Welcome to Myakka River State Park
One of the oldest and largest state parks, Myakka protects one of the state’s most diverse natural areas. The Myakka River, designated as a Florida Wild and Scenic River, flows through 58 square miles of wetlands, prairies, hammocks, and pinelands. Visitors can enjoy wildlife viewing from a boardwalk that stretches out over the Upper Myakka Lake, then take to the treetops with a stroll along the canopy walkway. The park´s river and two lakes provide ample opportunities for boating, freshwater fishing, canoeing, and kayaking; a boat ramp provides access to Upper Myakka Lake. Hikers can explore trails that cross large expanses of rare Florida dry prairie. Scenic lake tours are offered daily on the world´s two largest airboats. Safari tram tours of the park´s backcountry is offered from mid-December through May. Full-facility campgrounds and primitive campsites are available. Five palm log cabins, built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, have been modernized for comfortable lodging. Located nine miles east of Sarasota on State Road 72.
Winter and Spring are a fantastic time to visit Myakka River State Park. This time of year, offers some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities for most visitors. Stunning displays of ducks and wading birds are a rewarding experience. Groups of hundreds of white pelicans are seen daily in the lakes and flamboyant roseate spoonbills and black bellied whistling ducks are common in wetlands and the lake edges.
Behind the scenes there is exciting work being done to maintain and restore the park’s natural resources. Areas such as imperiled Florida dry prairie known for its stunning diverse herbaceous groundcover and flatwoods with stately pine trees dominate the Myakka landscape. Through partnerships with other agencies and hard work being done by contractors much has been accomplished such as invasive plant control and mechanical vegetation treatments.
As we approach the spring season this is known as a time for naturally occurring fire in Florida’s ecosystems. Park staff will be conducting prescribed burns to mimic this natural cycle to benefit native plants and animals that call Myakka home.
Myakka offers cyclers an opportunity to explore a diverse Florida natural system. Seven miles of paved road wind through shady hammocks, along grassy marshes and the Upper Lake shore. The North Drive often has less traffic than the Main Drive. Bicycles are permitted on backcountry dirt roads north of S.R. 72 and on the Myakka Island Trail to the Carlton Reserve. Some roads are hardpacked and grassed-over, others may be sandy, muddy, or dug up by feral pigs. Roads are often flooded in summer. Maps are available at the Ranger Station.
Birding at Myakka River State Park
Myakka is a wonderful place to see birds of all kinds. Myakka’s 37,000 plus acres provides wonderful habitat for wading birds, raptors, song birds, migratory birds and ducks. Whether you are a professional or amateur, you won’t be disappointed. From November through mid-April, there is a bird naturalist at the Bird Walk, most days of the week from 9 am until 1pm.
Myakka’s Boat and Tram Tours
Permission has been granted to come aboard one of the world’s two largest airboats, the “Myakka Maiden” or the “Gator Gal” for a scenic cruise on Upper Myakka Lake. Discover what makes the Myakka unique among America’s freshwater lakes. Hear intriguing stories about the alligator, anhinga, and sandhill crane as you become acquainted with the variety of creatures that make their home here.
These air-powered vessels venture into shallow, grassy areas where traditional crafts of such size wouldn’t dare to go. The leisurely ride is so safe and smooth you’ll have no problem taking photographs to bring home.
Or you can take a “Tram Safari” into the back country of the park to find out what life in old Florida was like without ever leaving your seat. Learn to detect clues of the presence of wildlife as you pass through shady hammocks, pine flatwoods, fertile marshes and sunny prairies. To gain an understanding of the intricate workings of a natural ecosystem in progress, you must experience it for yourself. Tram only runs Dec. 16 thru May 31. Visit www.myakkawildlifetours.com or call 941-365-0100 for more information.
Stay the night in a log cabin at one of Florida’s oldest and largest state parks. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps between 1934 and 1941, each of the historic palm log cabins includes a bathroom with shower, fully equipped kitchen and a large common room that sleeps up to six guests. A porch and fireplace add to the charm of these historic cabins. Linens, light thermal blankets, kitchen utensils, coffee pot and microwave oven are provided. For the guest’s relaxation, televisions and phones are not provided.
Reservations may be made up to 11 months in advance through ReserveAmerica.
Myakka River – Camping
The park features three campgrounds with 90 campsites. Each site is equipped with 50-amp electrical service, water, a fire ring and picnic table. The sites in Palmetto Ridge also have sewer hook ups. A dump station is located near Old Prairie Campground. Laundry facilities are available to all campers in Old Prairie and Palmetto Ridge Campgrounds. All campsites are located within 40 yards of restroom facilities with hot showers. Sites in Old Prairie and Big Flats are dirt based. The sites in Palmetto Ridge are gravel-based, except for four ADA paved sites adjoining rest rooms. Old Prairie and Big Flats do not have vegetation buffers. The Big Flats Campground is located near the Upper Myakka Lake where tours are available on the world’s largest airboats. Myakka Outpost, a fishing deck and WIFI are also nearby. Old Prairie and Palmetto Ridge Campgrounds are located near the S.R. 72 park entrance, the Myakka River, the Campfire Circle, a small playground, and Myakka Friends Gallery & Gifts. Well behaved pets are welcome in these three campgrounds. Reservations may be made up to 11 months in advance through ReserveAmerica.
