4 Places to Look for Wild Alligators in Houston

Texas might be best known as that gigantic state with rodeos, cowboys and southern drawls, but it's also home to one of the South's largest and most memorable reptiles: the American alligator. Most people don't associate alligators with Texas metropolises, but Houston--nicknamed "The Bayou City"--hosts an impressive network of natural waterways. While it's somewhat startling to think a city as urban as Houston could have wildlife as terrifyingly archaic-looking as the alligator, it's also pretty darn cool--and makes for one heck of a day trip.

Here are four exciting places you can visit in the Houston area to try to catch a glimpse of the famed prehistoric beast:

1. Brazos Bend State Park

Famous for its size and impressive breadth of flora and fauna, Brazos Bend State Park is your best bet for finding a full-grown alligator in its natural habitat. The 5,000-acre park has 21 miles of biking trails, six lakes for fishing and an observatory for star gazing. It is located just south of Houston in Needville and is accessible by car via TX-288 South or I-69.

2. Buffalo Bayou

In downtown Houston is Buffalo Bayou, a 52-mile waterway lined with numerous urban parks, such as Buffalo Bayou Park, Memorial Park and Sam Houston Park. After an intense $58 million renovation project, Buffalo Bayou has become a convenient and mesmerizing oasis in the middle of Houston, with opportunities for canoeing, kayaking, boat touring--and, of course, alligator watching.

3. Bay Area Park

Bay Area Park lies southeast of downtown Houston along the shores of Armand Bayou. The surrounding area is notorious for its surge in alligators during mating season in the spring and summer months (alligators have been spotted basking in private ponds and crossing roadways). The park isn't the least bit dangerous, however, and offers an array of popular activities, including hiking, canoeing and tennis. Visitors and their dogs can also enjoy the fenced-in dog park.

4. Lake Houston

Up north in the New Caney, Humble, Atascocita and Kingwood vicinities of Houston is a fairly sprawling body of water called Lake Houston, an area home to a great deal of wild alligators. The 18.5-square mile lake is accessible from numerous locations and local parks, such as Kingwood's greenbelt trails, New Caney's Lake Houston Wilderness Park and Atascocita's Alexander Deussen Park. You can find combinations of walking trails, canoe trails, kayak trails, piers and picnic areas in Lake Houston-area parks.

Even if you fail to see an alligator in the wild, remember this: You can always head to the Houston Zoo or the Downtown Aquarium for a guaranteed sighting!

Hannah Muniz is a freelance writer and travel lover based in the greater Houston area. You can learn more by visiting her website.