A few weeks ago my son and I decided to try out a new boat launch down on Merritt Island. We put in at the Biolab boat ramp, which has a good size parking lot and one small ramp. The trouble was that the ramp is in shallow water, with a marked access out to the Lagoon which was also shallow with lots of grass.
The map below is something I made at Google My Maps, which allows me to show one of their maps on my blog with attribution back to their site. This is how you are suppose to use a Google map. I didn’t do a very good job, but clicking each icon will tell you what I have marked.
Map of Mosquito Lagoon Area We Traveled
We put the boat in, to begin our boating day, on the East side of Mosquito Lagoon (blue marker). Then traveled north and east through the Haulover Canal (green marker). Boat ramps charge $10 on Merritt Island. I have yet to see a really good boat ramp in the area.
It was a beautiful day as we started out and we were looking for some of the Spoil Islands. That is not marked on my map. We headed further south and then backtracked to the railroad bridge. Our deserted island quest fizzled out, for various reasons, at the railroad bridge we veered right and stopped at a beach. This was a shallow area, so I walked in the knee-high water looking for shells while my son went a bit offshore to fish.
My goal was to find some awesome mollusks and maybe even a cool empty seashell. I had my iPhone and did find some cool shells (another post is coming about that).
As I walked over toward, what looked like, a dark water hole (called Roach Hole on the map), I saw a skull (photo below). As I was getting this photo, I wondered what type of animal it could be. The sun must have baked my brain because my first thought was “deer”. I was still in my New England frame of mind, because this is obviously NOT a deer skull. It is very obviously an alligator skull. I didn’t give it much thought – I wanted seashells.
I continued shuffling through the shallow water, which was murky as the depth increased, in search of seashells. The bottom was muddy and this was obviously a place where few people ever ventured.
The only excuse I can make for my complete ignorance of the fact that alligators lived there is that I have never beach-combed in this area… but… it is part of the Intracoastal Waterway system where I usually beach comb. Except, usually we are far north of the Lagoon area, where I have never seen a gator, nor have I ever heard of one being spotted.
Alligators are known to live around the Kennedy Space Center, Mosquito Lagoon waters, which is where we were, but on the west side. ……. I simply forgot about that. This water is not as salty as the water in the northern Indian River. To the North, ocean tides move the water level, whereas the Lagoon water level does not move according to the tides. I believe that gators prefer less salty water, which would explain this.
The photo above was taken near my yellow map marker. Water was flowing toward me out of that dark blue lagoon. In fact, it was looked more black than blue. I shudder to think that I actually walked over that berm of sand to check out the water on the other side!
Alligators Are The Creepiest of Florida’s Wildlife
It wasn’t until later when I began reviewing my photos and saw that skull photo again that I realized I had been strolling casually through water that most likely held gators. You don’t have to see them to know they are there. Alligators will sit on the murky water bottom and wait for their next meal to come along. When they bite, they mean business. They will drag their prey underwater and roll until it drowns. They are creepy creatures.
The recent story of the woman who died after a gator pulled her into the water is the type of thing I think about whenever I am near fresh water in Florida. As the story says, it’s rare, but I can recall many such stories over the years. They mainly target small prey such as children and dogs that are near the edge of the water. Or bite when swimmers invade their territory.
Nearly every bit of freshwater in Florida contains alligators. My son and I just saw a small one alongside the highway, Route 528, on our way home from the airport. We’ve had a lot of rain so the ditches were full. Although Florida is mainly a swamp, I would not purposely live near any freshwater pond or lake. And I would never swim in one!
Alligator facts you should know: They are fast. They may sit still on riverbanks and look lazy and complacent, but they can move when they decide to. According to Jack Hanna, who commented at the end of this post, which was written after the boy was killed by a gator at Disney World, a gator can outrun a human over a short distance – 20 feet.
Once a gator chomps down on something he is not willing to let go. They migrate on land and in water. They mostly attack in and around water, but can be encountered anywhere.
By the way, in my opinion, Disney was completely at fault here. Visitors cannot be expected to know about Florida’s fresh water dangers, but those who run Disney World would. It’s all about appearance. A fence, or warning sign, would have sullied the “La-la land” atmosphere, but would have kept visitors away from the water.
Hiking Trail at the Lagoon
While creating my map for this page, I discovered a hiking trail located just to the north of where my story takes place. The Alan Cruickshank Memorial Trail – is not far from where we docked the boat. You can see it on my map above (purple hiking man icon). The National Park Planner site has a blog post about this Florida hike (link above) with great photos (including the Roseate Spoonbill).
Personally, I can’t see any reason to hike in Florida. First of all, it’s often very hot and muggy. Secondly, alligators are everywhere, not to mention snakes and lots of bugs. The writer and photographer, Steve Marcos, did his hike in March and he did see one alligator. I’m betting there were a lot more he didn’t see.