8: Along the Alligator’s Spine to Gut River

We did one long all-day trip. I’ll have to break it up because each thing we did is worthy of its own post, and there are a lot of photos. But first, some background:

Thirteen years ago, my family went to Alligator Hole/Canoe Valley to swim with manatees. It was a great experience. We traveled from Negril that time with then-small children, so once we were done with swimming, we went straight back to Negril. I have always wished that we could have stopped along the way back at Gut River and Alligator Pond. I made it back to Alligator Pond on a later trip, but never past that.

Gut River has been an item on my “Jamaica Bucket List” since then. I think most long-time visitors to Jamaica develop a list of cool places we’ve read about, or seen photos of, or heard of and want to see. Each time I travel to Jamaica I try to check an item off if I can. This time one of the group I was with had an interest in visiting Milk River Mineral Bath, and the rest of the group were the best kind of travel companions – they were up for anything and everything. So we planned to do this trip even before we left for Jamaica.

The coast road from Alligator Pond to Milk River is a “lonely road”. By this I mean that there is intermittent cell service, no towns or even houses or businesses, no gas stations, no electricity or piped water, nothing but a pretty potholed narrow coast road with bush on both sides. Not a place you want to have car trouble. Definitely a place to catch a glimpse of a wild and unspoiled part of Jamaica’s south coast.

At Lover’s Leap we were shown the “head” of the crocodile – just past Alligator Pond, and told the “tail” is by Milk River. This is the road we traveled, the length of the croc. Gut River, I was told, is where the croc’s gut would be, right around the middle of Long Bay.

But let me back up.

Kevin of Treasure Tours picked us up at Marblue at 11AM. We, joined by our friend Lee who lives in Montego Bay but came down to visit us for a couple of days,  loaded ourselves and a cooler into Kevin’s high-ceiling comfy van and headed east out of Treasure Beach. As we passed through Junction we decided to grab some road snacks at Juici Patti. Juici is a Jamaican fast food chain that sells patties, coco bread, soup and other quick food.

While we ordered, I did a little shoe shopping with a vendor outside 🙂

 

Everyone munched on beef patty and coco bread sandwiches.

We traveled through the hills and mountains around Treasure Beach and after about 45 minutes, down through Alligator Pond, where we would return for dinner.  Past Alligator Pond, the road narrows and civilization virtually disappears.  The road has some potholes, but the macca bush which had overgrown the roadsides has recently been bulldozed back from the road, so the going is not terribly slow.  We didn’t pass a single car, or shop, or home.  No electric or phone poles. No water pipes.

 

Until we came around a bend to a sign.

We actually didn’t turn down this track, this is a somewhat developed public beach area adjacent to the river.  We stopped at a bridge spanning the place where Gut River emerges from underground and forms a deep spring-fed river. Clear and deep and cool, but not too cold.

 

 

 

I was the second one in 🙂

I wish I’d brought a snorkel, the rocks under us were beautiful and sparkly and the water was crystal clear.

We swam here for awhile, enjoying the “fresh”.  When I came out of the water I saw Kevin chatting with an older gentleman on the road. He was gesturing with a machete and a couple of the group found this odd…but you know, if you have spent any time in the more rural areas of Jamaica, that a machete is a tool everyone owns. It is a lawn mower, weed whacker, pruner, tiller, scissor, knife…you name it, it does it. No self-respecting farmer clearing bush would be without one.

As it turns out, that is exactly what this gentleman was doing. He owns the property next door to the river and he has been clearing the bush around it, improving the access to the swimming hole and to the beach, picking up trash, making pathways. He lives in a house without electricity or piped water.  He has
plans…he wants to build a gazebo and host church and school groups. He
wants to host overnight beach party camp-outs.   He invited us to access the beach via his property and that is what we did.

Gut River flows from here into the sea, just a hundred yards or so
away. As we came at the end of a drought, the water was a bit too low to
swim all the way out. In this photo below you can
see the swimming hole by the road and follow the river as it flows to the sea.

As we walked through his property and out to the beach, we all gasped in wonder. It is very difficult to describe the incredible beauty of this beach with no structures, no trash, no people…just a long (7 miles we were told) beach fringed by palm trees and bookended by mountains forming the head and tail of the crocodile.  I’ve never seen one like it.  Better just to show you.

