Are There Alligators in Lake Marion, SC?

Updated On May 16, 2023

Alligators live in a number of freshwater rivers and lakes, even though they prefer marshes and swamps.

Lake Marion is the largest lake found in South Carolina and is home to a significant amount of recreation.

With the potential for alligators in it, you have to wonder whether it’s actually safe to go into the water.

So… Are There Alligators in Lake Marion?

Alligators are commonly found in the southern states, including Florida, Texas, and Louisiana.

They have been migrating north within the past few decades, which means that they may be found in Georgia, South Carolina, and even North Carolina.

Lake Marion is located in South Carolina and is a freshwater lake, which means that it provides the kind of habitat that is comfortable for alligators.

The weather is never cold enough where the lake will freeze, either, which means that alligators can live in the lake year after year without fear of freezing to death.

The state’s Department of Natural Resources has estimated that the lake is home to approximately 100 alligators, which isn’t surprising given the size of the lake.

It is also connected to the Sparkleberry Swamp – and gators love swamps.

Lake Marion spans five counties – Sumter, Orangeburg, Clarendon, Calhoun, and Berkeley.

There have been reports of gator sightings in all five counties at some point or another.

Some of the sightings occur within the lake while others are around the shoreline or even slightly further from the lake.

Breeding season for alligators is most often in late May and early June.

According to the state, it is common for a single female to lay a clutch of 30 to 50 eggs, which will produce even more alligators.

This means that it’s likely that the population of alligators in and around Lake Marion will continue to grow.

Lake Marion

Alligator Species in Lake Marion

There are a lot of reptiles, though within the Family Crocodila, there are only two species of alligators in the whole world – the Chinese Alligator and the American Alligator.

The Chinese Alligator is only found in Southeast Asia.

As for the American Alligator, it is found in Lake Marion as well as other freshwater bodies of water throughout the southern part of the United States.

Typically, you won’t find alligators north of North Carolina, though it does happen from time to time.

The American Alligator (alligator mississippiensis) is also known as a gator.

In the wild, they can live between 30 and 50 years.

Adults can end up reaching lengths of 15 feet, though females are typically going to be the smaller of the breed.

The cold-blooded animal loves the heat – and that’s why it enjoys living in Lake Marion.

Since the lake is also home to a significant number of fish, so they are able to stay well-fed.

Alligators typically don’t show aggression unless they are provoked.

Male and female alligators from babies to adults have been found swimming in and lounging around Lake Marion.

Is It Safe to Swim in Lake Marion?

Lake Marion covers 110,00 acres and is known to have a number of big fish species.

It is a popular lake for boating and fishing – and many people use Santee State Park to access the lake.

Locals and tourists alike will visit Lake Marion for a number of recreational activities, including swimming.

While the counties that surround Lake Marion promote swimming at the lake, it’s important to focus on a few things.

First, alligator sightings have become more relevant over the past few years.

They are more likely to be found in the shallow and swampy areas of the lake as well as some of the creeks and coves that stem off from the lake.

Remember that there are hundreds of miles of coastline for the lake.

If there are tall grasses, alligators could be hiding there.

As such, you should use the designated swimming areas so that you are less likely to encounter any alligators.

Beyond alligators, there are some other issues that you may encounter at the lake.

While the water is generally considered safe, there are times when there are bacterial issues.

Pay close attention to any notices that are posted.

The Department of Natural Resources will test the water periodically and provide you with updates.

There are also boats that speed through Lake Marion.

While all boaters should be practicing safe habits, there are times when boats get too close to designated swimming areas.

Make sure that you exercise caution any time that you are in the water.

Interesting Alligator Facts in Lake Marion

There have been a number of sightings of alligators – and the number of sightings has been increasing in the past few years.

Lake Marion even made the local news in 2022 when hunters were able to capture an alligator that weighed over 600 pounds.

A man and his crew found the gator and, once measured, boasted that it was over 13 feet long.

Various stories have emerged about “monster-sized” alligators coming out of Lake Marion.

The average adult alligator measures around 11 feet for males and 8 feet for females.

However, those coming out of Lake Marion tend to be much larger than average.

In addition to the 13-foot one caught in 2022, there have also been several 12-foot-long ones.

And some have even weight as much as 800 pounds.

