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Myakka River State Park Land Under

My camera needed an adventure, and after being home for more than two months, it was time to get out and explore.

Mid-August, at the peak of Florida’s rainy season, I headed up north to Sarasota to scout out the Myakka River State Park. Goggle Earth and All Trails helped to plan the trip and I had my car loaded with lots of drinking water, heavy-duty insect repellent, rubber boats, flashlight, plenty of spare batteries, etc., etc. – a woman on a mission.

Babcock Ranch Wildlife Management Area

Babcock Ranch, just north of Fort Myers, was my first stop, and it gave a good indication of what was ahead: floods and mosquitos. But also the immense beauty of the flat Florida landscape.

Entering the park about 10 miles east of Sarasota, you are immediately surrounded by a different world - pine forest, scrub, and prairies, but also marshes and cypress domes. You are truly in a different world.

A Little Magic

With 37,000 acres Myakka River State Park is one of the largest parks in Florida and named after the Myakka river that runs through it. The Myakka River is a major source of fresh water to Charlotte Harbor and also provides nursery habitat for many commercial and recreational fish and shellfish.

The Myakka river and lakes are sizeable water bodies honoring its name which means “Big Water”, but it is the soil that makes Myakka famous. Myakka fine sand, a wet sandy flatwoods soil with an organic subsoil layer, is Florida’s state soil and is unique to Florida.

Flooded Forest

The park did not disappoint, and being in the midst of heat and rainy season, I had it all to myself. Most of the area was flooded, many of the hiking trails not passable, even with rubber boots on. To my disappointment, I could not access the Canopy Walk, an elevated viewing area - the standing water was too deep to reach it. The other area not accessible was the Deep Hole, a famous hangout for large alligators - reason to come back another time.

Wildlife

I encountered a variety of birds, including my first Black Bellied Whistling Ducks (aka tree ducks). They are actually quite common in Florida but I have never seen any in the Naples area. Beautiful ducks, little bigger than the brown ducks but smaller than Muscovees.

Singing the Swamp Opera

Besides the many birds, there were alligators galore. It took me a while to realize that the alligators were very close to the road since the standing water everywhere gave them good coverage. I found it very convenient that the floods came close to the road and I didn't have to hike far to take shots. I would step into the swamp, scan for gators, and as long as they were not too close, I would then set up my camera and take pictures. Until all of a sudden, I heard a huge splash right next to me, and the big boy was swimming away. He had been only a few feet, just hiding next to a tree. I had to sit in the car for a while to get my heart rate to normalize.

The park has a few primitive campsites and canoe rental is available at Upper Myakka Lake. It is a fun weekend getaway that lets you experience Florida's lush nature. Just keep in mind, there is always a pair of eyes following you (and it is not the government).

Upper Myakka Lake Sunset
River Sunset

Another day ends at Myakka. Birds have fished, alligators have eaten, and mosquitos have bitten. I had to cut my trip short due to heavy rainfalls, but, all in all, it was an exciting visit with lots of new impressions and a greater appreciation for my home state Florida.

Created By
Hilda Champion
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Credits:

Text and Images by Hilda Champion