Myakka River – Camping Primitive
There are six primitive campgrounds located along the hiking trails for backpackers.
Please be aware that there is no guarantee that there will be potable water at the primitive site, so bring enough to last you throughout your whole trip. The terrain can be rough, and even on the coolest days, dehydration is a possibility. If you are interested in reserving one our primitive campsites, call the Ranger Station at 941-361-6511.
Myakka River – Canoeing and Kayaking
The 66-mile “Florida Wild and Scenic” Myakka River flows through 58 square miles of wetlands, prairies, hammocks and pinelands, starting in NE Manatee County and ending in Charlotte Harbor. Fourteen miles flows through Myakka River State Park. The river and its two shallow lakes attract a myriad of wetland creatures making birding, canoeing, fishing and wildlife observation popular activities. Canoeing and kayaking south of State Road 72, within the park, is limited access and requires a permit from the ranger station. If you plan to canoe or kayak during your visit, you may bring your own vessel or rent from the Outpost located within the park. Visit the Myakka Outpost for hours and prices.
Myakka River – Concession and Restaurant
Pink Gator Cafe
Enjoy lunch, dessert or a craft beer while taking in the sights of the beautiful Upper Myakka Lake. Try our famous, homemade alligator stew, seafood gumbo, hand-breaded gator bites, garden veggie burger or one of our fresh, deli subs. Don’t forget to stop by the Ice Cream Parlor for dessert. You can also visit Myakka Gifts and Boutique where you can take home a Myakka souvenir. The Nature Gift Shop has jewelry, local art, home décor, Florida books, tee-shirts, hats, camp fashions and much more! Please visit us at https://www.MyakkaOutpost.com.
Myakka River – Hiking Nature Trail
The Myakka Trail includes 38.9 miles of loop trails and is maintained by the Florida Trail Association. Backcountry roads crisscross the trail allowing hikers to shorten or lengthen their hiking trips. Discover shady live oak/palm hammocks, sandy pine flatwoods, sunny dry prairies, and marshes teaming with life. The best thing about hiking at Myakka is that it offers visitors relief from life’s daily hassle and a chance to “get away from it all.” Late fall, winter and early spring are ideal hiking seasons. Summer hiking, especially on the shadeless prairie, can be extremely hot and hikers should beware of heat exhaustion and stress. Insects may be a problem at any time. Trails are often flooded during rainy periods and may be over grown in the summer and early fall. Always carry water, a map and compass or GPS and wear appropriate sturdy footwear. Maps are available at the Ranger Station.
Myakka River – Interpretive Exhibit
Canopy Walkway at Myakka River State Park
The Myakka Canopy Walkway provides easy access to observe life in the treetops of an oak/palm hammock. As an outdoor laboratory for research and education, it is a place for discovery and opportunity for visitors to Myakka to see its canopy inhabitants up close. Completed in 2000, this structure is the first public treetop trail in North America. The walkway is suspended 25 feet above the ground and extends 100 feet through the hammock canopy. Tower soars 74 feet in the air to present a spectacular view of tree tops, wetlands and the prairie/hammock interface. You can look down on eagles, hawks, vultures and the tips of live oaks and palm trees. For park visitor safety, only leashed service dogs are permitted on the Canopy Walkway.
Myakka River – Visitor Center
Please come see our Visitor Center where you can watch five short movies about Myakka and see many wildlife exhibits. It’s a good way to get your visit started, especially for Myakka “First Timers.” Once you pass the ranger station, take your first left to the parking lot. The Visitor Center is located across the parking lot in an old Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) horse barn. The building itself, built 80 years ago, is worth checking out.
Sample of Programmed Activities:
There is a vast variety of programs offered by the State Park Examples of activities include:
The Moon Over Myakka Bike Ride Myakka River State Park where you will join volunteer guides on a leisurely bike ride along the main drive to experience Myakka River State Park after dark. View sunset across Big Flats and the moon over Upper Myakka Lake. Learn a little of Myakka’s history, watch for deer at dusk and listen for barred owls. At the end of our ride, climb the Canopy Walkway Tower to see the distant lights of Sarasota.
Distance: 10 miles – we’ll take a break at the halfway point.
Or join the Camper Coffee at the Myakka River State Park:
This is a great time to come and visit with your fellow campers, meet our fantastic volunteers and rangers, and find out about all the great things that Myakka River State Park has to offer. See if you can stump the staff with a question about the park! We serve fresh, hot coffee, tea and treats provided by the Friends of Myakka River. Bring your mug and join in the camaraderie around the fire!
Camper Coffee is generally hosted at the rustic Log Pavilion located just north of the Ranger Station along the park drive. Big Flats Campground is located three miles north of the Ranger Station near the lake area.
Myakka River State Park
13208 State Road 72
Sarasota, FL 34241
For other great Florida parks consider reading one of these stories: