Myakka River State Park: What to Expect

The entrance to Myakka River State Park
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Alligators, a lot of alligators. That’s what you can expect when exploring Myakka River State Park. Whether you’re going by foot, paddle, or car, you will spot plenty of gators.

About Myakka River State Park

Myakka River State Park is one of Florida’s many state parks. It is situated in Sarasota and lies between Sarasota and Manatee Counties. The park is one of the oldest in the state and spans 58 square miles of Florida forestry.

The park boasts plenty to do with hiking, camping, paddling, birding, and more all along the Myakka River.

Myakka River State Park is like many other parks surrounding a well known river in Florida, the only difference is the wildlife you will see. Many rivers in the area are spring fed rivers, home to manatees resting in the clear blue, year-round warm water. However, Myakka is just a common river connecting two bodies of water, home to many alligators.

The river is heavily untouched with 12 miles of it flowing through the state park.

Commonly overlooked by Florida tourism, Myakka River State Park offers a pure perspective of Florida.

Paddle boarding
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What to do at Myakka River State Park?

This state park offers plenty to do for any type of adventure. With so much to do, this park should be explored between many weekends to get the full experience.

Read along to find the top activities to do at Myakka River State Park.

Paddling

With 12 miles of river to explore and hundreds of gators to spot, the river is perfect for a paddling adventure.

There is a launching area on the river and one on the lake. The lake is more open but can become choppy and hard to navigate, especially when boaters are out. The river has a moderate current that brings paddlers downstream but can become difficult to head upstream.

Check weather conditions and be aware of river levels before heading out on the river. Be extra cautious of turbulent weather with the amount of alligators roaming the river, they’re docile but not a creature to be messed with. The river can also become low in the dry season, causing sea beds to rise out of the river and create confusing paddling conditions.

When paddling Myakka River, look out for wildlife as this park is rich in wild animals. The river looks like a scene from tropical safari movie, and feels like one, too, when you lose sight of other humans.

paddle boarding along Myakka River
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Hiking

A major draw to the park is the hiking at Myakka River State Park. The Myakka Trail is a 38.9 mile loop around the park but there are plenty of shorter hikes to explore.

The main drive through the park stops at multiple trailheads for people to get out and hike.

The most popular hike is the Canopy Walkway, home of America’s first public treetop trail.

The walkway is a suspension bridge 25 feet in the air that spans 100 feet. At the exit of the bridge, you can climb up the tower to 74 feet up and take in the view of the park from above the tree tops.

The Canopy Walkway trail connects to the Nature Walk – a short look through the palms of Florida.

Some of the trails at the park allow for horseback riding and biking, also.

Hiking at Myakka River State Park
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Camping

Myakka River State Park camping is a top site to go in the Tampa Bay area. Camping at Myakka River can be your everyday camping with electrical, water, and other amenities or you can go primitive style. The primitive campsites offer a rustic, off road experience. Primitive campsites are also quite a few miles from the main road and require hiking to.

The park offers plenty of primitive and non-primitive campsites for any type of camper to enjoy.

All campsites must be reserved in advance through the ranger station.

The park also has a laundry location for any camper needing a fresh clean pair of underwear!

view of river
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Fishing

As any great Florida park, Myakka River State Park has an array of fishing locations.

There are no specific locations to fish but with bridges and clearings along the rivers edge, there are plenty of great spots to choose from!

To fish at Myakka River State Park one must have a Florida freshwater fishing license before coming to the park.

Picnicking

The park was designed with families in mind. If you are a family or with some friends, you can show up at any bench found in the park and have some lunch.

There are pavilions throughout the park that are available for rent for bigger groups and parties.

The lake has a cafe and concession stand with picnic tables and benches through the whole area for people looking to buy some hot foot while at the park.

Upper Myakka Lake
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Wildlife Spotting

This park is known for its wildlife! From gators to bobcats to otters to deer to basically any wildlife that can be found in Florida!

We paddled about half a mile upriver and saw about 13 alligators in that time! If you are not a strong paddler or nervous around wildlife, this may not be the best paddling park for you.

If you are a wildlife photographer, this is 100% the park for you!

Walking, driving, paddling, boating, you are sure to see plenty of wildlife to make your northern friends jealous and scared of Florida.

If you want to see the gators and other marine life in their natural habitat, take a boat tour around Upper Myakka Lake.

Boat Tour on Upper Myakka Lake
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Why Myakka River State Park

Myakka River State Park is unique to Florida and that is why it is a must visit in the Tampa Bay. Alligators are prevalent throughout the state and many of the surrounding states, but there aren’t many places you can view them like Myakka.

The river is perfect for spotting these docile creatures in their natural habitat while still giving them enough room as to not harass or disturb them.

This park is on the outskirts of Sarasota, a top Florida destination with nightlife and beaches to explore. The parks offers a recluse from the city for a day filled with adventure and education.

Bonus Hits

More great rivers to explore in the Tampa Bay area:

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Alligator in river
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