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Myakka River State Park Guide — Canopy Walkway, Tours, and More

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Amar Hussain
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Amar Hussain

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Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications incl...
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Keri Stooksbury

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Myakka River State Park is a unique natural wonder that features Florida’s first state-designated “Wild and Scenic River.” The park offers diverse landscapes, including prairies, wetlands, and pinelands. You can explore this ecosystem’s natural and cultural history, hike, fish, take boat tours, and enjoy wildlife viewing.

With over 300,000 visitors each year, this park is a popular destination for both locals and tourists. It’s a must-visit destination for anyone exploring Florida’s natural wonders.

How To Get to Myakka River State Park

Where Is Myakka River State Park?

Myakka River State Park is situated in both Sarasota and Manatee counties. It is a vast area stretching over 37,000 acres. The park is 9 miles east of Interstate 75, making it easily accessible for visitors. 

Myakka River State Park Opening Hours and Seasons

This park is an amazing destination that remains open throughout the year, offering visitors plenty of opportunities to explore and appreciate its natural beauty, regardless of the season. The park operates from 8 a.m. until sunset, so you can plan your visit accordingly and maximize your time here.

If you intend to take part in a boat tour, keep in mind that the concessionaires have different hours from the park.

Nearest Airports to Myakka River State Park

The most convenient airport for reaching Myakka River State Park is Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ), around 30 minutes away.

This airport provides numerous nonstop flights to various destinations, including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, New York City, and Toronto. Many well-known airlines offer services at this airport, such as Air Canada, Allegiant, American, Breeze, JetBlue, Southwest, and Sun Country.

Bottom Line:

Travelers can enjoy the airport’s convenient location, shorter check-in lines, spacious terminal, and a wide range of services.

Driving to Myakka River State Park

To reach the breathtaking Myakka River State Park, you can take the main route, I-75. Once you’re on the highway, take exit 205 and then drive 9 miles towards the east on SR 72. Keep an eye out for the park entrance on the left-hand side of the road. 

Taking the Train to Myakka River State Park

There is no train service to Myakka River State Park.

Taking the Bus to Myakka River State Park

No bus goes directly to this park, but you can take a Greyhound bus to Sarasota. From the station, it’s approximately a 25-minute drive to the park. You can easily organize a ride-sharing service or rent a car from here to get to the park.

Getting Around Myakka River State Park

There are multiple ways to explore Myakka River State Park. You can drive along the park road, which offers various spots to park and enjoy the scenic views. Another option is to paddle through the park’s waterways. You can also opt for hiking along the numerous trails that meander through the park.

What To See and Do in Myakka River State Park

This park offers a vast array of activities for visitors to indulge in. The park is a nature lover’s paradise, from hiking and biking to kayaking and wildlife spotting. You can also take an airboat ride, go fishing, or simply relax and take in the breathtaking scenery.

Biking

This state park is a paradise for biking enthusiasts. With 7 miles of winding paved roads, the park offers an unforgettable experience that showcases the beauty of the region’s natural wonders. You’ll be mesmerized by the breathtaking views of shady hammocks, luscious greenery, and the sparkling waters of Upper Myakka Lake. 

You can bring your bike or rent one from a nearby concessionaire, but be sure to pack a helmet, as they are required by Florida law. 

Birding

Birding Myakka River State Park
Image Credit: Joseph Corl via Unsplash

This park is a nature enthusiast’s paradise, boasting an awe-inspiring variety of wading birds, songbirds, raptors, ducks, and migratory birds that make their home here at different times of the year.

This park is a birder’s dream come true, from the majestic bald eagle to the pink roseate spoonbills. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced birdwatcher, you’ll be captivated by the unique sights and sounds of this incredible sanctuary.

Be sure to explore the Wings Over Florida program during your visit, which allows visitors to discover the park’s diverse bird species through self-guided tours and informative bird lists. If you’re lucky enough to be here between November and mid-April, you can meet with a bird naturalist at the Birdwalk most days of the week to learn even more about the fascinating world of birds.

Boat Tours

The park offers visitors a chance to take a boat tour around Upper Myakka Lake aboard flat-bottomed vessels, with an opportunity to witness the wildlife up close and appreciate the park’s rich history.

These tours occur daily, with departures scheduled every 2 hours between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tickets are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, with no prior reservations required. Each tour has a duration of 45 to 60 minutes.

The serene waters of Upper Myakka Lake serve as a habitat for a variety of species, including alligators, turtles, and various bird species. Knowledgeable tour guides provide a wealth of information on the park’s natural environment and history, allowing visitors to engage with the tour on a deeper level.

