Why Lake Jesup Is One of Florida’s Most Alligator Infested Lakes

Written by Brandi Allred
Updated: May 30, 2023
© Jim Schwabel/Shutterstock.com
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Lake Jesup is one of Florida’s most alligator-infested lakes. It doesn’t have quite as many alligators as neighboring Lake Okeechobee, which is home to nearly 30,000 alligators. But Lake Jesup is also much smaller than Lake Okeechobee, covering about 16,000 acres. It’s 1/28th the size of Lake Okeechobee. 

Here, we’ll discover how many alligators are in Lake Jesup, where the best places to see them, and if there have been any alligator attacks in the lake’s waters. Then, we’ll answer the big question: Can you swim in Lake Jesup? 

American Alligators

Florida man catches a gator
Alligators are commonly found throughout Florida.

©iStock.com/LagunaticPhoto

Alligators, though once endangered in their native southeastern United States, are now so common that they sometimes become a nuisance. Like all crocodilians, they’re semi-aquatic carnivores who spend most of their time either in the water or basking in the sun. Alligators lay eggs, and though adults have no natural predators, young gators face predation by other alligators, predatory birds, otters, snakes, snapping turtles, and even humans. They’re common throughout Florida, so it’s no surprise that Lake Jesup is one of Florida’s most alligator-infested lakes.

How Big Do Alligators Get?

When they hatch, baby alligators are only 6-8 inches long. Only about 20% of hatchlings reach adulthood. Those that do survive to adulthood frequently grow up to 10 feet long for females, and up to 13 feet long for males. There have been a few cases of larger gators, particularly in southern states like Florida and Alabama. In fact, the largest alligator on record was 15 feet 9 inches long and lived in Alabama. At last count, there were 194 alligators longer than 9 feet in Lake Jesup.

What Do Alligators Eat?

Alligator in Swamp
Alligators’ diets include turtles, feral pigs, deer, and raccoons.

©Thierry Eidenweil/Shutterstock.com

Lake Jesup is one of Florida’s most alligator-infested lakes, so it’s no wonder that all sorts of creatures there become alligator food. Small alligators prey on smaller animals, like frogs, toads, crabs, fish, birds, snails, spiders, and rodents. The bigger they get, the bigger the prey they can take down. Adult alligators eat turtles, smaller alligators, feral pigs, deer, muskrats, and raccoons.

How Many Alligators Are in Lake Jesup?

Lake Jesup
Lake Jesup has an estimated number of 13,000 alligators.

©Thomas Decot/Shutterstock.com

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission keeps a rough tally of the gator population in Lake Jesup. At last count, 13,000 alligators were estimated to be living in Florida’s most alligator-infested lake. In comparison, Lake Okeechobee, which is much larger, has nearly 30,000 gators. Every year, female alligators lay their eggs on the shores of Lake Jesup. Then, commercial alligator farmers pay the state of Florida to collect a number of eggs. They raise these eggs in alligator farms, which breed alligators for their meat, skins, and skulls. 

Why Lake Jesup Is One of the Most Alligator-Infested Lakes

Lake Jesup is home to more alligators per square mile of shoreline than almost any other lake in Florida, making it the most densely infested lake in the state. As Lake Jesup is home to around 13,000 alligators, that’s more than 400 gators per square mile of shoreline. With those numbers, it’s no wonder Lake Jesup is widely considered one of the most alligator-laden lakes in Florida. And with more than 1.3 million gators in the state, that’s saying a lot.

Have There Been Alligator Attacks in Lake Jesup?

There has only been one recorded alligator attack in Lake Jesup in recent years. The attack occurred in 2020. Luckily, it didn’t cost the victim his life, but it nearly cost him his arm. Hunting alligators in one of Florida’s most alligator-infested lakes is never risk-free especially when it comes to large gators. After hooking the alligator, the victim and his friends pulled it close to their boat and prepared their boomstick to end the giant gator’s life. Before they could do that, the alligator lunged from the water and grabbed the victim’s right arm. After nearly tearing it off, it returned to the water, leaving the victim to face multiple reparative surgeries to reattach and repair the arm.

Can You Swim in Lake Jesup?

Alligator Lifespan - Alligator front view
Alligators are best viewed from afar in Lake Jesup.

©iStock.com/cturtletrax

Lake Jesup is not the best lake to swim. It is one of the shallowest lakes in Florida. Its average depth is only six feet, though it would be deeper if not for a thick layer of sediment on the lake’s bottom. Storm water runoffs drain into the lake, but there is little drainage out, resulting in heavy siltation. This is bad for humans but good for alligators. Alligators proliferate in Lake Jesup, there have never been any fatal alligator attacks there. Still, with more than 400 alligators per square mile of shoreline, it’s not the place to take a dip. Lake Jesup is better enjoyed from a safe distance, or from a commercial airboat captained by an experienced tour guide.

Where Can You See Alligators in Lake Jesup?

Lake Jesup is one of Florida’s most alligator-infested lakes, so naturally, you might want to get a peek at a gator or two when visiting. One of the best places to see gators in Lake Jesup is the Black Hammock restaurant in Oviedo, Florida. Not only can you observe gators while enjoying dinner and a drink, but you can also embark on an airboat tour of some of the lake’s most gator-infested areas. 

Alternatively, you can take a hike along the Black Bear Wilderness Area in Sanford, Florida. Just remember to stay a safe distance (at least 10 feet) away from any body of water. You never know where gators might be lurking.

Where Is Lake Jesup Located on a Map?

Lake Jesup is situated along the middle basin of the St. Johns in Seminole County. Lake Jesup Wilderness Area is on the lake’s north shore. The lake is south of Orlando Sanford International Airport and around 26 miles’ drive from Orlando International Airport.

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The Featured Image

alligator
Alligators can sometimes be found in river deltas.
© Jim Schwabel/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Brandi is a professional writer by day and a fiction writer by night. Her nonfiction work focuses on animals, nature, and conservation. She holds degrees in English and Anthropology, and spends her free time writing horror, scifi, and fantasy stories.

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