Louisiana’s Alligator-Infested Rivers: Why The Sabine River Is an Alligator Haven

Written by Katie Downey
Published: February 25, 2024
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It’s humorous to think that anyone would be surprised that alligators can be expected in every waterway in Louisiana, though it does happen. The Sabine River is no stranger to the giant lizards, who are extra fond of the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge. One thing is certain: these living fossils are very good at surviving and are generally uninterested in humans until you are in their territory. In this article, we will take a look at One of Louisiana’s most alligator-infested rivers and discuss why the Sabine River is an Alligator haven.

The Alligator-Infested Sabine River

Boardwalk Through Marsh in Sabine National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana

The Sabine National Wildlife Refuge wetlands provide a sanctuary for otherwise misunderstood swamp life.

©CrackerClips/iStock via Getty Images

The Sabine River is a lot longer than you might think. It winds its way on a 578-mile course through Texas and Louisiana. It drains roughly 10,400 square miles of land and creates Sabine Lake, Sabine Pass, and Sabine-Neches Waterway. Most is Texas land with approximately 2,500 miles of Louisiana land draining. Sabinas is the Spanish name for the red cedars, also known as bald cypress, which grows along the river’s edges. The knobby bald cypress knees give deep south waterways a magical look. It was, however, changed to its present form by the French once they arrived in Louisiana.

Dangers of Paddling the Sabine River

Sabine River is filled with alligators.

The swampy, slow-moving Sabine River is the perfect place for alligators.

©rgriff3471 / CC BY 3.0 – License

The Sabine River also serves as a wildlife sanctuary in most places. It winds through the heart of swampland and is home to many animals and reptiles. The fishing is amazing in those areas, but an angler or scenery-enjoying kayak or canoer needs to know what to expect. There aren’t any waterways in that portion of the world that do not involve alligators. They really don’t care about people unless they have fed them or have become far too comfortable around them.

american alligator mother with 9 babies riding on her back in the canal

Never get close to a baby



©Marc Pletcher/Shutterstock.com

The worst time a human without knowledge of the species can go paddling by is during and after the mating season. The large males have problems with differentiating a kayaker from a potential mate or trespassing bull gator. They can be aggressive during that time and may attempt to mount a kayak or viciously chase or fight one. None of which will end well unless you are a very fast paddler. After that time, it’s a whole new level of extreme danger when the tiny, adorable baby gators swim around and sometimes sneak off while their enormous and terrifying mama gator naps. The best way to describe it is that mama bears might have to move over for the new champion of motherhood.

Alligators in the Sabine River

A young alligator sunning itself in the Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia, USA

Alligators prefer to spend their days napping in the warm sun.

©Jonas N. Jordan, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons – License

The Sabine River is a long waterway in the southernmost portion of the U.S., making it generally mild to very hot, a climate not found in the states above. Any of the rivers that feed into the Gulf of Mexico come with a few threats. One of those is the alligators who call them home. The Sabine River in Louisiana is located in the swamps and marshes, so of course, it is “infested” with alligators. They are running out of places to live where humans aren’t infesting everywhere.

Swimming in Alligator Territory

It’s not a great idea to go for a swim in the Sabine River. Plenty of people swim in lakes and waterways connecting with the Sabine River in Louisiana, but they take a big risk. Alligators frequent the entire area and may travel throughout a river and the waterways it connects with, including public swimming areas in lakes. Those taking these risks are likely locals who have swam in the bodies of water their entire lives and understand the dangers better than tourists.

Never Feed Alligators and Other Swamp Creatures

The most dangerous places to be around alligators are the places where ignorant people feed them without understanding that it makes the alligator much more trusting and possibly eager to approach a human begging for a snack. Any alligator who does this will, unfortunately, meet its end or end up in a swamp zoo. By becoming too comfortable with humans, they lose the instinctual fear they are born with of humans and place both lives in danger. It’s best never to feed any kind of wildlife because it can end that way for any animal.

Another very good reason to stay out of the river is the large population of dangerous snakes swimming through it. Chances are that you don’t want to go for a swim with a cottonmouth, rattlesnake, or really any of the others unless you are knowledgeable about the different species and if they are venomous.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © tswinner/iStock via Getty Images

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About the Author

Katie Downey is a writer for A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on wildlife, arachnids and insects. Katie has been writing and researching animals for more than a decade. Katie worked in animal rescue and rehabilitation with handicapped cats and farm animals for many years. As a resident of North Carolina, Katie enjoys exploring nature with her son, educating others on the positive role that insects and spiders play in the ecosystem and raising jumping spiders.

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