Bottom Line:

This tour provides a rare opportunity to immerse oneself in the natural beauty of Upper Myakka Lake, with ample time to capture stunning photographs and admire the breathtaking scenery.

Canopy Walkway

Canopy Walkway
Image Credit: Florida Department of Environmental Protection

The Canopy Walkway is an incredible experience for those who visit Myakka River State Park. This attraction not only offers a chance to explore the treetops but also provides a unique opportunity to observe the wildlife that lives in the canopy. The walkway is an outdoor laboratory that serves both research and educational purposes.

The walkway is suspended 25 feet above the ground and extends for 100 feet through the hammock canopy. Visitors can easily explore the treetops and observe the canopy inhabitants up close. Moreover, the walkway provides a great vantage point for birdwatching and photography.

In addition to the walkway, there is a 74-foot tower that provides a panoramic view of the park. This tower is an absolute must-visit attraction for tourists, as it offers an unmatched view of the treetops, wetlands, prairies, and hammocks. Visitors can see the park’s natural beauty in all its glory from the top of the tower.

Canopy Walkway is an attraction you won’t want to miss during your visit. The walkway and tower are truly unique and offer a fascinating glimpse into the park’s beauty.

Fishing

The park is a great destination for fishing enthusiasts with a Florida freshwater fishing license. Visitors are permitted to fish in both Upper Myakka Lake and the Myakka River. The park offers a variety of excellent fishing spots, including the South Pavilion, Log Pavilion, and Clay Gully Pavilion. Fishing from the bridge is also allowed for those looking for a unique experience, but it’s important to exercise caution due to traffic conditions.

The fish species you can catch in the park are diverse and abundant. Some of the most common catches include largemouth bass, tilapia, tarpon, gar, and several types of panfish. Myakka River State Park is the perfect place to cast your line and reel in some of the best catches.

Hiking

Nestled within the park’s lush greenery lies the Myakka Trail, a 39-mile hiking loop trail that is sure to take your breath away. The trail offers diverse terrain, including wetlands, prairies, and dense forests, providing hikers with an exhilarating adventure through the park’s natural wonders. 

The Myakka Trail is well-marked and maintained, making it accessible to hikers of all levels. Along the way, hikers can take in stunning views of the surrounding landscapes, spot wildlife such as alligators and deer, and even catch a glimpse of the park’s famed Canopy Walkway. 

Whether you’re looking for a challenging hike or a leisurely stroll, the Myakka Trail is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting the park. Pack your hiking boots, bring plenty of water, and get ready to experience the beauty of the Myakka Trail.

Historic Sites

The Myakka River Valley was developed into a park by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s. Today, visitors can explore several sites within the park, such as the visitor center, South Pavilion, Log Pavilion, boat basin, weir, and 5 cabins. These sites offer a variety of activities, including picnicking, boating, and wildlife viewing.

Horseback Riding

Myakka River State Park boasts a vast network of trails, and 12 of these trails, totaling 15 miles, are specifically designated for horses, providing riders with a unique opportunity to explore the park’s natural beauty and diverse wildlife. Whether you’re an experienced equestrian or a beginner, the park’s horse trails offer a thrilling adventure for all skill levels.

Paddling

Myakka River State Park Paddling
Image Credit: Florida Department of Environmental Protection

This park is an idyllic destination for visitors who cherish the tranquility of paddling. The Myakka River and 2 picturesque lakes within the park’s boundaries offer an awe-inspiring backdrop and an array of aquatic activities, including canoeing and kayaking. Whether you are an experienced paddler or a novice seeking an adventure, there are countless opportunities to paddle through this park.

Visitor Center

The Myakka River State Park’s visitor center is the perfect starting point to embark on your adventures. The Civilian Conservation Corps originally built this facility and offers interactive displays about the park’s flora, fauna, and resources. During the busy season, a knowledgeable volunteer is on hand to help you plan your day.

The visitor center also provides a fun activity for children called the Visitor Center Scavenger Hunt. It will inspire and educate them about Florida’s wildlife. 

Wildlife Viewing

Spread across an expansive 58 square miles of natural terrain, the park is a sanctuary for diverse wildlife thriving in their natural habitat. The park boasts stunning vistas of untamed beauty, with lush greenery, pristine waterways, and captivating wildlife sightings.

