While New York City is certainly home to its fair share of strange creatures, alligators are most definitely not on that list. But right now, these slithering creatures are happily hanging out in the most unusual of swampy locales: Chelsea Market. To drum up excitement for the History Channel's show Swamp People and to teach people about the Louisiana bayou ecosystem, a 12,100-cubic-foot swamp has been constructed in the bustling west side market. Complete with alligators, turtles, murky waters, and living cypress trees, the Swamp in the City is an incredibly unique and intriguing experience for all ages.
Swamp in the City is rather inconspicuous as you’re walking through Chelsea Market, with little more than a chalk board sign and greeter standing outside the room. But inside, you’re completely transported from the middle of New York to the dark and dank Louisiana bayou. Near the back of the space, a wooden dock-like structure juts out over the 6,500 gallons of swampy waters (yes, there is real water). Fifteen-foot tall living cypress trees hang over the scene, with rocks and more than 1000 indigenous Louisiana swamp plants dotting the waters.
Six adult alligators crawl beneath you, and there are dim flashlights attached to the dock to help you spot them. On our visit, we saw two in a dark corner. Red-eared slider turtles are more noticeable, resting on the rocks or noshing on bread. The animals are native to Louisiana swamps (and three of the gators were born there) but actually came to New York City from an Upstate sanctuary. The recreated swamp is a sampling of the Atchafalaya Basin in central Louisiana that includes a national heritage area.
The Swamp in the City is open through February 12, and opens at 10 a.m. daily. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, the exhibit closes at 9 p.m., and on the last day, it closes at 3 p.m. After the exhibit is over, the creature will return to their sanctuary and the cypress trees will be permanently planted.