realized I’d been chasing a fungus covered bit of driftwood. They’d thought it was a gator, earlier, too, and had been watching it float lazy circles for the past hour.

So much for that. I now understand how folks who’ve photographed the Loch Ness Monster feel.

I did a little power-walking to catch up with my goal pace, and passed a gentleman who had been nearly as hopeful of a gator spotting as I was. I shook my head. “Not this time, but I’m told they’re in there.”

We watched about thirty kayakers paddling their brightly colored boats around the lake. I hope that if the day comes, when some idiot tips a canoe, and the gator’s hungry, they won’t close the park or punish the gators for being gators. Or driftwood covered in mushrooms, like eyes.

When I got to the bridge, I looked up and noticed people standing halfway across, pointing into the water just like the park ranger said they do when they think they’ve spotted an alligator. I tried not to get my hopes up; it was probably a bit of rubber tire or a log or just the rush of water pouring out of the storm drain, sparkling brightly in the sun.

Near the bridge, there’s a bright yellow rope swing. The park rangers have cut it, burned it, done everything but climb up the tree hanging out over the creek to remove it. Local teens keep putting it up. Whether it’s in the spirit of fun or daring their unsuspecting friends to take a ride and drop into the creek, who knows? But there, directly below the rope swing, looking up, in what I like to think of as “Hope Springs Eternal,” is a little gator – probably about four feet long:


Look hard; you’ll spot him. Just his little head is sticking up, patiently waiting to catch an unsuspecting kid on that bright yellow rope swing. Here’s a closer view:


I realize this is a common sight in Louisiana and other southern states. I used to enjoy – and be slightly alarmed by – the gators lined up along the highways in Florida, as if waiting for one of those shiny “cans full of people” to stop so they could pry it open with their teeth and claws for a tasty lunch. For the most part, gators avoid people unless people feed them. In that respect, they’re like bears – and feeding them is akin to passing a death sentence on these amazing creatures. I only hope that people respect that this is their home and don’t cause a tragic confrontation.

15 thoughts on “Gators in the Creek: Not Just an Urban Legend!”

  1. I also saw a snake, but he was moving too fast to get a photo. And he was just a little common garter snake, anyway, or I’D have been moving too fast to get a photo.

    1. And I can now confirm that: I can walk backwards almost as fast as I can walk forwards when confronted with a large snake slowly crossing the blacktop two feet in front of me. He politely did the same, and let me pass. But no – I did not stop to get a PHOTOGRAPH. You know what sssssselebrity snakes do to the paparazzi?

  2. Just as I was thinking of my future snowbirding (maybe) in Florida…thanks for reminding me of one of the hazards of living there. At least, in my eight long-ago months of living in Wichita Falls, I never saw one. Too far north?

  3. This brought back some great memories for me. After moving from Minnesota to Florida almost 20 years ago I saw my first gator in the wild from a canoe and I was fascinated. The way they move in the water and how still they hold continues to amaze me.

    Thanks Holly!


  4. Yeah, everybody in the Kentuckiana area be like, “Don’t give Marian a bite of your chocolate eclair. She’ll follow you around for the rest of your life and nip at your hands.”

    So, anyway, now you know the gators are FOR REAL. Also: fungusy logs. You probably got that lost time in aerobics from your elevated heart rate, running around looking for a good shot.

    1. Pretty sure I got my exercise today on so many levels – squats (taking pics of flowers and bugs); aerobics (trying to walk and breathe at the same time in 90 degree heat and high humidity) – I got in a bit over 7.25 miles over two walks today, and I am done and done in, but it was fun.

    2. I’d share my chocolate with you. (Ask my husband; that’s a huge honor and a rare treat. I’m normally not that generous with my chocolate.) I’m trusting, though, that it won’t make you dangerous as a gator with a picnic basket? I wouldn’t want to put you at risk from the state game wardens.

  5. The first time I flew to Florida and rented a car for work, I found out that Florida roads didn’t have shoulders. It was a very tense drive at night from Orlando International (?) to Cape Canaveral (?) in the dark. Stressful.

    1. Hahaha, that road to Cocoa Beach has lots of them, sometimes. And even then, they probably wouldn’t mess with you, but it’d creep me out, too.

  6. Wow, that must have been an experience. I have seen gators and been a little scared of them too. My best friend would have loved this experience tough. I, on the other hand, not so much. I think the animals are better of with us not encroaching upon their habitat which sadly hardly happens these days.

    1. I was never close enough to it to feel even a little nervous. I do agree about our encroaching on their habitat. I’m glad this land is being maintained as a preserve, but it worries me how popular it’s becoming, and I really hope that everyone who gets into the lake or creek understands their responsibility to be safe and keep these animals safe. If I get eaten by a gator while playing in ITS home, whose fault is it? No one’s, really. You could say it’s mine, but that just further separates us from nature – and like it or not, we ARE a part of “nature.” We may be the giant, annoying fire ants of the world, as far as other creatures are concerned, but we are not alien beings that have no right to exist there, either. We just need to learn to share better than we do.

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