Alligators in Pensacola: 3 Spots You’re Most Likely to See Them

One of the most well-known wild creatures in Florida is the American alligator. Alligators can be found in northern Florida, but they are more prevalent in central and southern Florida. Here are three locations in the Pensacola area where alligators can be found.

Pensacola is a city on the Florida Panhandle that is close to the Alabama border and situated on the Gulf of Mexico shoreline. Because five distinct nations have ruled it over the course of its history, some refer to it as the “City of Five Flags.” Pensacola is a well-liked tourist destination because of its many beaches and bustling metro districts.

Are there alligators in Pensacola?

Indeed, there are alligators in and around Pensacola. They favor freshwater, therefore you rarely see them on the well-known beaches in the city. They are found in the upper Pensacola Bay where freshwater from the rivers that feed it dilutes the saltwater. They are more frequently found inland, in swampy areas north of the city and in ponds and rivers.

University of West Florida

There are multiple public paths on the University of West Florida (UWF) that are accessible for bicycling, walking, and equestrian riding. These pathways offer the chance to see the alligators and other wildlife that resides in the natural areas surrounding the university. The Edward Ball Nature Trail is the one where you are most likely to spot alligators. This half-mile boardwalk spans a Thompson’s Bayou wetland and is designated as a walking-only trail. You can see a variety of species there, such as songbirds, waterfowl, and of course alligators.

Even UWF has its recognizable alligator. The university held a competition in 1981 to give a name to a 5-foot alligator that lived in Thompson’s Bayou. This alligator was seen to have a wounded front leg and a twisted tail. Lucinda Ellis, a student, came up with the winning moniker, “Captain Thunder of the University Marine Patrol.” With an estimated lifespan of 30 to 50 years in the wild, Captain Thunder might still be alive.

Blackwater River State Forest

Northeast of Pensacola sits the Blackwater River State Forest, one of Florida’s largest state forests. The Blackwater River, which originates in Alabama and passes through the woodland before entering Blackwater Bay, is the source of the name. Biking, camping, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, off-highway vehicle (OHV) riding, canoeing, picnics, and swimming are just a few of the activities available to visitors in this area.

Aside from these uses, the forest is renowned for the wide variety of flora and fauna it supports. The forest is home to a diverse range of trees and shrubs that contribute to its multiple habitats. Numerous species of carnivorous plants—plants that catch and eat insects—can be found in the forest. The forest is home to a diverse range of bird species, gopher tortoises, white-tailed deer, opossums, great blue herons, and wild turkeys.

Although they are not very numerous, alligators can be seen in some areas of the Blackwater River State Forest. Swimming is prohibited at Bear Lake and Hurricane Lake, two of the park’s lakes, because of alligators. Bear Lake allows canoeing, and there are camping and hiking routes close by on both lakes. For your own safety, stay your distance from any alligator you may come across in one of these lakes.

Big Lagoon State Park

Pensacola is to the southwest of Big Lagoon State Park. Numerous ocean lagoons may be found there, including the Big Lagoon, which is where the name comes from. Biking, birdwatching, boating, camping, fishing, geocaching, hiking, kayaking, picnics, stargazing, swimming, and animal viewing are just a few of the activities it provides guests with. The park provides a haven for biodiversity, particularly avian species. The Great Florida Birding and animals Trail, a network of more than 500 locations around Florida that are perfect for watching birds and other animals, has this location as its gateway. This trail also passes through several sections of the Blackwater River State Forest.

Alligators can occasionally be found in the lagoons, but because they favor freshwater environments, the lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams that are located further inland are where you’re most likely to see them. This marsh is visible from a few of the park’s paths and the observation tower.

Long Pond, a sizable artificial freshwater body of water accessible via the park’s Estuary Trail and bridged over, is home to alligators as well. Regretfully, in the past, feeding the alligators encouraged them to approach people too closely, which led to the removal of some of them from the park. Both park visitors and the alligators themselves are at risk while feeding the reptiles. For this reason, it’s crucial to never feed wildlife, including alligators.