19 July 2015

Alligator Ole!

On the way back from the Keys, Scott and I were discussing the lack of alligator sightings during our stops in the Everglades/Alligator Alley and at my mom’s place. In the 20 years that we have been driving down to Florida together, we have never seen an alligator outside of Busch Gardens….and that guy was too stuffed to jump. Like us most days after dinner.

So Scott did some research while I was driving and set up a canoeing adventure for the family at Canoe Escape on the Hillsborough River. The guide promised that we’d see between 10 and 50 (!!!!) alligators during our 2-3 hour canoe trip. Yipes! When Scott asked if they’d had any alligator attacks, he said only one in over twenty years, and the bite wounds received were defensive bites.

Later on from my mom's house I did a little more research and found this article right away and I had some real apprehension about the whole adventure that evening.

When I was a child (I had a fever, my hands felt just like, 2 balloons) I was in small boat in our alligator-infested pond with my 2 brothers.  When my brothers spotted a baby alligator swimming across the pond, they both jumped overboard to retrieve the baby gator.  I was left alone without a paddle (go ahead and laugh because I was definitely up some sort of creek), shrieking.  From what I have remembered for almost 40 years now is that my grandfather (PawPaw) jumped into the pond and rescued me.  This past week I learned that my memory was faulty. My mom told me that my PawPaw didn’t know how to swim (what?!). And my brother told me that HE jumped in to bring me back to shore. Whatever happened, I was scarred for life…

At any rate, I felt the need to somewhat get over this irrational fear of gators. And the canoeing sounded like fun for the family. Cost was minimal at $100 for 4 rowers on the shortest route (Trip 1) that takes 2-4 hours depending on how fast one rows.

Future Canoers
Not sure how to feel about this yet. I told them that red angers the gators like it does bulls.

Let's do this!

Ready to See Some Gators
Ready to See Some Gators
Right after we slipped our canoes into the water, we immediately saw a baby alligator to our right!!! No time to capture a picture, I was trying not to lose my oar!

So Far So Good
Not really phased yet.
I was on high alert with the oar so I was not able to capture all of the photos I wanted. I was fearing for my life and limbs. But look at how peaceful and serene David looks. He probably should have opted for the do rag like his little sister (Experienced Camper Extraordinaire). She knows that it protects the head and hair from the dropping down of Creepy Crawlies.

So Far So Good

When we first started down the river, we were told to head to the right to check out that area and then head back to the left and keep going downstream for a couple of hours.

We had a lot of space around us but that didn't stop a gator from crossing over in front of us!!!

Canoeing with Gators from Nolita Morgan on Vimeo.

Look at that smug look on his face! He might be partially submerged but I know he's smirking!!!


Pretending we are not surrounded by gators!
"Breathe in, breathe out"

We're okay. Just chillin' on the river, snapping some pics...

Aubri rowing and protecting her head.
Kids were pressuring me for gummy bears at this point.
We saw a few more alligators peacefully watching (lurking) and some turtle yoga too.

Turtle Yoga

It was nice when we had wide open spaces to take in the view...

Gator Sighting Up Ahead

...but things got hairy and narrow at times and we got stuck in places where trees had fallen over. I was scared each time that I was going to surprise a sleeping gator on the river bed pushing away from and off of whatever we were stuck.

Navigating through the River
We decided daddy could lead at this particular bend in the river...

This area was very shallow which was just as scary as the deeper areas. In the deep areas I could not see under the boat but in the shallow areas, I could see and some things were creepy -- like the catfish or the other fish that looked long and toothy and menacing!

Ducks and Dragonflies

But this area was safe, right? Look at the sweet little duck eating fish and the dragonfly flying by... they wouldn't be here if there was danger, right?

Look How Close This Gator Was
This should be our Christmas card.
Notsomuch a few seconds down the river. Note: I did not notice my youngest's head and feet hanging over the sides of the boat until reviewing the photo later.  While my heart was racing and she was daydreaming under the Florida sky.

Reality Sets In

This guy surprised me and David so much so that I was surprised that I didn't accidentally paddle him. He did not move an inch but his eyes told me to stay the eff away. I obliged. We silently told the rest of the family about this hidden guy but I don't think they understood just how close he was to where the river gently moved the canoes...

Ibis(es) in the Background

Going under things was also terrifying. The kids didn't know about snakes and spiders that could drop down but I did! For that matter, the kids didn't know about the alligator attack last year either, but I did! I was scared we'd go slow-mo through a spider web just as a snake was dropping down on us.

Navigating Under the Tree Branch

We saw other wildlife while on the river...

Roseate Spoonbill
Roseate Spoonbill
But we kept seeing alligators at almost every turn.

Gator Sighting on Hillsborough River

Made it hard to relax, except for Aubri, anyway.

More Alligators Lurking, I'm Sure

In some areas I had David keep his oar in the boat so I could navigate us out of the situation (or off of a log) but his big guns did help us many times. And he learned his left from his right solidly on this trip.

Canoeing Down the Hillsborough River
Towards the end (when it started raining and lightning!!!

Canoeing with Gators in Thunderstorm from Nolita Morgan on Vimeo.

When it started raining, David and I picked up the pace.  There was lightning and a light rain, but it was Florida and we didn't want our boat to sink during a thunderstorm. We saw the last alligator on the lily pads to the left of us just before the guide pulled us to safety. Thirty-two alligators! Not too bad. I think we are good now...

We Survived!!!
Safely on the bus back to civilization...


  1. Eeeek! That is kinda creepy!!! Ha!

    On another note, your kiddos are getting SO BIG! They're all getting so tall!

    1. It WAS creepy, Melissa, but also such a cool adventure. Canoeing on Lake Thunderbird wouldn't quite be the same but I am willing to give it a try. My arms ached so much that evening I had to take an Advil. And the adrenaline rush when coming close to an area where there might be trouble! Oy! The last mad dash to the dock was probably what put me over on paddling but I did NOT want to be out in a thunderstorm.

      And yes, the kiddos are getting big. Aubri threatens to surpass David any day now and Emi has never stopped growing.


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