Myakka River State Park | Sarasota, FL

map of the park in the visitors center
Map of the park in the Visitors Center

While I have been stuck inside this past week, I have been thinking about my adventures before social distancing was the new normal.

One weekend in January I woke up and decided I wanted to go somewhere new, so I decided to head down to Myakka River State Park. While the park is only 30 minutes away from my house, I had never taken the time to visit. Myakka River State Park is one of Florida’s oldest and largest parks at 58 sq. miles. The park is full of large oaks and palm trees as well as alligators and turtles sunbathing along the riverbank. A trip to the park is sure to leave you thinking of old Florida. The park includes wetlands, prairies, hammocks and pinelands all with the Myakka River following through. The park offers visitors the opportunity to go boating, fishing, canoeing, and kayaking down the river or hiking and biking through the miles of trails and backcountry.

the birdwalk with the river in the background under a blue sky
The Birdwalk

I got to the park’s north entrance around 11 a.m. and even though it was relatively early for a Sunday morning there seemed to be a decent amount of people already in the park. The admission fee for a one-person vehicle was only $4, which is hard to beat. The first stop I made was to the park’s birdwalk. There was a lovely volunteer at the end of the birdwalk who pointed out a couple of white pelicans that were off in the distance. After the birdwalk, I drove down the length of the park’s main road to the picnic shelter near the main entrance. After checking out the information center at the park’s main entrance, I walked out behind the picnic shelter along the river’s edge. I sat down at a picnic table and watched the birds across the river. It was nice to be able to take a moment away from other people and just enjoy the outdoors.

alligator resting on the edge of the river
Alligator spotted from the bridge

After leaving the picnic shelter, I got back in my car and headed to the bridge to spot some alligators. After watching an alligator relax on the riverbank, I went hiking down a path along the river. After my 45-minute hike along the river, I decided to check out the park’s nature trail that leads to a canopy walkway and tower. The nature trail was definitely the most popular spot I visited, there was even a line of people waiting to access the canopy walkway. The view at the top of the tower was pretty incredible, but the tower was swaying a bit from the wind, so I didn’t stay up there too long. Overall the park’s nature trail is a nice 25-minute walk along a sanded pathway. After the nature trail, I headed to the Myakka Outpost which is basically the area of the park where you can find food, merchandise and can pay to rent a kayak or go on a boat tour. The final stop of my visit was the Clay Gully Picnic area where I ate lunch before heading back home.

view from the top of the canopy tower
View from the top of the tower

Even though I was alone I had a great time wandering around and exploring Myakka River State Park. Although it was the weekend, I found tons of quiet areas off the beaten path that allowed me to sit back and enjoy my time in nature. There are plenty areas of the park that are only accessible via bike, kayak or backcountry hiking that I didn’t get a chance to explore, which just means I’ll have to go back. I honestly can’t wait till I can get out of my house and start exploring again, till then I guess I’ll just keep reliving my past adventures through photos.

"native florida" - large oak trees covering a trail

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