From the formidable alligators sunbathing by the water to the elusive bobcats stalking their prey, the playful otters frolicking in the water, and the melodious tunes of over 100 bird species filling the air, the park is a nature lover’s paradise. It’s a place where you can immerse yourself in the great outdoors and marvel at the stunning beauty of the natural world.

Best Times To Visit Myakka River State Park

Myakka River State Park is a fantastic destination that you can visit any time of the year. However, some seasons may offer better experiences than others, depending on what you’re looking for.

Best Time To Visit Myakka River State Park for Ideal Weather

When planning a trip, it’s always a good idea to research the weather of your destination since it can greatly impact your experience. The best time to come for ideal weather is November. During this month, there are usually only a few days of precipitation, and the temperatures range from the low 60s to the upper 70s, making it a pleasant time to visit.

Best Time To Visit Myakka River State Park To Avoid the Crowds

Many visitors are interested in visiting Myakka River State Park when the number of tourists is low. September is the best time of the year to visit the park and avoid large crowds. During this month, you can explore the park at your own pace without dealing with long queues, traffic, and crowds.

Best Time To Visit Myakka River State Park for Wildlife

Myakka River State Park
Image Credit: Ela108 Garwacka-Goralik via Unsplash

January is the perfect time to visit Myakka River State Park for an unforgettable wildlife experience. The park offers an array of exciting activities, from hiking to picnicking, but what sets it apart is the chance to witness the diverse wildlife that inhabits the area. During this month, the water levels are lower than usual, which creates the perfect opportunity to observe the fish in the lake up close.

Cheapest Time To Visit Myakka River State Park

Saving money while traveling may seem daunting, but it is possible with proper planning and research. One of the best ways to save money while visiting a park is to plan your trip in early September. During this time, flight rates and accommodations in nearby towns are at their lowest, making it an ideal time to travel.

Bottom Line:

Visitors can save hundreds of dollars on travel expenses by visiting in early September.

Annual Events in Myakka River State Park

Myakka River State Park hosts a variety of events throughout the year. The park organizes some of these events, while others are hosted by nonprofit organizations that collaborate with the park.

Cache Myakka Funcoast Bash

The Cache Myakka! Funcoast Bash is an annual event that takes place every February. The Friends of Myakka River organizes it, and it is a day of geocaching fun.

The night before the event, 200 caches are released for participants to find. Additionally, there is a poker run consisting of 7 caches and a per-chance drawing where participants can win geocaching supplies, tools, and swag.

This event is suitable for people with different levels of experience, including beginners who can join the game with a Geo Buddy and learn the ropes of geocaching. Free snacks, fun games, and prizes are provided to make the event more enjoyable.

First Day Hike

The First Day Hike is an invigorating annual event that takes place on January 1. It is a unique opportunity for visitors to join a knowledgeable park ranger on a guided hike around the park. During the hike, participants will learn about the park’s natural and cultural history and discover hidden gems they may have overlooked. 

This exciting event is an excellent way to start the new year and stay active. The guided hike provides a great workout, while the stunning scenery and fresh air offer a refreshing escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Don’t miss this chance to kick off the new year with a memorable adventure in the great outdoors.

Where To Stay in Myakka River State Park

Determining where you will stay during a trip is the first order of business when planning a vacation. Thanks to the incredible location of Myakka River State Park, there are plenty of options for accommodations both in and near the park.

Inside the Park

Multiple accommodation options are available for those who wish to stay within the park’s boundaries during their visit. You can choose from historic cabins or any of the 3 campgrounds.

Cabins

Myakka River State Park Cabins
Image Credit: Florida Department of Environmental Protection

There are 5 cabins available at Myakka River State Park, constructed between 1934 and 1941 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Each log cabin features a fully equipped kitchen, a full bathroom, and a large common room. The porch and fireplace add a cozy touch to your stay. These cabins can accommodate up to 6 guests.

No televisions, phones, or Wi-Fi are available, providing a primitive atmosphere. Reservations can be made up to 11 months in advance.

Camping

There are 3 beautiful campgrounds at this state park, offering a total of 90 spacious and well-maintained campsites. Each campsite is equipped with essential amenities like electric and water connections and a fire ring and picnic table for your convenience.

After a day of exploring the park’s natural wonders, you can unwind and freshen up in one of the nearby restrooms, which boast hot showers and clean facilities. Whether you’re a seasoned camper or new to the great outdoors, Myakka River State Park’s campgrounds have everything you need for a comfortable and enjoyable stay.

