Myakka Mystique

From the misty murkiness which is my memory, visions of rain and sand appeared. Twelve years old? That’s a guess, but probably close. I don’t think my parents would have let me go camping without adult supervision if I had been much younger. Fragments of that long-ago trip include learning that if you push on a rain-soaked canvas tent ceiling it will soon be raining inside your tent. Sand mixed with scrambled eggs is not recommended. When choosing a log to climb aboard in mid-river, make sure it does not have eyes – and teeth.

Coincidentally, Gini’s childhood included trips to the Myakka River as well. Naturally, in accordance with her personality, her memories are much more detailed and filled with fishing, cold watermelon and fun. Sigh. She’s like that.

This day’s visit represented our first in a few years and arriving early on a summer’s day helped ensure we were not engulfed in crowds of visitors. Myakka River State Park is one of Florida’s oldest and largest state parks. Over 58 square miles (+37,000 acres/15,000 Ha) of wetlands, prairies, hammocks and pinelands provide a lot of territory to explore.

Before 1850, English maps noted this was the Asternal River. Supposedly, a helpful Seminole Indian told a surveyor it was called “Myakka” and maps have reflected that name for this dark water river ever since. No translation of Myakka has ever been produced.

Our unofficial checklist of “Things To Do” included: check out the canopy boardwalk; try to locate Butterfly Orchids; and find the “Old Weir” area where bird reports over the past few days included dozens of avocets, stilts and limpkins.

The canopy walk was completed in 2000 and was the first in North America. It’s 25 feet above the ground, proceeds through the treetops for 100 feet and at the end has a 74 foot tower which provides a panoramic view of the park and surrounding area. My next goal is to camp within the park so I can access that tower to attempt sunrise/sunset photographs.

Once I found out what the Florida Butterfly Orchid looks like and where to search for them (think “up“), it seemed like they were everywhere! The leaves of the plant can be somewhat yellow-green and some botanist thought the wind rustling them looked like butterflies on the tree branches. Gini-with-the-sharp-eyesight found some at a lower altitude and we discovered that at close range they have a wonderful aroma!

Locating the “Old Weir” area where a creek enters Upper Myakka Lake was easy. Alas, the area was cordoned off due to maintenance today.

Two out of three goals accomplished. We’ll take that.

This park, with its vast amount of space and diverse habitat, is a fantastic birding spot during spring and fall migration. We will definitely return for more exploring. Then there is “The Deep Hole”, an ancient sinkhole to the south of the main park which, in winter when water levels drop, can attract dozens (more than a hundred have been observed) of alligators along a single patch of shoreline. THAT would be exciting to photograph!

We had a wonderful day in a gorgeous setting!

 

Large blooms of Swamp Pink Hibiscus (Hibiscus grandiflorus) bordered a field full of wildflowers.

Myakka River State Park

Myakka River State Park

 

An Anole played hide-and-seek among palmetto fronds.

Myakka River State Park

 

The canopy walk allows one to walk in the tree tops and the observation tower provides spectacular views in all directions. (We were able to confirm that Florida is still flat.)

Myakka River State Park

Suspended Canopy Walk

Myakka River State Park

View to the northwest.

Myakka River State Park

View to the East.

The Florida Butterfly Orchid (Encyclia tampensis) is small and subtle in appearance. It added a nice touch of beauty to a lot of large oak trees.

Myakka River State Park

Myakka River State Park

 

Gini’s beautiful brown eyes don’t miss much. Through the trees she spied a huge wasp nest. This Southern Yellowjacket (Vespula squamosa) condominium was over three feet (0.9 meter) tall and at least that in circumference. Thousands of the insects, thankfully, remained busy at the nest while I took a few images and retreated quietly.

20190613 Myakka River State Park 00047

Myakka River State Park

 

The genus Coreopsis was designated Florida’s state wildflower in 1991. Here, a field of Florida Tickseed (Coreopsis floridana) blankets a field near the main park road. This particular species is endemic to Florida.

