MOSCA — In our exclusive series Adventures with Alan, we'll travel across Southern Colorado week-by-week to show you thrills and chills, hidden gems and well-known spots.
Alligators in Colorado!
Yeah, you heard that right.
The Colorado Gators Reptile Park is a one-of-a-kind place in Colorado that's home to hundreds of alligators, and other types of reptiles.
Located just north of the Great Sand Dunes in Mosca, it's about a three hour drive from Colorado Springs.
Fish came first...followed by the gators
What began as an 80-acre tilapia farm in the late 1970s is now a one-of-a-kind animal rescue sanctuary.
"There's certainly no other place like this in Colorado, and one of the highest altitude and coldest climate places like this on Earth," said Jay Young, General Manager of the Colorado Gators Reptile Park.
A couple of Young's most famous residents you might recognize from some of Hollywood's biggest blockbuster films.
"Our oldest and most famous resident is Morris the Hollywood Alligator," said Young.
Now retired and living at the park, Morris has been featured in films such as "Happy Gilmore," "Dr. Doolittle 2," "Interview with a Vampire," "Blues Brothers 2000," and "Eraser."
How do gators survive in Colorado?
"Because of the geothermal water constantly flowing through the whole operation, the alligators are actually warmer here in the winter-time than they are in Florida," said Young.
That's because the water that flows throughout the reptile park is 87 degrees warm at the source, no matter the time of the year.
As a visitor, you're not likely to turn into gator bait, but you will get to hold one if you'd like.
Park employee Andrew Mitchell was kind enough to introduce us to Tag, and let us hold her.
She's surprisingly soft and smooth, and for my bravery, Mitchell presents me with an actual certificate of bravery.
Gators & crocs & lizards, oh my!
Being a refuge for unwanted, exotic pets, there's more than just alligators to see here.
During our visit, we get to hold an albino ball python, bearded dragon, and another baby gator named Gatorade.
Also roaming freely in certain areas are the spur-thighed tortoises, which you can feed.
But the park's main draw without a doubt, the crocs and gators.
"We have four different species of crocodiles here now, caiman most of also which are rescues, and about 280 alligators," said Young.
Some of the largest alligators are located towards the back of the park.
That's where we meet Big Bertha. At over 400 pounds and over 10 feet in length, she's the biggest female gator they've got.
Every day at the park, Young tells me is a different experience for both staff and guests.
Reptile rescue, education and awareness
"A lot of what we try to do here is educate the public. We don't want people to buy certain reptiles as pets. Not all reptiles make good pets," said Young.
The gator and reptile park wants to help the public overcome fears, and at the same time, gain a deeper appreciation for these magnificent creatures.
Colorado Gators Reptile Park adventure rating
Let me just say that this is definitely a unique experience for Colorado.
Having grown up in Florida, I've always had a huge respect for these incredible reptiles and now having come face to snout with them, I have a new level of appreciation.
To rate this adventure, I'm going to give it five stars out of five.
For more information and to plan your trip to the Colorado Gators Reptile Park, you can visit the Colorado Gators Website.
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