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Hit the Road with Chet Garner

Chomping at the Trip

Beaumont’s Gator Country gives travelers a taste of the wild side

Growing up in Southeast Texas, I always had a fascination with alligators. Every time my family drove past a marsh (which was a lot), I would eagerly scan, hoping to see a pair of eyes peeking above the water. Occasionally I would spot one and nearly burst with giddy excitement.

With that early influence in mind, you can imagine my thrill when I discovered Gator Country Adventure Park—home to more than 450 alligators, crocodiles and other reptiles just outside Beaumont.

Chet keeps Jana Saurage of Gator Country between him and Bruce.

Courtesy Chet Garner

My adventure started with a walk across a bridge spanning a pond packed with more alligators than I could count and continued with exhibits featuring snakes and turtles and at least six outdoor habitats. The pond for large gators had residents that measured more than 12 feet long, including one named Kong.

But no gator in the park can hold a candle to Big Al and Big Tex—two creatures so intimidating they each get a personal pond. Big Al measures more than 13 feet long and weighs a half ton. He was the largest gator in captivity in America until the arrival of Big Tex, measuring an inch shy of 14 feet.

Like most of the gators here, Big Al and Big Tex were rescued after being deemed nuisances and a danger to the public. For owner Gary Saurage, the park is a place where alligators can be cared for and serve as tools to educate the public instead of being killed.

Even though I found a new level of love and respect for these prehistoric creatures, I couldn’t leave without also tasting alligator meat (sourced from a farm, not the park). So I ordered a basket of fried gator bites from the snack bar and marveled at how powerful—and delicious—alligators truly are.