Myakka River State Park

 

State Parks offer a wonderful way to view nature at its best. Plan to visit one near you soon!

 

Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

 

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Myakka River State Park

Categories: Florida, Photography, Travel, Wildflowers | Tags: , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

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18 thoughts on “Myakka Mystique

  1. What a lovely post ! I am glad you survived tat “log riding” adventure … gosh. We’ve been to Myakka, but could have benefitted from Ginny’s sharp eyes as we obviously missed way too much. When do the orchids bloom? With or without orchids, this all makes me yearn to be out in nature again. We’ve been on a different kind of adventure since leaving Florida this year.

    • Thank you very much, Sallie! Hope your “different kind of adventure” goes well and we look forward to your fall migration.
      Myakka has a lot to offer! The Florida Butterfly Orchid blooms from May-August and seems to peak in June.

      Wishing you all the best.

  2. Hi Wally. I’ve never done one of those canopy walks but I do rather fancy one. In the right location of course. Can’t think of anything worse than doing one through our endless, birdless pine forests.

    And now, as is if Florida wasn’t scary enough, you panic me with a skyscraper size wasps nest. Give Gini a medal from me for saving you from yet another mauling by Florida’s worst.

    Just heard my son, spouse and granddaughters are heading to Florida next April. Look out!

    • You may need to rescind that medal for Gini. All she wanted to know was: “Can we take it home?” Something about incorporating it into the world’s most extravagant crafting project. She’s still trying to come up with a plan to retrieve it.

      We hope your son and his family enjoy their stay in our beautiful – but horribly dangerous! – Sunshine State! They should be okay as long as they remain in sight of our citizens’ most staunch guardian – Mickey Mouse.

  3. One of my favorite parks to visit… Absolutely stunning!

    • How nice to hear from you, FeyGirl! Hope all is well.
      It’s a great place and we’re hoping to return pretty soon. So much to see and experience!

      Take care.

  4. Anonymous

    that is one awesome wasp nest. I still have scars on my back from getting stung by yellow jackets when I was little. better to quietly creep away from there!

  5. A beautiful post, Wally, and how delightful to have one where flowers outnumber other forms of wildlife. And pretty spectacular flowers they are too! That Butterfly Orchid is particularly special. I suspect that I’d be more worried about the wasps from that fabulous nest than I would be about an alligator – I definitely can’t outrun wasps!

    Best wishes to you both – – – Richard

    • Thank you, Richard. It is a really beautiful setting and we look forward to returning soon.

      At my age, outrunning anything won’t be happening! I’ll just lie down and take pictures of whatever is eating me and hope Gini gets it into the blog.

      We hope you and Lindsay have a fantastic new week!

  6. Elizabeth

    What a great post. I’m a 4th generation Floridian who has been reading your blog quietly for years. Thought I’d pop in to tell you how much it is appreciated. You’re writing has a wit to it that I just love and your photos . . . well, your photos make me want to hit the trails (which I’m doing tomorrow – Hillsborough River State Park).

    Thanks for sharing your adventures and your wit!

    • Elizabeth!
      Your comments have officially blown me away. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
      Have a wonderful day at the park! With the rains, there should be a lush growth of resurrection ferns, fungi and maybe even Butterfly Orchids!
      (Pssst. You don’t have to read us quietly. Be as loud as you like.)

  7. Absolute magic. And like Dinah I am not fond of crowds so four at a time on the canopy walk sounds good.
    I don’t know which of the photos I liked best, suffice it to say I enjoyed the post from beginning to end.
    Many thanks.

    • Thank you so much, EC! It’s not necessary to like any one photo the best. We’ll allow you enjoy them all . 🙂

  8. edro123

    Very nice article, Wally. We’ve been to Myakka once or twice, but you managed to spot more interesting things than we did.

    FYI, those butterfly orchids must be pretty widespread in Florida. I’ve seen them at Fort Christmas near Orlando.

  9. Lovely. All of it.And I particularly like the narrow walkway-I hate to have people shove past me!

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