Entrance in February 2006, prior to the fire
|Date opened||1949, 68 years ago|
|Public transit access||108|
Founded 68 years ago by Owen Godwin on former cattle land in 1949, it has been privately owned by his family since then. Billed as the "Alligator Capital of the World," Gatorland features thousands of alligators and crocodiles, a breeding marsh with boardwalk and observation tower, reptile shows, aviary, petting zoo, swamp walk, and educational programs. The park is known for buying and rescuing nuisance alligators from trappers that would otherwise be killed for their meat and skin. The Breeding Marsh area of the park was used in the filming of the 1984 movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
The operation also has an active road show providing alligator wrestling, pythons, lizards and other animals with an informative animal talk for private parties and benefits. In addition, Gatorland manages the live alligator display at the Gaylord Palms resort in Kissimmee. This park also has a snakes of Florida exhibit, with species like indigo snakes, cottonmouths, and rattlesnakes.
The park is also known for its leucistic alligators.
The Gatorland Express, known as Ol' Iron Horse Express prior to 2001, is a 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge railroad attraction inside the park, which first opened in 1961 and was originally built by the Allan Herschell Company. The park claims that the Gatorland Express is the oldest amusement attraction in Central Florida. The original locomotive was retired in 2000 and put on static display, while a brand-new locomotive built by Train Rides Unlimited was purchased and put into operation the following year. The new locomotive is the same model as the locomotive used at the nearby Green Meadows Petting Farm. An additional fee is required to ride the railroad and prior to the 2011 opening of the zip line, it was the only non-animal-related attraction in Gatorland.
Shortly before sunrise on Monday, November 6, 2006, a three-alarm fire broke out at Gatorland, apparently started when a heating pad in one of the displays in the gift shop shorted out; arson was not suspected. The fire was brought under control within several hours, but the gift shop was completely destroyed, and several walkways also burned. The fire killed a four-foot-long crocodile and two six-foot-long pythons, but spared the other animals. During the day, the birds that are displayed in and around the shop were moved to the aviary at the back of the park and were not injured.
After inspectors confirmed that there was no structural damage to the various walkways and displays at the park, Gatorland reopened less than three weeks later, on the day after Thanksgiving. The gift shop and main offices were rebuilt as a two-story concrete block building, incorporating the repainted historic concrete alligator's mouth, and opened on May 22, 2008.
Zip line ride
In the summer of 2011 Gatorland added a new attraction: a zip line that travels across a pool of alligators and past several of the existing attractions. The ride is approximately 1,200 feet (370 m) long, several stories high and for riders above 37 inches (94 cm) tall. In January 2016, Gatorland made the zip line wheelchair-accessible.
Gatorland opened Gator Spot at Fun Spot America Theme Parks' Orlando park on May 11, 2015. The $1 million attraction allows Gatorland to extend their brand to the I-Drive tourist area, with visitors able to hold, take photos with, and feed alligators. The star of the attraction is a leucistic alligator named Bouya, a white gator with blue eyes.
List of animals
- Schneider, Mike (September 12, 1999). "Gatorland still brings in tourists after 50 years". Spartanburg Herald Journal. South Carolina. Associated Press.
- The Original Gatorland Express
- Arizona & Pacific Railroad - Gatorland
- Train Rides Unlimited
- Playground Magazine - All Aboard
- "Gatorland goes up in flames". Gainesville Sun. Florida. Associated Press. November 7, 2006. p. 1B.
- "Heater blamed in Gatorland fire". Ocala Star-Banner. Florida. Associated Press. November 9, 2006. p. 3B.
- Reed, Travis (November 7, 2006). "Gatorland burns". Lakeland Ledger. Florida. Associated Press. p. A1.
- Aguayo, Terry (November 7, 2006). "Florida Fire Damages Gatorland Theme Park". New York Times. Retrieved October 29, 2014.
- "Gatorland could reopen in weeks". Gainesville Sun. Florida. Associated Press. November 8, 2006. p. 4B.
- "Gatorland reopens, but mouth still closed". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Florida. Associated Press. November 25, 2006. p. 10B.
- Gatorland Media » Blog Archive » From Tails to Tales
- Dineen, Caitlin (May 5, 2015). "Gator Spot quietly opens to the public". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
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