The roadside sign warned, “Do not feed or disturb the alligators.”
“Ha,” I exclaimed, grabbing my phone to snap a photo. “This might be the only ‘gator we see!”
We were driving a portion of the Creole Nature Trail, a 180 mile network of scenic highways that pass through small towns, beaches and wetlands of Southern Louisiana. We had just left Kevin’s uncle’s house near Lake Calcasieu where we had gorged ourselves over the weekend at a family reunion. We stopped off to drive the 3 mile loop of the Pintail Wildlife Drive, a managed wetland in the Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge. I expected to do the short drive in about 20 minutes so we could get back on the road to get to our next destination by dusk.
I hoped to see some Louisiana wildlife, a few birds and maybe an alligator–I was feeling lucky.
My instinct was right, we spotted some birds, but also some gators–dozens of them!
They were sometimes hard to spot, hidden in the brush, and almost entirely submerged in the water.
Kevin drove the dirt road slowly, each of us scanned the waters for what we quickly recognized as light grey colored sticks or logs.
At every sighting we’d call out, “GATOR!” and stop the car. At first, I’d anxiously snap photos through the open car window, too afraid to open the door, but later, I got a bit more comfortable with the animals’ desire to keep their distance and I’d venture out to shoot from the road.
Every single sighting made my heart speed up. Alligators are such strange, prehistoric-looking creatures, and I felt like I’d stepped back in time. I couldn’t believe that these unusual animals were roaming loose on this otherwise nondescript country landscape.
In total, we spotted 27 alligators on the loop. Instead of 20 minutes, we spent about an hour and a half driving the short road. But it was worth it, it turned out to be the highest density of wild gators that we saw all week, far more than we spotted on the organized swamp tour we did in the Atchafalaya Basin. It was a really exciting experience for wildlife lovers!
Oh yeah, and about those birds…
My favorite unexpected sighting were the Roseate Spoonbills. Like flamingos, the birds’ bright pink hue comes their food–tiny crustaceans that feed on rose-colored algae.
We also spotted various species of herons, ibis, coots, pintail ducks, cormorants, anhingas, egrets, stilts, and terns. Louisiana is an unexpected treat for bird lovers!
Going to Louisiana?
Check out the Creole Nature Trail, and the Pintail Wildlife Drive, a great stop for Louisiana wildlife spotting, birdwatching, and–best of all–alligators!