- All snakes can swim, but only a few are semiaquatic
- Florida has more native snake species than any state.
- Florida’s climate is reptile-friendly, and many species thrive in the state.
Snakes Found Around Florida Rivers
Florida, known for the Everglades also has nearly 50 snake species. Since we’re talking about the most snake-infested rivers in the state, you’ll want to know what snake species you’ll likely find in and around those rivers too.
The most likely candidates are going to be the semiaquatic snakes, so here they are:
Florida has two cottonmouth snakes, the northern cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus) and the Florida cottonmouth (A. conanti). These are some of the most feared snakes in the South, because they are highly venomous.
These semiaquatic pit vipers spend most of their time in or around the water, moving with the grace of a ballerina. However, they move slowly on the land, so they can’t get out of your way very fast.
Their overall slowness may be why cottonmouths stand their ground and flash that bright white mouth at you instead of moving away — it’s a great warning system. But, contrary to the myths, they’re not out to get you. You’re too big to be considered anything other than a threat to its safety.
Florida boasts seven nonvenomous water snake species in the Nerodia genus. In order of their sightings on iNaturalist.org, from most to least, here they are:
- Banded water snake (N. fasciata) — common everywhere in Florida
- Brown water snake (N. taxispilota) — occurs throughout Florida but is more common in the south
- Florida green water snake (N. floridana) — more common in southern Florida
- Saltmarsh snake (N. clarkii) — prefers brackish coastal salt marshes
- Plain-bellied water snake (N. erythrogaster) — more common in the north & panhandle
- Mississippi green water snake (N. cyclopion) — only occasionally seen in the panhandle
- Common water snake (N. sipedon) — also only in the panhandle
Garter and Ribbon Snakes
Florida has two members of the Thamnophis genus, which contains garter and ribbon snakes: the eastern garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) and the common ribbon snake (Thamnophis saurita). These snakes also enjoy the water. Their favorite prey items are earthworms, amphibians, and sometimes fish.
This harmless snake family will most likely be found sunning themselves on trails and rocks, with a quick escape route available.
Other Florida Snakes
If you think these are the only snakes you’ll find around Florida’s rivers, you might be surprised to find several others.
- Southern black racer (Coluber constrictor priapus)
- Corn Snake (Pantherophis guttatus)
- Eastern rat snake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis)
- Pygmy rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius) — venomous
- Eastern diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus) — venomous
4 Most Snake-Infested Rivers in Florida
It’s hard to track all of Florida’s rivers on a map. They’re often broken up by the ponds and lakes that dot the state, so you can’t always see where one starts, and another one ends. Still, we went looking for the rivers with the biggest snake populations.
Most of the snakes you’ll encounter around Florida rivers aren’t venomous. But even the venomous snakes aren’t interested in a confrontation, so backing off to give them a little space to escape is your best bet.
#1 St. Johns River
In addition to being one of about 30 rivers in the U.S. that flows northward, the St. Johns River is the longest in Florida at 310 miles. Its overall size and width make it the most significant river in Florida, both commercially and for recreation.
Its length means that most of Florida’s river snakes can be found along its course, somewhere. The only snakes that aren’t found along the St. Johns River are those that have a small bit of their range extending into the panhandle. For example, copperheads, Mississippi green and common water snakes aren’t found in the rest of Florida.
#2 Apalachicola River
Only 107 miles long, the Apalachicola River starts at Jim Woodruff Dam just inside of Florida and twists its way to the coast in Apalachicola, Florida. It’s a popular river for canoeing and kayaking, which is great because that’s the only way you can get to some of the best scenery.
The dense vegetation and narrow spots make it an ideal snake habitat. In fact, the Apalachicola ecosystem is the most diverse in North America and supports the most amphibian and reptile species in North America. That’s in addition to having the most freshwater fish species in Florida — perfect for semiaquatic snakes!
#3 Ochlockonee River
The Ochlockonee River starts in Georgia and travels through the Florida panhandle, where after 206 miles, it drains into the Gulf of Mexico. The river flows quickly until it reaches Lake Talquin. As beautiful as the area is, it’s also home to dozens of snake species — making it one of Florida’s most snake-infested rivers.
Home to various wildlife, snakes are common around Ochlockonee River. You’ll occasionally see water and garter snakes swimming, but you’re more likely to see them sunning themselves on trails. Other snakes like southern black racers and gray rat snakes also patrol the shoreline. However, racers and rat snakes also spend a fair amount of time in the trees, cruising for bird nests.
#4 Withlacoochee River
Not to be outdone, the Withlacoochee River in central Florida is where iNaturalist users log some of the most snake sightings. At 157 miles long, it’s not the longest river on our list and it’s more of a stream in some parts, but it is one of Florida’s most snake-infested rivers!
The Withlacoochee River flows through swamps and limerock areas, and the water level fluctuates dramatically throughout the year because of rainfall. Its name likely means “Little Big Water,” which probably refers to its natural water level changes.
Summary of Florida’s Most Snake-Infested Rivers
|River Name||Most Common Snakes|
|St. Johns River||Eastern rat snakes, brown water snakes|
|Apalachicola River||Southern black racer, gray rat snake|
|Ochlockonee River||Common water snakes, garter snakes|
|Withlacoochee River||Banded water snake, Southern black racer|
Other Animals Found in and Around Florida Rivers
Of course, snakes aren’t the only thing you’ll see in and around Florida’s rivers. The state boasts one of the most diverse regions, where you can even find monkeys.
Vervet Monkeys in Florida
Adorable though they are, vervet monkeys aren’t native. They’re omnivorous, and eat everything from seeds and fruit to bird eggs and lizards.
The original troop of vervet monkeys escaped from the Anthropoid Ape Research Foundation in the 1940s. In 2020, about 40 monkeys lived in Florida.
Most Florida vervet monkeys live in the Dania Beach area and local authorities encourage visitors to not feed the monkeys.
The most notorious Florida native may be the American alligator, a reptile that can reach 15 feet long from snout to tail.
American alligators make themselves at home in any and all Florida rivers and lakes. There are even cases where an alligator has decided to make use of someone’s swimming pool.
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