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