A day spent at Myakka River State Park provides a multitude of activities designed to make it well worth the short drive to get there. An overhead canopy walk, which is a fun way to view the goings-on below, gives visitors a bird’s eye view of native Florida hammocks, marshes, flatwoods and prairies.
A cruise on their airboats is sure to thrill even the bravest member of your group as alligators can be seen swimming just feet away. Primitive camping, including access to overnight lodging in historic cabins, makes this one of the most diverse state parks in the area.
Myakka River State Park encompasses nearly 37,000 acres and is one of the largest and oldest Florida state parks. Known for the beautiful, meandering Myakka River and lakes found inside, the park is also recognized for the gorgeous natural foliage and variety of ecosystems that exist there. The winding road that runs through the park is often filled with bicyclists and cars full of visitors, getting a view of some of the prettiest forested areas in the region. Not to be spoiled by manmade interventions like the automobile, miles of pristine hiking trails allow you to unplug for the day while treating your body and mind to an outdoor excursion as you walk along counting the many varieties of birds that you see. A unique rope bridge that lies just above the canopy of the park allows you to rise above everything and to feel like you are Tarzan in the jungle, without having to swing from the vines.
A favorite must-do while at the park is a ride on the Gator Gal or the Myakka Maiden, two of the world’s largest airboats that give riders an exciting and informative tour of Upper Myakka Lake. Get up close and personal with the alligators, cranes and the other creatures that call the lake home. A Tram Safari will take you through the backwoods of the park and let you explore areas that remain a perfect picture of life in Old Florida many years ago.
Another unique feature of Myakka River State Park are the historic cabins that were built in the early 1940s that you are able to reserve. This could be the perfect venue in the woods for a family reunion or birthday celebration. The cabins have been well-preserved and are currently undergoing renovations, which include new appliances and raised footings which will help with the flooding that sometimes occurs in the park. The cabins feature porches and fireplaces, and will accommodate six people. Reservations for cabins are difficult to get, and are often made nearly a year in advance, so plan accordingly. The park also features three campgrounds with 90 campsites, which offer a variety of amenities including restrooms, showers, electrical hookup, Wi-Fi, playground and more. Well-behaved pets are allowed at these campgrounds which is always a plus for people looking for activities to do without leaving their pets at home. Primitive tent camping is allowed at six campgrounds located throughout the park.
If you’ve heard of mysterious areas at Myakka River State Park, known for hosting hundreds of alligators at a time for sunbathing and swimming, then you may want to schedule a trek to Deep Hole to see what all of the talk is about. This 200 foot sinkhole is about a 2-mile hike into the park, and only a handful of visitors are allowed access at specific times. A guided tour can be arranged by contacting the park ranger’s office. A fishing pier, boat ramp, picnic pavilions, a small sundries and gift store, along with friendly park-attendants round out a great experience at Myakka River State park. Whether you enjoy biking, fishing, hiking, exploring, or just visiting a nearby natural haven, then be sure to head out to Myakka River State Park. Pack a lunch and explore one of the wonders that makes Sarasota a special place to live. To learn more, please visit: https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Myakka-River.
Photos: Myakka River State Park sign courtesy of Walter on Flickr. Commercial use allowed.
Canoeing on the Myakka River courtesy of Walter on Flickr. Commercial use allowed.