Kayaking in Alligator River National Refuge

Kayaking in Alligator River National Refuge

I love kayaking, gliding along in the water so close to the surface, without the noise of engines is so peaceful. I especially love how that allows me to come face-to-face with wildlife. Today, that wildlife could be alligators!

When Coastal Kayak called early Thursday morning to confirm a tour to Alligator River that afternoon, I was ecstatic! They wouldn’t take people for kayak tours amongst alligators if some of their tourists were eaten…. right?

We met DJ, our guide in Kill Devil Hills and he drove us, the kayaks and a family of 5 to the refuge about 30 miles away.

Alligator River flooding

The road to the launch site was flooded so we stepped out of the van into a few inches of stinky water. Once we situated ourselves in the kayaks, we paddled down the road and into the river.

Kayaking down the road - Alligator River refuge

It was a beautiful hot, sunny day. Perfect for a paddle. It reminded me a lot of the canals in Commerce, Michigan where I used to kayak from my backyard. Except, alligators. And airplanes! I wondered what the wildlife thought of the constant air traffic.

kayaking Alligator River

DJ recommended we stay two boat lengths from the vegetation edge in case we spook one of the local predators. It took me all of a few minutes to relax and not worry, we took a chance an brought our Nikons with us, so I was more worried about tipping the kayak and losing my camera than I was about alligators.

High Water, Low Bridge

We doubled back to the parking area and paddles down a narrow canal. At this point, I stopped scanning the water for alligators and started scanning the trees for snakes. There weren’t any…. that I saw.

Alligator River kayaks

Dj was a fabulous tour guide and a wealth of information since he had worked and lived on the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge for years. He helped film a documentary about the area that can be found here.

James kayak reflection

A portion of the canals were covered in duckweed… spooky and beautiful at the same time as the kayaks created trails through the aquatic greenery.

DJ Tour Guide Coastal Kayak

The highlight of the trip was when DJ stopped us and told us about his work with the red wolves. He had the group howl to see if the red wolves would respond…. and did they! They howled back for several minutes in response. Absolutely incredible.

DJ: Coastal Kayak Guide

These wolves were considered extinct in 1980 and a restoration plan began. Alligator River has helped reintroduce over 50 Red Wolves to the wild and there are also about 200 in captivity as part of a breeding program.

Pat kayaking

Did we get to see an alligator? Yes we did – its head anyway! Some of us MUCH closer than others. The fact we didn’t see more, was okay with me!

Can YOU see it?

Can you see the Alligator?

We kayaked back in time for the sunset. James shot some great photos to end a perfect afternoon.

Alligator River sunset

We did see some black bears on the way out of the refuge but they were too far to photograph.

That was the end of our 3 day escape to the Outer Banks… we’ll plan to do it again soon. I’ll definitely schedule another kayak trip with Coastal Kayak. Or maybe I’ll try stand up paddleboarding… but not with the alligators!

Alligator River Slideshow

Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge

View all the photos on Flickr

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