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Reported: December 2020

Myakka River State Park... Florida

Biking Where River and Prairie Meet the Sky

Myakka River State Park, located about 15 miles east of Sarasota, is at 37,000 acres one of Florida's largest State parks. It's named for the Myakka River, which flows for 14 miles through the park. Recreational biking is popular on the paved park road, many bikers are seen. For most visitors, wildlife viewing is the main activity, and biking is a great way to see it - this is alligator central, and there's an amazing array of birds including the most roseate spoonbill we've seen in one spot. Other activities include hiking, paddling, camping, and more (see below). State Park entry fee applies. Note: The park or areas within it may be closed due to weather or other factors, check for status . (Detailed map and photos below.)

 

Myakka River State Park, eco-biking

Map link...
Myakka River State Park Biking


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Location: Sarasota and Manatee Counties, along SR72 east of Sarasota
Mileage: 7 miles on the Park Road, more on unpaved backcountry roads and trails
Surface: Paved park road, unpaved roads and dirt/grass trails
Trailheads: Designated parking lots, along the Park Road. NOT allowed on the bridge.
Nearby points of interest: Sarasota, Ringling Museums

Bike Shops/Rentals:

Myakka Outpost (park concessionaire)

Support and Advocacy:

Friends of Myakka River

Myakka River State Park... Comments and Photos

We usually visit Myakka River State Park for kayaking, it's one of the more scenic trips making the description "where river and prairie meet the sky" come to life (see paddling link at bottom of page). Off the water, the Canopy Walk is the highlight for us (more below). Insects can be aggressive, especially in the summer, bring bug spray. And sunscreen is always useful in Florida parks.


Hiking at Myakka River State Park

Bikes are not allowed on the hiking trails. Most popular is the William Boylston Nature Trail along the main park road (about 1/4 mile past the bridge), an easy 8/10 mile self-guided interpretative trail. Along the trail is the Canopy Walk - a suspended walkway 25 feet above the ground and 100 feet long through the oak and palm hammock canopy to a viewing tower. We crossed the one-way Canopy Walk, and climbed the 74-foot tower to take in the views.

For more intrepid hikers, other trails include the Myakka Hiking Trail, 39 miles broken into four loops and maintained by the Florida Trail Association - but we're hiking-light hikers so did not visit them. Note: Trails can be flooded during the rainy season and can be overgrown.

William Boylston Nature Trail

Canopy Walk


Path to the Weir

The historic weir (low dam) at Myakka River State Park, built by the CCC in the 1940's, separates the upper lake from the river. Paddle to it, or walk along the short path (1/10 mile) from the parking lot near the concession. (Note: the path can be under water and impassable at times.) An observation deck/fishing pier at the end gives views of the weir as well as being a good wildlife viewing spot. A sign asks that people not climb on the structure but we've seen people fishing from it (we do NOT endorse this!). We've seen it at both low water and high.


Biking at Myakka River State Park

Biking is allowed on the 7 miles of paved park roads. Mountain biking is also allowed on backcountry dirt roads north of SR 72, and on the Myakka Island Trail, a 12-mile wilderness trail south to Carlton Reserve, but we stuck to the paved roads. The unpaved bike trails (like the hiking trails) can be flooded in the rainy season. Helmets are recommended (and required for under age 16). Bike rentals are available from Myakka Outpost, the park concessionaire.

On the Park Road

From the park entrance, it's about one mile to the park bridge, a popular stop for fishing, bird and alligator watching. Continuing another 2 miles, the road splits. The Main Park Road goes left to the restaurant, gift shop, bike and kayak/canoe rentals, Boat Tour and the main parking lot. The North Park Road goes to the right, stop at the Birdwalk - a boardwalk to a viewing platform on the river. The road ends at the North Gate, open on weekends and state holidays).


The Birdwalk

The Birdwalk provides a unique view of various eco-systems and wildlife. Originally built by the CCC in the 1930's and now a project of the Friends of Myakka River, it starts in a wetland hammock and progresses to marsh. Interpretative signs describe the surroundings. Alligators, birds and fish can be seen.


Myakka River State Park

Once a cattle ranch, Myakka River State Park was developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930's and many of the original structures are still in use (visitor center, picnic pavilions, rental log cabins) as well as the roads and trails. The 58 square mile park offers parking, restrooms, and picnicking, and has a restaurant, gift shop and an amphitheater. Boat and tram tours are available. Accommodations are available in cabins and camping (traditional, primitive, group). In addition to hiking and biking, there are 12 miles of designated horseback riding trails. On the water, popular activities are paddling, boating, and fishing (freshwater fishing license required).


Wildlife

The Park consists of diverse eco-systems including dry prairie, wetlands, hammock and pinelands - and of course, the river. This diversity leads to a wide variety of wildlife - alligators, 100+ species of birds, turtles, bobcat, otters, and more.

More Information and Resources

Nearby Biking:

Legacy Trail
Venetian Waterway Trail
West FL Region - More trails plus Regional Overview map

Nearby Paddling:

Myakka River Kayaking (at www.PaddleFlorida.net)

Related Resources:

Florida State Parks - Myakka River State Park

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