The owner of Alligator Alley used his land to set up the rural attraction as a rescue shelter for alligators and a place where visitors can safely learn about them.
When one thinks of alligators in the wild, danger springs to mind. The irony is that the harm is more often done to the gator, not the person it encounters.
In 2004, Wes Moore did something many folks thought was just plain nuts: he took a family plot of land and opened a sanctuary to rescue those pesky gators. Any local gator longer than 4 feet found on a person’s property is moved to his place. Welcome to Alligator Alley.
While rescuing these “nuisance animals,” this Summerdale, Alabama, attraction also helps teach folks about gators.
We talked to Wes to learn more about this unique rural place. Wes is one more example of a person enjoying the freedom to do what he wants on his own land.
Q: What prompted you to open Alligator Alley?
Moore: I opened AA as a way to showcase my love for alligators at the same time utilizing a piece of property some considered useless. My grandfather purchased it in 1941. Lots of people called me crazy, including some family members, but with the support of my wife I have been able to make it for 12 years now!
Q: How many alligators do you house at Alligator Alley? Are they all locally rescued?
Moore: We currently have over 200 adult alligators in our main swamp, but between 500 and 600 total on property (including the adults’ offspring). Visitors get to observe alligators from a very safe elevated boardwalk, so you get to see alligators do what they do naturally. The vast majority come from Florida.
Q: You allow visitors to hold a gator under supervision. How are you able to do that safely?
Moore: Each visitor has a chance to hold a small alligator - with the mouth taped for safety.
Q: What's the smallest gator you house? What's the largest?
Moore: We have 6-month-old hatchlings all the way to 13-foot, 900-pound monsters. I like the bigger ones… they have more personality.
Q: Say someone finds an alligator in their backyard. What is your advice on handling this situation? Should they be afraid?
Moore: Stay away from it and get help from a professional. Alligators are predictable animals. They will bite you. It’s what they are designed to do and they are good at it.
Q: We read that Alligator Alley closes during part of the year. Why?
Moore: Alligator Alley is closed in December and January. It’s cold and alligators don't do a lot, plus it gives us time for repairs and maintenance.
Q: Is there a way to get an admission ticket discount?
Moore: The best time to visit is from May to September. We offer coupons on our website, which may be printed or downloaded to a mobile device.
How to visit Alligator Alley in Alabama:
Alligator Alley: 19500 Hwy 71, Summerdale, AL; 866-99-GATOR or www.gatoralleyfarm.com.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 6 days a week (closed Wednesdays)
Admission: $12 for adults; $10 for children and seniors; and children age 3 and younger are free. Alligator food is an additional $4.
All photography by Gary Clark. See more of Gary’s work.