Alligator Right-of-Way

Excerpt from my March 12, 2015 Okefenokee nature journal.

Passing by a large American Alligator in a canoe; Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. March 12, 2015. © Please don’t steal my images. Download and use legally at

As one leaves the more open waters of Billy’s or Minnie’s Lakes in the Okefenokee and enters the cypress forests and hammocks, the channels become considerably narrower. While there aren’t as many alligators in these tighter areas, occasionally a large specimen might be patrolling the water. This begs the question: how do you safely pass a large gator in a little kayak? On the left, or on the right? The answer: let him choose!

While padding up the Middle Fork, my daughter and I encountered a particularly large bull gator swimming in the narrow channel, his tail swishing back and forth as he cut through the water ahead. And although he was headed in the same direction, we were gaining on him. How would we pass him? He spied us from the corner of his eye and slowed a tad as we came alongside. He was more than half the length of the canoe. I took some close up shots and a video as he slowed and allowed us passage. So close. He could easily have been touched with the oar; but we dare not try.

iNaturalist observation:

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