- South Carolina has been home to more than 100,000 alligators.
- A giant alligator weighing nearly 1,000 pounds was caught in Lake Marion.
- Hilton Head Island residents share the roads with 2,000-4,000 alligators, who use an “alligator crossing” to cross busy roads.
South Carolina has long been a renowned tourist spot for many years, home of the famous Morgan Island, which includes a population of about 4,000 free-roaming rhesus monkeys. This place is also known for its beautiful beaches, relaxing golf courses, and historic districts that would make every trip there worthwhile. Its most influential cities, like Charleston, Columbia, Myrtle Beach, Greenville, Florence, and Spartanburg, offer their share of great amenities, welcoming culture, and destinations that even locals can visit.
One of the many tourist destinations present in South Carolina is its lakes. Its major lakes cover a total of 683 square miles, considering that it is a small state. And with the many species it provides habitat for, it is no surprise that there are alligator sightings throughout South Carolina’s lakes too. Over the years, about 100,000 South Carolina alligators are said to have lived there.
Today, we’ll plunge deep and dive to discover the most alligator-infested lakes in South Carolina. We’re taking a look at not just the infested lakes but also those regions with frequent alligator sightings and confirmed South Carolina alligators’ population information.
1. Lake Marion
|Size||110,600 acres (447.6 km²)|
|Known for||Santee State Park, abundant wildlife, and big fish species|
|Most relevant alligator sightings||2016, 2018|
Known for being the largest lake in all of South Carolina, covering about 110,600 acres (447.6 km²) of water, Lake Marion is an excellent place for many recreational opportunities. This is also where the Santee State Park sits, which offers a lot more for locals and tourists, such as camping, lodging, nature trails, boating, boat ramps, swimming, biking, and even hiking.
However, the state park and all of Lake Marion is a paradise for bird lovers as almost 300 species of birds, native and rare, can be found here and observed through birdwatching. Some of the birds found here are bald eagles, ospreys, great blue herons, egrets, hawks, geese, and different varieties of ducks and other birds of prey. It is no surprise that Lake Marion is also a good spot for anglers who love to fish more than to watch birds. You can fish for largemouth bass, channel catfish, flathead catfish, bluegill, northern pike, and even blue catfish.
Fish aren’t the only ones you can spot in the waters of Lake Marion, as this is also the place in South Carolina where there are the most confirmed alligator populations. South Carolina alligators can be found thriving in the shallow and swampy areas of the lake and can also be found in coves and creeks. Most relevant sightings happened between 2016 and 2018, as 700-pound and almost 1,000-pound alligators were caught, ranging from 12 to 15 feet each. Currently, more than 100 confirmed alligators are making Lake Marion their home, which sets the limit for swimming for tourists in other places where they can attack or appear.
2. Lake Moultrie
|Size||60,400 acres (244.4 km²)|
|Known for||Large fish|
|Most relevant alligator sightings||2012, 2017, 2020|
The third-largest lake in South Carolina, Lake Moultrie, is an artificial lake currently operated by Santee Cooper and Lake Marion. It was created to dam the Cooper River. However, it is also well known along with its neighboring lake, Lake Marion, for offering a wide range of recreational activities such as boating, hiking, biking, swimming, and fishing. Like Lake Marion, Lake Moultrie is also known for being home to the largest species of fish in South Carolina, such as the blue catfish.
Alligator sightings are pretty common here, too. Yet, unlike at Lake Marion, most of the gators caught or sighted here are large, and some even threaten many people. In 2012, a 13-foot long alligator was found, another 13-foot gator in 2017, and a 12-foot and 500-pound alligator was caught recently in 2020. Since then, swimming within Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie has been limited for locals’ and tourists’ safety. There were lots of stories surfacing from locals that the gators within the Marion-Moultrie lake system are dangerous and that some gators once bit off a snorkeler’s arm, or a dog’s head, or attacked unsupervised swimmers.
3. Hilton Head Island
|Hilton Head Island|
|Size||44,260 acres (179.1 km²)|
|Known for||World-class golf courses|
|Most relevant alligator sightings||2018, 2021|
Considered to be one of the best vacation destinations in the world, Hilton Head Island is famous for its amenities and features that can attract tourists from all over the planet. Also known as “America’s favorite island,” Hilton Head offers more than 12 miles of sandy and beautiful beaches and everything that tourists and visitors need for the ultimate vacation experience. Its golf courses are also one of its main features, along with its diverse wildlife — animals such as deer, bobcats, otters, and even wild boars.
If asked about alligators, locals here would just brush it off. If you ask them why they would simply answer that alligators are just nuisances to daily activities and can be commonly found almost everywhere on the island. Alligators are native to Hilton Head, with an estimated population of 2,000-4,000 gators making the island their home.
Alligators crossing the road during the “alligator crossing season” is just one of the many common nuisances that locals have to deal with, especially if they’re driving. 10-12 foot-long alligators would mindlessly cross the road or show up in people’s backyards. One relevant sighting in 2018 led to a fatal attack, which caused a lot of concern among the residents here, but that was the only case of a deadly gator attack in the past few years.
|Size||100,200 acres (405.5 km²)|
|Known for||Good weather and stunning architecture|
|Most relevant alligator sighting||2022|
The majestic city of Charleston in South Carolina is also one of the places where alligators are not an uncommon sight. Although this place is a popular romantic getaway for having excellent and charming architecture, delicious cuisine and lots of sights and historical establishments, South Carolina alligators have been sighted for many years.
Due to the number of alligator sightings in this city, it is now deemed one of South Carolina’s homes for alligators. A particular sighting happened in May 2022 where the police tied up a 6-foot alligator trying to budge inside a parking garage. Many residents are concerned about this incident because Charleston alligators are only found in rivers, marshes, canals, ponds, and lakes. One sighting was also recorded as a video taken by a citizen of an alligator strolling outside a school, posing a threat, especially to the students of that particular school and the nearby residents.
Summary of Most Alligator-Infested Lakes in South Carolina
Here’s a recap of the lakes in South Carolina were alligators are most present.
|Rank||Lake / Area||Size||Most relevant alligator sightings|
|1||Lake Marion||110,600 acres||2016, 2018|
|2||Lake Moultrie||60,400 acres||2012, 2017, 2020|
|3||Hilton Head Island||44,260 acres||2018, 2021|
Other Animals in South Carolina
South Carolina is home to a wide variety of wildlife, both on land and in the water. On land, you can find mammals such as white-tailed deer, raccoons, opossums, foxes, coyotes, and bobcats. You may also spot birds like cardinals, blue jays, owls, and bald eagles soaring through the sky. Reptiles are abundant in South Carolina’s forests as well. Look for copperheads and rattlesnakes if you’re brave enough!
In addition to these animals, there is also an array of aquatic creatures living in South Carolina’s waters, including turtles such as box turtles and snapping turtles. Fish species like bass or catfish thrive here, too, alongside amphibians ranging from frogs to salamanders. With so many different kinds of animals calling South Carolina home, it’s no surprise that it’s one of the most biologically diverse states in America!
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Nigel Stripe
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
How many shark attacks have led to fatalities in South Carolina?
There have been four shark attacks that led to fatalities in South Carolina. Surprisingly, the first-ever recorded fatality in the state took place in 2016, but since then three more have taken place. The most recent was in June 2022, when an alligator killed a man near Myrtle Beach.
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