The stretch of the Myakka River I 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.
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! My wife will not canoe the Myakka
River with me, but I have never had any real problems with alligators.
I 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.
To name the
birds you might see on a trip to the park would take up this whole
newsletter. Let me just say that it is fascinating. 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
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.
A canoe trip on the Myakka river is an excellent way to see
Florida as it was a hundred years ago. It is truly a unique
River State Park