Snappin' Critters

Wakulla Springs State Park

No, you don't need to go to the Everglades to shoot lots of alligators. The crystal clear stream flowing from Wakulla Springs is so loaded with them that swimming (by humans, at least) is unsafe and not permitted except in a very small area.

You'll find the best variety of shots by taking a half-hour guided cruise on one of the park's boats. Hiking the nature paths will keep you confined to the woods and well away from the wildlife.

The cruise boats are covered for protection from sun or light rain and have open sides ideal for photography. It's always tough to decide where to sit. The front seat is good, but I prefer to stand at the back of the boat. That way I can shoot from both sides without getting in anyone's way, and there's the added opportunity to keep shooting as the boat moves away from an animal.

Besides basking gators, you'll get close to sunning turtles, a herd of white-tailed deer (which is always in the same spot, on the right, shortly after starting out), and iridescent gallinules (or mud hens) that walk atop floating plants at the edge of the run. Two birds common to Florida and uncommon elsewhere, the limpkin and anhinga, are also easy year-round photo subjects. Regardless of the animal, you'll need to be alert and shoot quickly since the ranger rarely slows or stops his boat for very long.

Wakulla Springs is one of the world's largest springs, and the park has glass-bottom boats that are supposed to show you the world below. In the past five years, I have yet to see one running. This is not a good place for fish photos.

For complete information, call the park at (352) 922-3632. From Tallahassee, go south on US 319 or SR 61. Take SR 61 to SR 267.

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