 

Here is where the river meets the sea. Fun to wade in the cool and warm water mixing.

This is looking back at the river from the beach.

 

And back at the beach.

 

 

 

These photos were taken by my friends China, Smitty, Danni and Tommy .

I could have stayed here all day, even overnight, but we were headed on to Milk River Bath to rejuvenate our bodies in some radioactive mineral water. I’ll get to that next.

Back on the road….

Continue reading this series:

13 Replies to “8: Along the Alligator’s Spine to Gut River”

  1. Hands Down – my favorite part of our Jamaican Journey! My soul felt replenished and this wonderful/exotic day trip! : )

  2. we did this ten years ago and it is still one of my favorite memories of Jamaica ..28 years of memories .. let's not broadcast this location too much it will only be ruined .

  3. It's always a consideration…let folks know about a cool place or hide it so it might stay nice. In this case I wrote about it in part because there is someone taking care of it now and who may benefit from more visitors…

  4. How is the road surface in 2013? My father and I took that road in the summer of 2011 on our way from Milk River to Treasure Beach (at night!) and it was a pretty harrowing experience once we got past the marsh.

    It took about 3 hours to crawl down the core of the road in a rental car, with huge sections of pavement washed out and gaping holes that had to be carefully navigated around. Huge reeds were draped over the road, making it very difficult to see the next hole.

    The bridge at Gut River was partly washed out and we had to get out of the car and literally place big rocks in the gap until a level enough surface was created for the car to get across. There were less problems once we rounded the "bend" in the coastline closer to the Alligator Pond side. The locals gave us an alternate route back, saying that no one should even attempt that passage in the condition it was in.

    I'm just curious if the road has been improved since my trip, as the blog author appears to have had no issues with the road. If it hasn't been repaired, this road really needs to come with a warning to tourists: Don't just take it blindly because it's on the map, you have to know what you're getting into (don't use a rental car, don't take it at night, have a full tank of gas and supplies). For tourists comfortable with A and B roads, this coastal road is a huge shock. It's on a completely different level than most of the main roads encountered. 4WD would have been nice to have, but even that would have been useless if the gap at the bridge had been any larger.

    I wouldn't be too worried about the area being "discovered" and ruined, as getting there is…not for the feint of heart. It takes adventurous types to make that a destination rather than a pass-through route. I wish I'd known there was something to see there, else it would have been taken during the daylight.

    – Robert

  5. Hi Robert! Yes, it has been significantly improved. Our driver, Kevin, hadn't been out for 2-3 years because it was so bad. But a fee weeks before we visited in April, they'd brought in bulldozers to clear all the stuff growing over the road edges. Visibility was pretty good. There are still potholes and marl sections without blacktop. We could never go very fast because of the potholes and curves, but the bridge was completely intact. The middle part, around the river, was worse than the "edges" by Milk River or Alligator Pond.

    It would be ideal on a dirt bike. But our van was just fine. Absolutely don't want to run out of gas out there…no gas stations, no cell service, nothing except Alan's house and 1-2 others, from the outskirts of Alligator Pond until Alligator Hole where the manatees are.

    I would NOT drive it in the dark.

  6. I visited Gut River in 2008 I believe. The road was definitely a challenge. There are few places in Jamaica that I have not visited and the road to Gut River sticks in my mind as one of the most worrisome places I ever been to. The sheer loneliness and the lack of cell signal gave me serious concerns. Truly one of the more remote places in JA with the possible exception of the depths of the cockpit country and the backside of Blue Mtn.

  7. I agree there is NOTHING around. We were with a group though, perhaps 8-9 people, including our driver who is local. I asked several people in TB about that road before we went, because it had a bad rep right around 2008-10.

    Off the beaten path travel is not for everyone, I think there is a certain level of risk, and trust, involved.

    I did not lose cell service, however, on my Digicel phone, so they must have added a tower.

  8. We rented scooters from Kevin in March 2015 and four of us made our way to Guts River armed with a map I made at home. There are a lot of potholes and it is very lonely, except for the goats haha, but we had no trouble on the roads with the scooters.

Thoughts? Questions? I'd love to hear them!