Myakka River State Park the “Real Florida” is one of the largest and oldest state parks. The “Florida Wild and Scenic ” Myakka River flows through 58 square miles of wetlands, hammocks, prairies and pinelands. It has a 7 mile paved scenic drive and 39 miles of hiking and biking trails.
There are two shallow lakes , the Upper Myakka Lake is in the main section of the park. At the upper lake you can find The Pink Gator, a great little restaurant for gator bites and ice cream along with a gift shop. Boat tours, kayak and canoe rentals are a great way to explore the Upper Myakka Lake.
The birdwalk is a great place to meander on the boardwalk for alligators, bird sightings and sunsets.
The Nature Trail is a beautiful shady, leisurely 45 minute walk. A highlight on the Nature Trail is the Canopy Walkway and Tower which was completed in 2000 and was the first public treetop trail in North America. The walkway is suspended 25 feet above the ground and extends 100 feet through the hammock canopy. A tower climbs to 74 feet in the air for a spectacular view above the treetops.
There are 90 RV and tent sites located in three campgrounds, Old Prairie, Big Flats and Palmetto Ridge. Six primitive campsites are located along hiking trails in the back country. Many of the original, historic buildings are still in use today, including five log rental cabins. There are picnic areas and four pavilions that are available for special events. The log cabins and log pavilion were built by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the 1930’s. They used the trunks of cabbage palms and chinked them with tar and sawdust.
The Visitor’s Center was an old horse barn years ago, but now houses several wildlife exhibits and great stories of the park.
Potter Palmer was a Chicago business magnate who married Bertha Honore’ Palmer when she was 21 and he was 44 years old. Their engagement led to one of the most extravagant wedding gifts, Palmer House, a luxurious Chicago hotel. In 1910, Mrs. Palmer purchased vast amounts of land in Sarasota, where she raised oranges, vegetables and cattle. One of the trail heads in the park is “Meadow Sweet Pastures” a lovely shaded walk where Mrs. Palmer owned a ranch and was the first to dip her cattle against the Texas Fever Tick. In honor of their mother, sons Honore’ and Palmer donated a large amount of land to the state for the development of Myakka River State Park.
There are many activities in the park such as Florida Tales, Campfire Circle, Ranger-led walks, Moon over Myakka bike rides, four evening concerts during the months of January through April and much more.
One of the most fascinating hikes during the dry season, which is usually January through March, is to the Deep Hole. This is a 5-mile round trip hike, mostly through the prairie of the Wilderness Preserve to the Lower Myakka Lake. During the dry season when the water recedes on the Myakka River, there is a 131 foot sinkhole that becomes isolated from the river and is a prime feeding area for alligators as fish become trapped in the Deep Hole. On a good day, upwards of 200 alligators can be seen basking in the sun on the banks of the Deep Hole. Only thirty people per day may enter the Wilderness Preserve either by hiking or paddling.
Our duties in volunteering at the park from the end of November 2018 to the end of May 2019 include the Ranger Station, Visitor Center and Roving about the park, mingling with the visitors.
In exchange, a lovely RV site, meeting new friends and the opportunity to spend time exploring God’s creation, witnessing first hand some absolutely magnificent sights!
If you are ever in the Sarasota, Florida area be sure to check out this beautiful state park!