Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.
This post is a bit of a blast from the post - from my November 2011 trip to the Okefenokee. I had intended to share some gator photos shortly after the trip, but a crush of other subjects nearly relegated the giant reptiles to the scrap bin.
There are several thousand alligators in the Okefenokee's 438,000 acres, and if you visit, you're almost sure to see some. This stegosaurus-tailed bruiser was hauled out on a muddy embankment, and gave us his best repilian grin as we slowly cruised by in our swamp boat.
This old boy was in repose along a road, and apparently some fool tossed a pebble on its head. A "sleeping" gator looks dead and still as stone, but only an idiot would closely approach one. While attacks on people are very rare, only Darwin Award candidates test their luck.
An exceptionally massive old male can reach 14 feet in length and weigh half a ton. In spite of their bulk, big gators can move with astonishing speed, and become scaly Esther Williams' when in the water. They'll occasionally attempt to snap perched birds from limbs overhanging the water, and can nearly lunge free of the water. There is a great story of an Okefenokee swampman who was cruising a canal in his motorized johnboat when he rounded a bend only to meet a big gator that was hotfooting it right at his boat. The spooked reptile leapt free of the water and right into the guy's boat! After a wild tussle the boatman managed to lever it over the side with a pole, nearly capsizing in the process. He got a cool story out of that encounter!