Are There Alligators in the Mississippi River?

Written by Taiwo Victor
Updated: July 18, 2023
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Key Facts

  • The Mississippi river sustains an abundance of dangerous wildlife, including bears, coyotes, snakes, and even sharks. 
  • While the alligator was once threatened in the state during the 1960s, it has since staged an impressive comeback.
  • Alligators in the Mississippi river’s swamps actually grow larger than their cousins in Louisiana and Florida.

The Mississippi River, the fourth-longest river in the world and the second-longest in the United States, empties straight into the Gulf of Mexico, mixing freshwater and saltwater there. Given the river’s length of 2,340 miles running through ten different states, it isn’t surprising that there are plenty of different species and habitats on this vast body of water, ranging from mammals and birds to amphibians, fish, and reptiles.

The Mississippi River’s marshy banks are the perfect habitat for alligators.

The Mississippi River is also home to several dangerous animals, although most people don’t think of North America as having particularly aggressive animals. But are there alligators there? If so, where exactly can they be spotted? This article will address everything you need to know about alligators in the Mississippi River and other interesting facts.

Are There Alligators in the Mississippi River?

American Alligator

The Mississippi River is one place where alligators are often spotted.

©Steve Byland/Shutterstock.com

Believe it or not, American alligators are among the most dangerous animals lurking beneath the Mississippi River’s waters. In fact, in the state, the Mississippi River is one of the places where alligators are often spotted. Various species of snakes, bears, coyotes, and even sharks live in and around the river’s banks, but one of the most dangerous is the American alligator. 

American alligators, formerly considered an endangered species in Mississippi in the late 1960s, have experienced a significant population resurgence in the marshy swamps surrounding the Mississippi River. Alligators are uncommon in the state of Mississippi but common in the river delta’s neighboring regions and the swampy lowlands that develop there.

Among the ten states through which the Mississippi River flows, Mississippi and Louisiana are the only ones that have alligators. Approximately 30,000 alligators are thought to still exist in Mississippi today, with the majority concentrated in the southern part of the state and 2 million in Louisiana.

Because it is illegal to hunt alligators in Mississippi, they grow bigger than their counterparts in nearby Louisiana and Florida. In some counties, 20% of alligator sightings are above ten feet long. Alligators living in states without alligator hunters can reproduce more and attain greater sizes. 

Where to Find Alligators in the Mississippi River

Alligators are only present in the marshy swamps around the river, along the states of Mississippi and Louisiana. These reptiles are not native or common in other states, like Minnesota or Iowa, where the river flows. 

Although alligators are present in practically every county, Southeast Mississippi maintains the record for having the highest concentrations, accounting for 25% of the state’s total alligator population. The Pascagoula River System, Jackson, Harrison, and Hancock counties, as well as Tunica and Coahoma counties, are where alligators are most frequently spotted. Most alligators live in the river’s basin, which has the largest drainage system in North America

Jackson County is home to most alligators in Mississippi, with an estimated 7,500 of them, or 24% of the state’s total population, thriving within its 57,000 acres. Hancock, with 3,900 alligators, or 12% of the state’s total, and Rankin, with 2,400 alligators, or 7.4% of the state’s total, are two more counties with a large alligator population.

Can You Swim in the Mississippi River?

Mississippi river delta

It’s not safe to swim in the Mississippi River.

©EyeTravel/Shutterstock.com

In any circumstance, the answer would always be no, because plenty of dangers await swimmers on the Mississippi River. There are fast water currents that can sweep and slam you into a dock in seconds, undertows, eddies, and not to mention heavy pollution. The Mississippi River is one of the most polluted rivers in the country and the world. Yet, among the most harmful things that await you in the river are dangerous animals, including alligators. 

These wild creatures should never be approached since they can be gravely dangerous. Swimmers may not easily see alligators, but they should leave the area right away if they do. Swimming is best avoided at night because that’s when alligators are the most active.

Due to pollution and water contamination, there have also been illnesses experienced after swimming in the river. The river can also be dangerous due to high currents and buried debris.

What Other Dangerous Animals Are in the Mississippi River?

The river is not only home to alligators but also to other deadly creatures, including the bull shark, coral snake, copperhead, cottonmouth, and other venomous snake species. The bull shark is known as one of the most aggressive sharks in the world, and it easily adapts to whatever environment it’s presented with. You wouldn’t want to meet up with one in the muddy water of the Mississippi, but you may. Another lurking threat is the cottonmouth, which is also known as the water moccasin. This snake is highly venomous. Thankfully, they tend to avoid biting humans unless provoked. Along with cottonmouths are other venomous snakes like the copperhead, which isn’t truly aquatic but lives near water. You may think you’re safer on the shores of the river, but there are some daunting creatures there too. Look out for black bears and coyotes.

Are Alligators in the Mississippi River Dangerous?

American alligators are among the most dangerous animals lurking beneath the Mississippi River’s waters.

©Eugenie Robitaille/Shutterstock.com

The American alligator is one of the most dangerous creatures in the Mississippi River and is one of the top predators in the southern United States. Thankfully, no alligator attacks have ever been documented in Mississippi. However, some state laws occasionally forbid feeding an alligator due to the potential dangers it might bring. If fed repeatedly, an alligator may mistake a person for potential prey.

Mostly, alligator sightings are not a concern unless they are aggressive toward people and pose a threat to them, their pets, or even cattle. Gators are inherently cautious of people, so you should be safe as long as you keep your distance.

Are There Crocodiles in the Mississippi River?

No, neither the Mississippi River nor the state of Mississippi contains crocodiles. The southern part of the country is home to several alligators, but Florida is the only place where crocodiles may be found and the only place in the world where crocodiles and alligators live side by side. Crocodiles may be displayed in several Mississippi zoos, but they are not indigenous or endemic to the state.

Cornered crocodile fight five adult lions

Crocodiles do not live in the Mississippi River.

©AppleZoomZoom/Shutterstock.com

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Milen Mkv/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals, tech, and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

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Sources
  1. Fauna Facts, Available here: https://faunafacts.com/alligators/are-there-alligators-in-the-mississippi-river/
  2. Vicksburg, Available here: https://visitvicksburg.com/a-summarized-guide-to-mississippi-river-residents
  3. Clarion Ledger, Available here: https://www.clarionledger.com/story/sports/outdoors/2021/09/08/alligators-mississippi-5-facts-know-where-find-environment/8196660002/