Towns Near Myakka River State Park

You’ll be pleased to know that many accommodation options are available in the nearby popular towns. Whether you’re looking for a cozy bed and breakfast or a luxurious resort, you’ll find a range of accommodation choices that cater to every taste and budget.

Fruitville, Florida

Fruitville is a charming town that is a mere 14 miles from Myakka River State Park. Fruitville is an excellent choice if you’re seeking a convenient and comfortable home base close to the park. 

The town boasts a variety of accommodation options, including hotels and cozy bed and breakfasts, where you can relax and rejuvenate after a day of exploration. The town also has a diverse selection of restaurants catering to all tastes, serving everything from juicy steaks to fresh seafood.

Bottom Line:

Fruitville’s location is perfect for nature lovers and history enthusiasts alike, with numerous parks, beaches, and museums within easy reach.

Sarasota Springs, Florida

Sarasota Springs is a picturesque town with an excellent location for visitors exploring Myakka River State Park. Whether you’re traveling solo, with family, or with friends, a wide array of accommodation options are available to suit your needs and budget. From cozy Airbnbs to luxurious hotels and budget-friendly motels, the town has something to offer for everyone.

One of the highlights of this town is its diverse and delightful restaurant scene. You’ll find a plethora of options ranging from casual bars and grills to cozy cafes. Whether you’re craving fresh seafood, delicious barbecue, or exotic international cuisine, you’ll find it all here.

Aside from its fantastic dining scene, Sarasota Springs offers plenty of recreational activities to entertain you. You can immerse yourself in the local culture by visiting one of the many museums in the area or exploring the beautiful parks and beaches nearby. Whatever your interests, you’re sure to find something to enjoy in this beautiful town.

Where To Eat in Myakka River State Park

There is only 1 place to eat within the park’s boundaries, but you will find numerous dining options just a short distance away. When you feel hungry during your park visit, you can easily find the food of your choice just down the road.

Pink Gator Cafe

Pink Gator Cafe is the sole eatery situated within the boundaries of Myakka River State Park. It offers lunch, dessert, craft beer, and breathtaking views of Upper Myakka Lake.

The cafe’s menu includes sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, wraps, jalapeno poppers, and onion rings. The Pink Gator Cafe is an ideal spot to recharge after your park expeditions and continue your explorations.

Siegfried’s Restaurant

Siegfried’s Restaurant is a highly rated 5-star eatery in Sarasota, just a short 18-mile drive from the park. The restaurant is known for its authentic German cuisine that is sure to tantalize your taste buds. The restaurant also boasts a fantastic biergarten where you can enjoy your meals and drinks alfresco. 

The menu at Siegfried’s is impressive, with a variety of dishes that will satisfy any appetite. Siegfried’s Restaurant is the perfect place to enjoy a delicious meal after a long day exploring the beautiful Myakka River State Park.

Myakka River State Park Facts

Myakka River State Park grassy field
Image Credit: Florida Department of Environmental Protection

1. A New State Park Established

The official dedication ceremony for this park took place in 1941, marking its opening to the public.

2. The One and Only

The Myakka River is the only river in Florida with a “Wild and Scenic River” designation, ensuring preservation for future generations.

3. A Woman with a Plan

Bertha Palmer was a pioneering businesswoman from Chicago. In 1910, she came to Sarasota and purchased a large area of land. She intended to try her hand at cattle and swine ranching. She named her ranch Meadow Sweet Pastures, and it was situated near the Myakka River. Bertha Palmer introduced fencing and dip vats to Florida ranching, making it more efficient.

4. What’s in a Name?

A Seminole Indian supposedly told a surveyor in the 1850s that the river was called Myakka. The word Myakka has no known translation.

5. Deep Hole

Deep Hole is at the southern end of Myakka Lake, a 140-foot sinkhole known for its alligator sightings and popularity among anglers.

Final Thoughts

Myakka State Park is a stunning natural wonderland that offers a range of activities such as bird watching, hiking, kayaking, and nature walks. Visitors can enjoy observing the diverse range of wildlife in their natural habitats, including alligators, snakes, and various bird species. Book your trip today and explore what Myakka State Park offers.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to visit Myakka River State Park?

The vehicle entry fee is $6 for 2 to 8 guests. Cyclists and individuals pay $2 to $4.

How much time should I plan to visit Myakka River State Park?

Exploring this state park thoroughly requires at least a full day.

Will I see manatees at Myakka River State Park?

When you visit this state park, there is a small possibility that you may come across manatees.

Can I swim at Myakka River State Park?

Swimming is prohibited in all bodies of water within this state park.

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About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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