Gatorland is a 110-acre (45 ha) theme park and wildlife preserve in Florida, located along South Orange Blossom Trail south of Orlando.
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.