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Are there Alligators in Colorado?

Are there alligators in Colorado?

Colorado is an unexpected place to see alligators. Surprisingly, you can find over 300 alligators (and other reptiles) basking in the Colorado sunshine and soaking in a natural hot spring in the San Luis Valley at the Colorado Gators Reptile Park.

According to the Smithsonian´s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, alligators can be found from North Carolina to Texas, in freshwaters such as rivers, lakes, swamps or marshes. Alligators are not native to Colorado, due to its colder climate.

However, we found a special place in Colorado where you can visit alligators: The Colorado Gators Reptile Park.


Where are the Alligators in Colorado and How Did they get There?

Living in Colorado, of course we had heard of this unusual place. So we decided to add this to our Mother’s Day visit to the Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Colorado Gator Reptile Park entrance with kids

The Colorado Gators Reptile Park is a alligator and reptile resue located in Mosca near the town of Alamosa, in south-central Colorado.

The “Gator Farm” first started as a Tilapia farm. Erwin and Lynne Young, coming from Texas to the San Luis Valley, discovered the geothermal water conditions in the area were perfect to grow this species of fish.

Yep, they decided to grow warm water fish in the hot springs instead of inviting people to swim in their pool. A rather unique decision for Colorado given all the hot springs resorts in Colorado.

Due to the owners’ conservationist values, they felt like throwing away the dead fish was a waste, so they decided to feed a group of baby alligators.

Of course, over time, locals became interested in watching the alligators. So the owners decided to open it for the public.

Now, you can not only see alligators or tilapia but also, other many other reptiles that have been rescued.

Today, the main focus of the Colorado Gators Reptile Park is conservation and education.

We figured this was just a basic tourist trap to see some alligators in Colorado. We were so surprised! The kids loved interacting with all the different types of reptiles. The owners and staff are warm and friendly and amazingly knowledgeable.

This is an authentic experience at a working farm and animal rescue.

You can hold a baby alligator, pet tortoises, and feed the fish and more. This is not a well-manicured zoo. You will have to be careful to navigate turtles walking at your feet and ongoing construction projects.

Girl holding baby alligator in Colorado

We spent a couple of hours walking through the park, feeding the alligaotrs and fish and talking to the owners and handlers. We did not take advantage of any of the classes or gator wrestling though.


Reptile Classes and Gator Wrestling

They do offer classes about how to handle and care for reptile, such as lizards, tortoises or snakes. You will learn about their diet, proper care, their lifestyle, the maximum size. They will answer the question of whether a reptile would make a good pet for you and which one.

The class costs $100 and includes a t-shirt. For $20 you can buy pictures of you holding some of the reptiles. These introductory classes are mostly targeted at children starting at 4 years old

On the other hand, if you ware an adult and want a bigger challenge, the gator wrestling class comes with a “Certificate of Insanity”.

The gator wrestling class can only be joined if you are 18 or older and costs $100. The purpose of these classes is to help check on the gators, that tend to be physically aggressive to one another, medicate them or move them.

We didn’t think that would be a good family activity to watch Dad come face to face with an Alligator (honestly neither did he).

A word of caution for your little ones – some of the gator wrestling photos and stories are graphic. One corner of the entry way is dedicated to this activity and easily bypassed with kids.


Visiting the Alligators in Colorado

The Gator Farm should be added to your Sand Dunes National Park trip or next drive through the San Luis Valley. The entrance to Sand Dunes National Park is only about a half hour east.

In case you you want to just pop in for a visit, it is important to know that the Colorado Gators Reptile Park is open every day

  • Summer Hours (May 26 – September 3): 9 am – 6 pm
  • Fall (September to November) and Spring (March- April) Hours: 9 am – 5 pm
  • Winter Hours (November 6 – February 28): 10 am – 4 pm

Directions: 9162 W Country Road 9 N, Mosca, Colorado 81146

East of Highway 17 in the San Luis Valley. Follow this Google map or call (719)-378-2612 for directions

Admission Prices

  • Children under 5 years old and the seniors (over 80): Free
  • From ages 6 to 15: $10.00
  • Adults (ages 16 to 64): $20.00
  • Seniors (65 to 79): $10.00

Discounts and Coupons to the Colorado Gators Reptile Park:

Be sure to visit their website and print (or save to your phone) your 20% off coupon for admission.

If you visit the UFO Watch Tower first, you will get a coupon to the Gator Farm.

Free Camping Near the Great Sand Dunes

Camping with Alligators at Colorado Reptile Park

This little perk is not advertised anywhere. We were asking about RV camping near the Dunes with our large travel trailer.

Turns out a night of free camping on their land is included with admission. They do not have a formal campground or hookups. Just pull up a piece of land and set up the trailer.

This option is not for everyone. This is a working farm with ongoing projects, broken equipment, and dirt piles everywhere. And.. There will be only a chain-link fence between you and a couple of hundred gators.

If you are into unusual and memorable boondocking locations like we are, this makes for a memorable (and free) experience.

Where (else) to Stay

A formal camground is available in the Sand Dunes National Park. You must reserve early in the high season.

Plenty of Forest Service public lands are located around the Sand Dunes for Camping. The Great Sand Dunes Oasis (at the entrance to the Park), UFO Watch Tower, Sand Dunes Recreation all offer camping.

Hotels are available in Alamosa about 20 minutes south. Private rentals are spread through the San Luis Valley and can be found on VRBO and HomeAway.

Check for places to stay near the Gators and rates through Booking.com

Also, we have a guide that we published to finding affordable accommodations for your family here.

Additional Resources

The Colorado Gators Reptile Park is an educational institution that helps to bring awareness and educate families about reptilian life, their habitat, and ecosystems.

This is one of the many wonders that the state of Colorado has to offer you.

So to answer the question – Are there alligators in Colorado? No, not native or wild but yes, hundreds of them at the Gator Farm. It’s worth a stop on your way to through the San Luis Valley.

What do you think? Have you heard of this unusual place?

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