It’s extremely rare to see a lizard in the UK, in fact I’m not even sure lizards are native to the British Isles. It’s perhaps due to this lack of lizardry that I am fascinated by alligators in the wild, and unable to resist the chance to visit Brazos Bend State Park just 28 southwest of Houston where the alligators run wild.

As a young boy I used to spend hours fishing newts out of a swampy pond at the back of my grandparents property. In fact I didn’t just restrict myself to newts, all manner of bugs, beetles, and larvae were fished out of that pond by me at one point or another. But the newts, especially the rare Great Crested newts, were always my prize catch. I’d proudly show them to my grandparents, their neighbors, or in fact anyone who showed even the slightest interested in what I was doing.

With that in mind I wonder how different that pond dipping might have been had I lived in a place where alligators or other such dangers lurked. I rather think that maybe I would have developed a keen interest in them, foolishly braving the dangers they pose as only a young boy would. Perhaps I should be thankful that the most dangerous thing in a British swamp is the scarily named water scorpion, which is actually completely harmless.

Rachel was kind enough to take time out to visit the alligators and other wildlife at Brazos Bend with me. Within no time we saw our first alligator up close and personal as one swan right under us as we stood on a small pier at the first pond. Despite the fact that alligators are obviously dangerous and signs made it clear that we were to stay at a distance, Rachel wanted to pet the animal! Not excited by the possibility of having to explain an unfortunate limb loss to anyone I insisted that she refrained from any such activity while in my company. Thankfully she accepted those terms, albeit reluctantly.

The lakes were unusually high with some were closed due to recent flooding, and perhaps because of this we saw no less than 28 alligators between us. On a few occasions Rachel practically jumped out of her skin when she startled nearby alligators that spectacularly splashed back into the swamp.

However, despite being hissed at by one and seeing first hand how fast they can move, Rachel insisted that I took a picture of her as she touched an alligator that was basking in the sun on the pathway. In the end though the picture rather comically reveals that, despite her apparent bravery, she does actually posses a modicum of good sense when it comes to dealing with sharply toothed reptiles.

According to the parks website there are some 270 species of birds, 21 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 23 species of mammals living in the Brazos Bend State Park. We weren’t really being nature geeks though. We did, however, see loads of different birds, a few frogs, a toad or two, loads of spiders, and even a sleeping snake.

It’s not a place to visit if you are in anyway scared of spiders. All along the banks of the swamps are huge spiders webs populated by large numbers of brightly colored golden silk banana spiders. They might look scary, but despite being the largest non tarantula spiders in North America they’re completely harmless.

For me the experience of walking around in the thick hot air of the swampy State park is just great. Maybe next time I’m in the area I should take one of the less well trodden paths and get into the real Texan outback? Seems to me like that might be a lot of fun. Anyone up for joining me on a trek like that?

Brazos Bend State Park
Rachel and the gator
[Video] About Brazos Bend State Park