Visiting Florida’s Myakka River State Park

I’m a little embarrassed it took me so long to visit Myakka River State Park. It’s located 20 mins from my house, but for some reason its close proximity always made me put it off. I finally made it there recently and I was so impressed!

About Myakka River State Park

In 1910, a business woman from Chicago named Bertha Palmer, came to Sarasota and bought a huge amount of land. In the 1930’s, during the Great Depression, over 17,000 acres of Ms. Palmer’s estate following her death in 1918, was purchased by the government to develop Myakka River State Park as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal. By employing young men from around the country to develop this land, the economy was given a boost and our country’s natural areas were able to be preserved. Myakka River State Park was formally dedicated and opened to the public in 1941.

Today, Myakka River State Park is one of Florida’s oldest parks. It’s also one of the largest and most diverse natural areas in the entire state. The Myakka River – which flows 58 square miles of wetlands, prairies, and pinelands – and its two shallow lakes make the park a popular place for visitors all year round.

Myakka River State Park

Myakka River State Park

What to do at Myakka River State Park

Take a scenic drive — We were a little unsure of what to expect during our visit so we opted to make the scenic 7 mile drive through the entire park, and then work our way back to what we wanted to do based on what we saw. The drive was beautiful and we pulled over several times to snap pictures during drive.

Rent bikes – looking for a little physical activity? Instead of driving the 7-mile road through the park opt to rent bikes and pedal your way through the park.

Rent kayaks or canoes – Between the Myakka River and the park’s Upper and Lower Lakes, there is a lot of wetland to explore. In all honesty, this would not be my number one place I’d want to kayak as alligators are extremely plentiful here. BUT a lot of people do it and I saw several people kayaking despite the huge reptile with jaws of death wading 15 feet away. To each his own.

Take an airboat or tram tour – If you can’t make it down to the Florida Everglades Myakka State Park is the next best place to spot some alligators and other animals that call wetlands home. Tickets are sold at the ticket booth in the concessions area. Adults:$14, Children 6-12:$7. Tour times and availability change depending on the season. Head here for more information on tours based on when you are visiting.

Birdwatching – Myakka is an awesome spot for a bird lover. Eagles, hawks, vultures, cranes, these are some of the many types of birds that can be found at the park on a daily basis. You’re definitely going to want to check out the Bird Walk on the Upper Lake. From November through mid-April there is a bird naturalist (someone who knows a lot about birds) at the Bird Walk most days of the week from 9am-1pm.

Take a stroll down the nature trail – One of my favorite things was this beautiful nature walk. The path is well marked, shady, and flat, making it something everyone can enjoy.

Fishing – There is a boat ramp located at Upper Lake. You can bring your own boat, or you can cast a line from the shore. A freshwater license is required. Bass, bream, and catfish are plentiful.

Camp – Pitch a tent, bring your camper, or rent one of the park’s original 5 log cabins. Space is limited, make reservations ahead of time at the ranger station.

Have lunch – There are several picnic areas available in the park for people who want to bring their own lunch. There is also a restaurant, The Pink Gator Cafe, that serves up lunch, dessert, and craft beer.

Myakka River State Park

Myakka River State Park

Myakka River State Park

Myakka River State Park

Canopy Walkway & Tower

One of the most unique things Myakka River State Park has to offer is their Canopy Walkway & Tower. I had heard a lot about this and seen some really cool pictures so I was eager to check it out for myself.

The Myakka Canopy Walkway was completed in 2000, and is the first public treetop trail in North America. It provides easy access to observe life and nature in the treetops of an oak/palm hammock. The walkway is suspended 25 feet above ground and extends 100 feet through the hammock canopy. After crossing the walkway you can continue up the stairs (or go back down to the ground if you prefer) to the top of the Canopy Tower, which stands 74 feet in the air. From the top of the tower you can take in 365 degree views of the entire Park.

Myakka River State Park

Myakka River State Park

Myakka River State Park

Other Info to Know 

  • The park is open 8am to sunset
  • There is a $6 per vehicle charge to enter the park. If you arrive to the park via foot or bicycle there is still a $2 entrance fee.
  • The park has a gift shop, restrooms, and a restaurant
  • There is no swimming allowed anywhere in Myakka River State Park. Considering what I mentioned above about the gators, I would recommend not breaking this rule.

Myakka River State Park is located in Sarasota, Florida

Have you put off visiting somewhere only to be surprised once you do visit?

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  • One of the things that I’m really guilty of is not exploring the area around my hometown, so I’m glad that you were able to get out and explore this state park! The canopy walk looks so pretty and those views are so stunning!

    • I am guilty of the exact same thing! It’s easy to be distracted by “trips” rather then pay attention to what’s close by. One of my goals for this year is to find beautiful places close to where i’m living!