The Myakka River
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The Myakka River

The stretch of the Myakka River we paddle the most is between the upper and lower lakes. It is only a couple of miles long, but the river twists and turns and the scenery constantly changes. In places it is too narrow to turn a canoe around, in other areas it spreads out over wide prairies of swamp grass. Enormous oaks and multitudes of palmetto palms line the banks in other areas. There is usually not much current and the water is deeply stained almost a chocolate color with tannic acid.

This is a popular river for fishing but the park as a whole is probably best known for the really wide variety of its bird life and for its large alligator population! We have never had any real problems with alligators. We have a lot of respect for them and try to avoid startling them when they are snoozing. They can be a little grouchy about having their naps interrupted. Alligators, like the shark, are primitives, extremely well adapted to their environment.

“I was paddling through a wide area of the river, just at twilight, when I startled a big buck deer, knee deep in the water. He was silhouetted against the setting sun, with a beautiful set of antlers. He raised his face from the water, shook his antlers and studied me with his big brown eyes. The canoe drifted slowly towards him and when he realized how close I was he took off with several leaps and quickly reached the bank, turning once as if to say “goodnight” before disappearing into the darkening oak hammock. I didn’t have a camera with me that evening, but I never forgot how pretty he was.” – Mac

When the Myakka river floods back into the woods of Myakka State Park, you can’t go anyplace in a motor boat, but in a small canoe you can enter a world hardly anyone has ever seen.

“The only way I know to describe the feeling is to recall my first impression at a very young age when my parents took me into St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. A feeling of total awe that anything could be so beautiful. You could feel that here was some great mystery, some marvel of creation. The Cathedral for its vaulted grandeur and stained glass marvels, Myakka forest for its enormous oak trees soaring up out of the dark chocolate water, completely blocking out the sky, their enormous limbs covered with air plants, tree ferns and tiny orchids, everything muted and still and mysterious as you glide between the trees, no rustle of undergrowth, no sound of our passing. Sometimes rewarded by seeing an owl or a deer down the long vistas between the trees. Unreal, but all the world of the Wee Lassie.” – Mac

A canoe trip on the Myakka river is an excellent way to see Florida as it was a hundred years ago. It is truly an amazing environment.