Myakka River State Park

We were on a quest. We wanted to see alligators. You wouldn't think this would be difficult in Florida, but all the usual places were coming up empty. We needed a sure thing. A place with a gator guarantee. So we headed to Myakka.

Myakka River State Park is located on Route 72, about 9 miles off I-75, just east of Sarasota. When you go, plan to spend at least half a day. If you are going to do any of the tours, plan to spend a full day. There are so many different areas to explore!

When you enter the park, you'll pay $6 per vehicle. There are also fees for the tours, or for renting a canoe. We didn't take out a canoe on this trip, but we've done this numerous times in the past. Canoeing with the alligators is great fun--very exciting!

Check out the Nature Trail and the Canopy Trail (on the right side of the road after you enter the park) to see the swinging bridge and tower. Even if you're not afraid of heights, the top of the tower is quite challenging! You end up WAY above the tree tops. The view is spectacular and well worth the butterflies in the stomach.

If you're interested in birds, you must visit the boardwalk that extends out toward the river. There was a naturalist on duty with a scope who helped us get up-close views of some of the birds. We were able to see a young bald eagle, several white pelicans, a northern harrier, and a roseate spoonbill. Dogs are welcome, but must be leashed and well behaved.

On our way out, we FINALLY caught sight of some gators! First, we spotted one close to the road. Lots of people were stopping to take photos.

And another one was floating near a bridge. We hiked along the creek, hoping for another alligator encounter, but came up empty. It was a warm, sunny day so I have no idea why so few gators were out sunning...

If you're interested in Florida wildlife, Myakka is a great place to explore. You can find everything from boat tours on the lake to remote trails for hiking. Check it out!

PHOTO CREDIT: Sophie Moock