While some states will capture alligators and bring them to a zoo or reserve, many hunters will capture the alligators as game.

The alligators are then brought in for taxidermy or for meat processing.

Alligator meat is quite the delicacy in many restaurants across South Carolina.

If you find fried alligator tail on the menu, it may have even originated from Lake Marion.

Alligators vs. Crocodiles

Many people make the assumption that alligators and crocodiles are similar.

The reality is that they are quite different in terms of where they’re found, what they’ll look like, and even their likeliness to attack humans.

Alligators are the only crocodilian that you have to worry about in Lake Marion – and South Carolina for that matter.

Crocodiles are only found in South Florida and further south.

Alligators like freshwater while crocodiles like saltwater.

Although alligators can handle brackish water, they don’t have the salt-excreting glands of crocodiles, so any body of water with high salinity cannot be tolerated.

As for physical appearances, alligators are usually black and gray and have a cream-colored underside.

Their snouts are rounded, and their lower teeth are hidden when their jaws are closed.

They also have webbed feet so that they can swim very fast.

Crocodiles, on the other hand, are usually brown or green.

Their snouts are more pointed, and their teeth will show even when their jaws are closed.

They don’t have webbed feet, so they aren’t as good of swimmers as alligators.

Additionally, most alligators only weigh as much as 800 pounds while some crocodiles can weigh in at 2,000 pounds.

All considered it’s a good thing crocodiles are not found in Lake Marion as they tend to be more aggressive than alligators.


3 Safety Tips for Swimming in Alligator-Infested Waters

Any time you choose to swim in waters that are known to be alligator-infested, you have to use the utmost caution.

It’s important to pay attention to any signage around the lake or other body of water that will alert you to the presence of alligators.

If you can avoid swimming in the water at all, it’s best to do so.

However, if you insist on swimming, there are some safety tips that you should follow:

  1. Don’t Swim Between Dusk and Dawn
    Alligators are more active at night, so any kind of splashing can be seen as prey to them. Additionally, you’ll want as much visibility as possible to ensure that you’re able to spot alligators in the water before going in.
  2. Bring Friends
    When there’s a lot more activity in the water, alligators are likely to keep their distance. It also ensures that if there is an incident, someone is available to provide help.
  3. Don’t Feed the Alligators
    It is illegal to feed alligators in South Carolina. Beyond that, it can teach alligators that it is safe to approach humans for food – and that is most certainly not the case. Alligators that learn to get food from humans often get aggressive when the humans don’t have food.

It’s also important to do your part when you see alligators in areas where they shouldn’t be – or if you see people feeding alligators.

Make sure that you report issues to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources at 1-800-922-5431.


There are alligators in Lake Marion as there have been countless confirmed sightings.

Some will even go as far as to estimate that there are at least 100 alligators calling the lake in South Carolina home.

With various reports of large alligators being caught, it is obvious that the lake has everything needed for alligators to thrive.

The number of alligators has been increasing over the years, so it’s important to exercise the utmost caution.

It is possible for alligators to attack, especially if they feel they are being threatened.

Find out when mating season is, too, so you don’t accidentally happen onto the area where a female alligator has laid her eggs as she’s much more likely to attack.

Lake Marion has over 500 miles of shoreline with plenty of activities.

Pay attention to the dangers that exist so you can have fun while being safe.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible to outrun an alligator?

It depends.

Many alligators are capable of running extremely fast within the first few moments of coming out of the water.

Try to keep as much distance between you and the gator as possible.

Alligators don’t have the same level of endurance as humans, which is to your benefit.

What state has the most alligator-infested lakes?

Florida is home to more alligator-infested lakes than anywhere else in the United States.

The reason is that it is their natural habitat with low salinity in the water and the perfect climate for cold-blooded animals year-round.

Are there a lot of alligator deaths in South Carolina?


There are actually not a lot of alligator deaths in ANY part of the United States.

Most alligators will only attack if they feel threatened.

As such, there are typically less than 10 alligator-related deaths in the U.S. every year – and they almost never occur in South Carolina.

2 Comments on Are There Alligators in Lake Marion, SC?

  1. K
    Kingsley says:

    Yes, there are alligators in Lake Marion, and it is always important to exercise caution when swimming in any body of water where alligators are known to reside.

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