Myakka River State Park
13208 State Road 72, Sarasota, FL, USA
Myakka River State Park Sarasota Reviews
Later, Gator... Feb 28, 2015
I apologize for not being able to offer a more comprehensive review, but this splendid destination deserves visibility, so here goes. Unaware of the park’s existence until quite recently, my motivation was driven by a desire to experience “Deep Hole”. This is a large sinkhole within the park where two hundred alligators usually hang out.
It was not until I delved into details around Deep Hole that I learned it was located within this State Park. The incredible turnabout was when I shared my upcoming destination with friends. Several raved about Myakka but had never heard of Deep Hole! That really put an exclamation point around the wealth of opportunity here.
And there truly is. The park is enormous --- 58 square miles --- and features a broad array of natural environments (including wetlands, pinelands and dry prairie, which is rare in Florida). Hikers, bikers, birders, campers, canoeists and kayakers can all have an excellent adventure here. There are roughly forty miles of trails for hikers and fourteen miles of the mighty Myakka River flows through park for self-propelled watercraft enthusiasts (the entire length of the Myakka is well over sixty miles).
You can relax and experience diverse wildlife on one of the world’s two largest airboats for a tour of Upper Myakka Lake, or sit back on the Safari Tram around the park’s back country (mid-December through May, only). Park facilities appeared substantial and were well maintained in the spot I was at prior to heading for Deep Hole.
Deep Hole is located within the park’s Wilderness Preserve, where only thirty folks are allowed to enter each day. Permits are handed out on a first come, first serve basis at the main gate, which opens at 8AM (you will need to return the permit so they know you made it back out). My visit was on a Saturday during February, high season, and a call to the park indicated one should plan on queuing up between 7:30-45 to ensure scoring a permit. Fellow TB Scot (hanleyscot) met me and we were the first two. Fishing is another facet of the park, and the third arrival chatted with us for several minutes about his plans to catch the big one. When the gate cracked there were seven vehicles backed up, so the ranger’s suggested ETA seemed a bit aggressive.
In fact, the ranger I talked with on the phone was deficient on several fronts. Beyond communicating the arrival time, her response to my query around whether there would always be gators at Deep Hole was “yes” (obviously a lot of things in nature are seasonal, so I wanted to confirm). Of course Scot and I hiked five miles round trip and saw zero gators. Back at the station afterwards, I informed another ranger of the total absence, and this one nonchalantly replied “yeah, it is wet and they are probably all down on the river”. So much for research...
Largely a disappointment, though we did encounter three wild pigs during the brief trek. Feral pigs have a nasty reputation and we were initially reticent to proceed (they were on the trail in front of us). However, recognizing all park warnings are tilted towards paranoia (i.e., if a trail is moderately strenuous they will label it as difficult, lol) and not recalling any cautions about these beasts, we tentatively plodded forward. Sure enough, they scampered.
I have no doubt there are days when Deep Hole is astounding and encourage you to try your luck. Myakka looks splendid beyond this spot, so there really is no risk.
Part of the Florida travel blog
9 / 9 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
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Gator Bait Mar 12, 2015
I noticed that Vance (TB name vances) was going to be in Sarasota so I sent him a comment letting him know that he was going to be in my neck of the woods. He promptly invited me to tag along with him on a hike to Deep Hole which is a lake in Myakka State Park in Sarasota, Florida. Despite having lived in Florida nearly my entire life, I had never even heard of it. So, I looked it up online and found a youtube video about it. Apparently Deep Hole is, for lack of a better word, a hostel to 200+ alligators.
I told Vance that I had grown up here and was no stranger to alligators. In fact, it was not uncommon to see them lying around in our front yards on my street. But then one day a guy named Walt Disney came into town and the Florida swamp land and orange groves started disappearing only to be replaced by one subdivision of houses after another. So, although, it's not unheard of to see a gator these days, it's definitely not as likely as it once was. But like I said, I've seen them before but I've never seen that many in one place. I didn't even think you would be able to see that many in The Everglades at this point. So, why not check it out? What could possibly go wrong? Worst case scenario they were really hungry when we got there. I didn't have to be the fastest person alive. I just needed to be faster than Vance.
I hadn't been to Sarasota in a long time. It had been at least a couple of years. So I totally overestimated how long it would take me to get there. I ended up getting there about an hour early. Instead of just parking the truck and hanging out there I decided to take a drive around the area. One possibility that I had completely overlooked was rain. And it was now raining fairly steady. As luck would have it, though, it seemed to be raining everywhere in Sarasota except for the park.
By the time I returned to the park, Vance was already there. It gave us a chance to talk. We had spoken a few times before but now it was more in depth. Vance is a really great guy. It only took a few minutes before I realized that I had made the right decision in joining him on the hike.
Fun fact: They only give out 30 permits a day for Deep Hole so make sure you get there early. As it turned out we were the only ones there for it that morning. I'm assuming that was because of the rain.
Soon enough we were let into the park. The lady that we spoke to at the office gave us a map and directions. And also the house rules. The main one being that we had to return to the office when we were done to let the staff know that we were still alive and had not, in fact, been reduced to gator bait.
The trail is an easy hike. It's 5 miles. 2.5 going in and 2.5 coming back out. It gave Vance and I plenty of time to talk about a wide range of topics, most notably our favorite - travel, of course.
Unfortunately, due to the recent rain activity, the lake had overflowed. There was no room for the alligators to sunbathe. So sadly we did not see any of them. None. Nada. Zip. On the bright side we did get to see some wild boar on the way in. And right before the front gate opened we saw a deer cross the street. So at least that was cool for me. So it sucked that there were no alligators but hanging out with Vance was great fun.
Vance had plans with his friends in Sarasota and I had other things that I needed to take care of, as well, so once we got back to the park office, we said our goodbyes. I probably should've walked around and checked out the rest of the park but by the time we got back I started to realize how badly out of shape I am. So bad that I spent the rest of that day and the next crying or laughing at how bad my leg actually hurt. Mental note: stop wearing Doc Martens for hiking. They are not meant for that.
Would I recommend this adventure to anyone else? Actually, yes. Despite our not getting to see them on that particular day, doesn't mean that they won't be there on another day. It was also nice getting to see Florida the way that I remembered it as a kid.
6 / 6 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy