If you’re looking to see some Florida wildlife up close and personal, look no further than Myakka River State Park, located in beautiful Sarasota, Florida. Known as one of the largest and oldest state parks, Myakka’s diverse natural habitat offers you a chance to explore 58 miles of both wet and dryland. If you’re staying on Longboat Key, you’ll be happy to know that Myakka State Park is approximately 50 miles away. Although Longboat Key has virtually everything you might need, Myakka has the sense of freedom that you desire. Myakka State Park is a place you can get lost in, even though we don’t advise it.
You are sure to spot deer, raccoons, turkeys, red-shouldered hawks, vultures, and barred owls while exploring the dry land. However, if you walk out on the boardwalk that spans the Upper Myakka Lake, you will see wading birds, sandhill cranes, wood storks, ducks, roseate spoonbills, eagles, ospreys, and a lot of alligators. Remember, though; you are in their habitat so be careful not to disturb them. The river and the lake aren’t just for your viewing pleasure, and you can find plenty of enjoyment on the water. Don’t have a boat? No problem! Scenic lake tours are offered daily on two of the largest airboats you have even seen. There is a boat ramp that provides access to the upper lake that allows you to have ample opportunity for fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and boating. There are hiking trails galore that lead to the pinelands and prairies.
Camping in the Park
If you’re looking to go camping, Myakka has full-facility campgrounds and campsites available. Although you will find that the five palm log cabins were built in the 1930s, this doesn’t mean that you will be without all the modern-day amenities. There are five cabins total that can accommodate up to 6 people in each. If you want a more traditional camping experience, there are 76 campsites to choose from. They all have water and electric. All of the campsites are within 40 yards of the showers and restrooms, so you don’t have to worry about fully roughing it while in the Florida wilderness.
Myakka State Park actually got its name from the Seminoles. It was utterly desolate land, short of a few cattle that grazed freely along with a ranch owned by the Palmer family until the early 1900’s. Between 1934 and 1941, the Civilian Conservation Corps and the National Park Service along with the Florida Park Service, developed the park. Myakka River State Park was officially opened in 1942, and many of the original buildings are still standing and in use today.
You will find that historically, lightning ignited fires across the prairie which is necessary for certain plants and animals survival. Myakka River State Park is dedicated to restoring the prairie to its original state. Their methods for doing this include controlled burning and treatment of the land. Their efforts are working because the prairie is emerging once again.
Want to take a little piece of Myakka with you? Myakka Outpost sells supplies, t-shirts and hats, guides, nature books, souvenirs, and snacks such as gator stew, gator jerky, and gator sandwiches. You can also rent canoes and kayaks here. Myakka State Park is such a wonderful place to take your family while visiting Longboat Key and will surely leave you with memories that will last a lifetime.