Colorado Gators Reptile Park

Field review by the editors.

Mosca, Colorado

What you expect to see in Colorado: mountains, cars with ski racks, people wearing North Face clothes.

What you don't expect to see in Colorado: alligators.

"I used to jump on their backs and surf on them," said Jay Young, general manager of Colorado Gators. "Then a big one put six big tooth holes in my shirt. If I'd fallen off, he would have bit me in half. So I said, 'I should probably stop doing that.'"

Since 1990 the Young family -- Jay is second generation -- has operated America's most misplaced alligator attraction. Over a mile above swamp level in the alpine San Luis Valley, Colorado Gators endures weather that can fall to 30 degrees below zero, with temperature drops so rapid that Jay has found gators frozen in ice.

Tortoise.

Yet alligators flourish at Colorado Gators, because it sits atop geothermal wells. The water in their play pools is a steamy 87 degrees year 'round. Frozen gators, Jay explained, are too slow to move out of shallows while sunning themselves in winter.

Colorado Gators began as a fish farm. The alligators only arrived years later, brought in by the Youngs to eat the leftover fish. "We never intended to open to the public as an attraction," said Jay. But the geothermal water made the gators grow three times faster than normal, and the Youngs realized that tourists would pay to see their scaly garbage disposals.

To Colorado Gators' credit, it has embraced its unexpected role. It's at the center of its own alligator population explosion, boosted by abandoned pets and airport contraband (Colorado Gators claims to be the only "gator rescue" in the U.S.). Its oldest inhabitants now weigh over 600 pounds. They're still young by alligator standards. No one knows how big they will get.

Pose with a little gator.

Dried fish are scattered along the pathways, free for anyone who wants to toss them into a gator pit and stage their own feeding show. Every visitor gets the chance to hold a small alligator, have their picture taken, and receive a "Certificate of Bravery" notarized by the gator biting it. "The photo is for our head count," Jay deadpans. "In case someone disappears." With alligator names such as Mr. Bo Mangles, Sir Chomps o' Lot, and The Unigator ("He only bites off one finger at a time."), the attraction sends a message that visitors should stay on the dry side of the gator fences.

Wrassling Time.

Unless, that is, they pay $100 for Colorado Gators' three-hour gator-wrestling class. Anyone who successfully handles a nine-foot gator is invited back every August to compete in the "World's Only Alligator Rodeo" for trophies and bragging rights.

Jay climbed into the geothermal water to demonstrate his freestyle wrestling, unencumbered by traditional Florida forms (recall his earlier surfing story). The gators, however, were more interested in napping than fighting. Jay called to them as if they were pets ("Hey, Elvis! Come on, buddy! Come and get it!") but only lady Kikoa showed any real interest, defending her nest of eggs. "She doesn't want to eat me," Jay explained. "She just wants to kill me."

Jay enthusiastically described Colorado Gators' latest project: a smoking "volcano" of geothermal water 60 feet deep, with underwater caverns. It will be built for scuba divers, who are nearly as out-of-place in Colorado as alligators. The Youngs hope to have it open in a couple of years.

The volcano will also be a home for Colorado Gators' largest non-lethal aquatic reptiles and fish, which should free up room for even more alligators. They will remain safely segregated on the other side of the park, filled with the hissing and splashing of gators and happy squeals of terrified children.

Colorado Gators Reptile Park

Address:
9162 CR 9 N., Mosca, CO
Directions:
Seventeen miles north of Alamosa, or three miles south of Hooper, on the east side of Hwy 17.
Hours:
Spring and Fall weekends, Summer daily 9 am - 5 pm. (Call to verify)
Phone:
719-378-2612
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

The UFO WatchtowerThe UFO Watchtower, Hooper, CO - 6 mi.
Highest Sand Dunes in North AmericaHighest Sand Dunes in North America, North Mosca, CO - 20 mi.
Movie Manor Motor InnMovie Manor Motor Inn, Monte Vista, CO - 20 mi.
In the region:
Boy and the Boot, Salida, CO - 58 mi.

More Quirky Attractions in Colorado

Stories, reports and tips on tourist attractions and odd sights in Colorado.

Explore Thousands of Unique Roadside Landmarks!

Strange and amusing destinations in the US and Canada are our specialty. Start here.
Use RoadsideAmerica.com's Attraction Maps to plan your next road trip.

June 18, 2019

My Sights

My Sights

Create and Save Your Own Crazy Road Trip!

Try My Sights

Roadside America app
Roadside Presidents app

Colorado Latest Tips and Stories

Latest Visitor Tips

Sight of the Week

Sight of the Week

Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota, Darwin, Minnesota (Jun 17-23, 2019)

SotW Archive

USA and Canada Tips and Stories

More Sightings

Sightings. Arrives without warning. Leaves no burn marks. A free newsletter from RoadsideAmerica.com. Subscribe now!
RoadsideAmerica.com Hotel & Motel Finder

Special rates for hotels.

Nearby Hotels: Mosca, Colorado

Nightly rates found:

Book Now

 

Favorite Quirky City Sights