Have you ever wondered if there are alligators in Arkansas?
The answer is a definite yes. There are alligators in Arkansas.
In fact, there have been alligators in Arkansas for thousands of years.
The alligator population in Arkansas has gone up and down throughout the centuries but it is claimed that there are approximately 2,000 – 3,000 alligators currently in the state.
Don’t worry, this is only a tiny fraction of the 1.3 million found in Florida!
There are also bears in Arkansas if you want to read about that.
Here are some more fun facts about Arkansas that you can check out!
Where in Arkansas do Alligators Live?
Alligators sightings have been documented in more than half of the counties in the state. They are typically found in the lower third of the state because the weather gets too cold in the north for the alligators to survive.
Alligators prefer to live in and around water that is still. So the swamps, ponds, and marshes of the southern part of the state are home of most of the alligators in Arkansas.
They do sometimes wander from their typical habitats due to water and hunting conditions.
In June, 2021 a couple on a boat thought that they spotted an alligator in the busy Lake Hamilton near the resort town of Hot Springs, Arkansas.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission determined that in this case it was just a floating log. However, they were quick to point out that it wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility that an alligator could be found in some of the southern lakes.
Here is what they said,
“A very populated and busy lake like Lake Hamilton would not be the first place you probably expect to see one, but it’s not impossible. We’ve had a lot of high water lately, so that can send alligators on the move and displace them,”
In other words alligators in Arkansas are certainly not something to worry about, but they do exist!
Where is the Best Place to See Alligators in Arkansas?
If you have visited Florida and seen alligators everywhere…well…it’s not like that in Arkansas.
The alligators in Arkansas keep a pretty low profile and you aren’t likely to see one sunning by the side of the road.
There are two locations where you are most likely to see alligators in Arkansas in the wild:
Arkansas Post National Memorial
The Arkansas Post was the first European settlement in the state of Arkansas. It was an important gathering place due to its location at the juncture of the Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers.
The site now houses the Arkansas Post National Memorial and museum to commemorate and teach about the history of the state and those who settled it.
Located on a peninsula bordered by rivers and backwaters, the site offers excellent fishing and wildlife watching opportunities – including spotting alligators.
The waters of Arkansas Post National Memorial provide valuable habitat to over a dozen alligators, some of which are fourteen feet in length.
Millwood State Park
Millwood Lake at Millwood State Park is just outside of the town of Ashdown, Arkansas and near Texarkana.
It a paradise for fishermen, especially bass fishing. Bass fishing tournaments are regularly held on the lake. Birdwatchers will also love a visit to Millwood State Park and it also has one of the largest populations of alligators in Arkansas.
The bottom of the spillway is one of the best places here to spot the alligators especially during warmer weather. You will see “no swimming” signs and I suggest that you take those seriously!
Where to See Alligators in Arkansas in Captivity
Here are a few places in Arkansas to go to see alligators in captivity.
- Little Rock Zoo – This zoo is located in midtown in Little Rock, Arkansas. They have an alligator exhibit which used to be the home of one of the most famous alligators in the state – Big Arkie.
- Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo – located in Hot Springs, Arkansas this alligator farm is the place to go for a true alligator enthusiast. You can get up close and personal with the alligators here!
- Witt Stephens Jr. Nature Center in downtown Little Rock sometimes has baby alligators to view.
- Delta Rivers Nature Center in Pine Bluff teaches about the wildlife and ecology in the Arkansas Delta. They have boardwalks and trails as well as exhibits with live turtles, snakes, and alligators.
Who Was Big Arkie?
Big Arkie is probably the most famous alligator in the state of Arkansas. I remember going to see him when I was a child growing up in Little Rock!
In 1952 a boy spotted an alligator in a flooded field near Hope, Arkansas. This was cause for great excitement in the area because the alligator population had greatly dwindled by this point.
Hunters captured the alligator and brought him to the Little Rock Zoo.
We don’t have records of why they chose to capture him, or if they were paid by the zoo for the animal – we do know that he ended up a resident of the zoo and lived there until his death in May of 1970.
Going to see Big Arkie was a rite of passage for many children growing up in Arkansas in the late 1950’s and 1960’s. He was 13 feet long and there were times when he was claimed to be the largest alligator in captivity.
After his death Big Arkie was stuffed and displayed in the reptile house at the zoo for many years. This became an attraction itself!
The climate in the reptile house was not conducive to preserving a stuffed animal and the body of Big Arkie had several homes over the ensuing years. He currently resides in a science building at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Arkansas.
History of Alligators in Arkansas
One of the earliest recorded accounts of alligators in Arkansas comes fromThe Arkansas Gazette.
In May 1828 the newspaper reported the killing of an 11-foot gator on the north side of the Arkansas River at Little Rock.
However, alligators were in the area long before recorded history.
During the years between 1860 – 1960 the alligator population was severely depleted not only in Arkansas but throughout the US by unregulated hunting. Alligator skin was popular during this time for the use of belts, shoes, purses etc.
In addition, throughout the 1900’s the wetlands were being drained at an alarming rate causing the alligator population to fall precipitously and hit an all time low in 1960.
What Was Done About the Declining Alligator Population in Arkansas
In 1961 the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission enacted regulation to protect the few remaining alligators. At this point they could only be found in very small numbers in the southwestern corner of the state.
In 1967 the US Congress listed the alligator as an endangered species.
Throughout the 70’s the Arkansas Game and Fish undertook a restocking program for the native alligators.
Many of these alligators were placed on private land because the owners wanted them to help deal with the over population of beavers and muskrats. These animals were doing major damage to the local trees and land.
In the past the presence of alligators in Arkansas had helped to control the population of these semi-aquatic rodents and it was hoped that this would happen again.
The effort proved to be successful. Alligator populations in Arkansas have increased and are now stable.
Why are Alligators Important to the Ecosystem of Arkansas?
In addition to helping maintain a balance in the animal population alligators have been called “ecosystem engineers.”
Alligators build dens in the banks of lakes or rivers when the weather gets cold or when they need a safe place to retreat.
These holes have the added benefit of providing shelter and safe places for a variety of other animals both land dwelling and aquatic.
Are Alligators Still an Endangered Species?
They are no longer considered endangered. However they are still considered to be a threatened species and things like hunting and farming are highly regulated.
Can You Hunt Alligators in Arkansas?
The alligator population in Arkansas has increased to the point that a highly regulated alligator hunt is occasionally allowed.
The guidelines for the hunt are very strict so you will want to check with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission if this is something that interests you.
Quick Facts About Alligators
- When temperatures fall below about 70 degrees alligators tend to lie dormant in the burrows that they dug in warmer weather.
- Alligators have a very slow metabolism and don’t eat very often. They rarely eat in the cold months.
- Alligators are most active at night and their eyes will glow red when you shine a flashlight on them.
- Male alligators are called bulls and female alligators are called cows.
- An adult alligator has 80 teeth and when they lose one a new one grows.
- Male alligators can grow up to 20 feet long and are much larger than the females. Most male alligators grow to about 14 feet long. Females grow to about 9 feet long.
- Females lay about 50 eggs and usually only 1 or 2 of the hatchlings survive to adulthood.
- The sex of the hatchlings is determined by the temperature at development – 90 degree temperatures yield males and 80 degree temperatures yield females.
- Alligators prefer still water with very little current.
- Alligators will come out and bask in the sun even in the colder months.
Hope you enjoyed hearing more about alligators in Arkansas!
Here are some more posts that you might enjoy about our beautiful state!
- Things to do in Arkansas in the summer
- Things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas
- Things to do in Little Rock, Arkansas
- Best Hikes in Arkansas
Thanks so much for stopping by!