The Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo, in Hot Springs, has over 300 alligators, along with mountain lions, big turtles, and even a legendary, mummified merman!
If you’re surprised to hear of that such a large bask* of alligators can be found as far north as Hot Springs, AR, you should be. American alligators prefer far warmer climes, trending more towards Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Texas.
The Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo, however, has been around since 1902, when H. L. Campbell reportedly decided that Hot Springs needed something other than … the hot springs as an attraction. I guess alligators was just the next best thing he could think of, or maybe he had a few lying around the house that had nothing better to do.
In any case, next thing you know, Hot Springs had a new attraction: “The Hot Springs Gator Farm” they called it back in those days. They had something like 1500 alligators back then, too. The Hot Springs Gator Farm went through a couple of owners before being picked up by the Bridges family in 1945, who renamed it to The Arkansas Alligator Farm, as we know it today.
The name change wasn’t the only improvement that the Bridges family instigated. Over the years they’ve added a gift shop, a small museum, and a petting zoo with monkeys, raccoons, ostriches, mountain lions, deer, pygmy goats, llamas, logger-head turtles, and more.
Perhaps the most famous attraction is the Arkansas Alligator Farm’s legendary, mummified Merman.
Half monkey, half fish, and all hooey. More commonly known as a Fiji Mermaid, the Merman is a taxidermy creation, one of a type quite typical in the traveling carnival sideshows of America’s past. Now more commonly seen at attractions such as Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, the Arkansas Alligator Farm specimen is one of the larger and more spectacular in existence – which may explain why it sometimes seems as if the fake, dead Merman is more popular than the real, live alligators!
May to October, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, are Arkansas Alligator Farm Feed Show Days when visitors get the chance of a lifetime to watch hungry alligators tear their food into shreds, which sounds horrific but is really amazing, educational, and not at all unlike watching teen-aged boys eat pizza.
Off season, the cold-blooded stars of the Arkansas Alligator Farm pile together in a hibernating mass under the barn’s heat lamps – but you can still visit! The Arkansas Alligator Farm is open year-round so that even off-season visitors have a unique opportunity to see and learn about these large, fascinating, and so-often misunderstood animals.
The Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo
847 Whittington Ave, Hot Springs, AR
Arkansas Alligator Farm Lodging
No one but one of our member, Arkansas bed and breakfast inns is going to give you the level of service, hospitality, and insider’s insight along with a hot, nutritious breakfast. When you’re in the Hot Springs area – or anywhere in Arkansas, for that matter – do yourself a favor and try us out; you’ll never subject yourself to a hotel or motel again.
*A “bask” is the official term for a group alligators and crocodiles, just as “herd” is for deer. You’re reading an article on alligators, so I thought you might be interested. – ed.