When someone mentions Florida, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?
Amazingly beautiful beaches, land of the eternal summer, stunning sceneries, incredible nature. If your answer includes any of these, you’re definitely right. Still, Florida is not only that.
It’s also home to interesting animals including bats, dolphins, panthers, and many others. Some of the species might not be the ones you’d like to face while, let’s say, swimming in some of the numerous Florida lakes.
How safe would that be and which things do you specifically need to pay attention to? Today’s article is all about it so let’s check it out!
Sure, it’s great to take a swim in a beautiful, refreshing, crystal clear lake during a hot summer day. However, that’s not how most of the Florida lakes look. People seem to picture them differently than they are in reality.
Florida’s lakes are often dark, shallow, muddy waters full of weeds, and with low visibility.
Another thing you should definitely keep in mind before going into any body of water while there – all natural lakes in Florida have pretty rich aquatic life.
That includes animals you might not want to face while swimming – such as snakes and alligators.
Of course, not all lakes are the same or equally (un)safe to swim in. Before entering any particular one, research the area as well as the potential dangers of swimming there.
Search the internet and check if there’s a tourist agency or an institution that can provide you with needed information. It would be good to check these things with local people, too.
Check if there’s a no-swimming sign near the lake where you’re going. If there is, don’t ignore or question it too much – there’s a good reason why it’s there.
Many natural lakes are tinted or the water is dark so you can’t even see what’s approaching you.
That’s the perfect environment for the reptiles we’ve mentioned above since they depend on their ability to ambush potential prey in waters where they can’t be seen.
For instance, alligators are so good when it comes to camouflage, the only thing you’re (maybe!) going to see are their little eyes above the surface.
Then again, there’s the good news too – they’re generally not going to go after humans.
What To Do If An Alligator Attacks You?
Every now and then we hear about a case of an alligator attack in Florida. Still, it’s really not that common. Ever since 1948, there have been over 500 bites on humans recorded.
Almost half of those bites were big enough to require medical care beyond first aid. In this period of time, more than 20 people have died from alligator bites, and most of them were swimming in lakes, rivers, or some other types of freshwater.
Alligators are certainly dangerous creatures. They are quite vicious and sneaky predators that can grow up to 14 feet long and weigh 1,000 pounds.
Females are a bit smaller, but they’re fierce when taking care of their nest, so they still can’t be considered harmless. The majority lives in fresh inland waters, but it’s possible to find them in saltwater too.
Still, as it often comes with wildlife, these animals are likely to leave you alone if you’re not in their way and don’t bother them.
If you find yourself in an alligator’s path, the first thing you should do is run. They are really fast since their running speed goes up to 11 mph – but, luckily for us, they can’t maintain it for too long.
If, on the other hand, is already too late and the alligator has bitten you, the best thing would be to fight back. There’s no point in trying to open its jaws since it has a bite force of an incredible 3,000 pounds.
Experts claim you need to go for its eyes or snout since those are alligator’s sensitive areas. Of course, it’s pretty hard to think of exact things you’d want to do because such situations don’t leave you much time to think.
Playing dead definitely doesn’t work with these animals. For alligators, it’s more like an invitation for a free dinner they don’t have to work for. So, the ideal scenario says you’re able to run or at least fight back, hitting the sensitive areas.
One of the essential things is to simply stay out of their territory. When they attack humans, in most cases it’s a mistake, since we’re not a part of their everyday menu.
To be precise, they would certainly prefer a raccoon, deer, turtles, waterbirds, or some other smaller animal.
There are specific situations where a female alligator could attack you if you come too close to her nest. Also, avoid feeding them because they can get more likely to come closer to humans.
What About Other Animals Living In or Around Florida Lakes?
Did you know Florida is the only place in the world where you can find alligators and crocodiles existing together in the wild?
However, crocodiles live in coastal saltwater or brackish areas, which is why you can find them in ponds, creeks in mangrove swamps, or similar places.
There’s also a moccasin, the only venomous water snake that can be found in North America. You can recognize it by its triangular head, and rather thick body.
This species has a pretty dangerous bite, but they rarely attack humans. Still, same as with alligators, they will defend when feeling threatened.
You won’t always see the danger coming towards you. For instance, there’s a microscopic organism Naegleria fowleri; it’s a specific type of amoeba that can cause a tricky, severe infection called amebic meningoencephalitis.
It can migrate up the nasal cavity until it gets to the brain and spinal cord. This infection can lead to death within just 10 days.
You can recognize it by fever, nausea, vomiting, headaches, or a stiff neck. Lakes are static waters, so be aware they can contain lots of different types of bacteria that can cause various health issues.
To stay protected, wear nose clips or simply try not to put your head under the water. Also, avoid stirring up or digging in muddy areas. Some parts are better to stay untouched by people.
Boaters, waders, and swimmers should especially pay attention to algal blooms and red tides. These can cause burning eyes, and skin reactions, as well as breathing or throat irritations.
Oh, and one more thing – the amoeba we’ve mentioned above can also occur in swimming pools if they’re not maintained properly. With this in mind, keep your pool clean and try to be careful in wild waters too!
What Florida Lakes Are Safe For Swimming?
Florida has plenty of lakes, which is why it’s better to do thorough research of where to go swimming before hitting a particular area. However, there are some bigger and well-known freshwater swimming spots worth mentioning.
Fanning Springs is definitely one of the most popular ones, especially when it comes to swimming with kids and toddlers. The water is clear and stays warm at 72°F all year round.
Wakulla Springs is one of the biggest and deepest freshwater springs in the world. It offers pleasant surroundings, clear water, and even certified scuba divers are allowed to go under the water.
Madison Blue Spring State Park – another hotspot you should definitely visit when staying nearby. Its crystal clear water is the perfect refreshment for hot, summer days. It can be dangerous if you want to go cave diving if you’re not an expert, but swimming is safe.
Wekiwa Springs is a rather popular destination when it comes to swimming in the fresh waters of Florida. Located about 20 minutes from Orlando, it’s easily accessible for a weekend getaway, too.
So, Is Swimming in Florida Lakes Generally Safe?
Swimming in Florida lakes doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get eaten or harmed by an alligator. The same way you swim in the ocean knowing there are sharks there, right?
As with the ocean, the essential thing is to use common sense and be careful.
As said above, alligators are really not into humans; it can happen that you’re swimming next to one without causing any particular reaction.
However, it could happen if an alligator feels threatened, irritated, or it could simply mistake you for some other animal.
It’s really hard to predict the behavior of wild animals, which is why it’s better to stay away since we don’t usually stand a chance against them.
If you want to go swimming anyway, better avoid doing it before dusk and dawn, since that’s the period of time when alligators are most active.
Do you have pets? Better keep them away from the water’s edge, since alligators are likely to go after smaller animals – plus, they’re really quick when doing that, which doesn’t leave you enough time to react and save your pet.
Try to stick to the lakes that are recommended for swimming and simply explore the area you’re hitting next. Also, let us know if you have any safe-to-swim destinations in Florida discovered on your own!