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Latest update: March 2016

Myakka River... Paddling Where River and Prairie Meet the Sky

The Myakka River, a Florida "Wild and Scenic River," flows 68 miles from the Hardee-Manatee county line to Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf of Mexico. 14 miles are located within Myakka River State Park and the best recreational paddling is here. Famous for the large number of alligators, birds also abound including the most roseate spoonbills we've ever seen. (Detailed map and photos below.)

Paddle West-Central Florida, Myakka River, Kayak, Canoe

Distance: 68 miles total, 14 miles within Myakka River State Park
Location: Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte counties
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Tidal: Upper river, no.
Launch points: At Upper Lake Myakka near the concession stand, along the State Park road, Snook Haven, Deer Prairie Creek Preserve (See map)
Nearby points of interest: Sarasota, Ringling Museums

Rentals/Outfitters/Tours:

Myakka Outpost  (rentals)

Snook Haven  (rentals)

Support and Advocacy:

Friends of Myakka River

Myakka River... Comments and Photos

We paddled the Myakka River at Myakka River State Park from Lake Myakka (upper) downstream to Lower Lake Myakka, and upstream from the north end of the upper Lake, until stopped by vegetation. The river alternates from wide flats to narrow channels with very little shade. Flowing mostly through open prairie, the horizons are endless making "where river and prairie meet the sky" an apt description. At low water, it will be necessary to portage in some areas.


Upper Lake Myakka

We launched from the boat ramp at the parking lot near the Visitor Center and paddled around the lake - to the dam, with a short distance on the upper Myakka River, which enters at the north end of Lake (tricky to find at first).

 

Upper Lake to Dam

At the dam we saw a significant difference between low water and high - impassable at low water; approachable at high water. The dam can be paddled over at high water, or carry your kayak or canoe over at low - though depending on the wind, dense vegetation at the dam can make this a difficult feat.

 


 

Myakka River north of Lake Myakka

The river at this point is very narrow. About a half mile upstream we ran into dense vegetation and turned back (both at low and high water). Further upstream it would have widened but we didn't visit that area.


Myakka River to Lower Lake Myakka

From the Park Road Launch on the river, we paddled upstream to the dam (Upper Lake Myakka), then downstream to Lower Lake Myakka. Between the lakes, the river snakes through the park and around several islands where it's possible to stop to stretch or picnic, though some areas may not be accessible at high water. As all along this river, gators and birds are in abundance!

 

Launch to Lake Myakka Dam

We used the launch near the Park Road bridge and paddled upstream to the dam at Lake Myakka. At the Park Road bridge, people are often seen fishing and photographing the gators on the bank.

 


 

Launch to SR72 Bridge

We launched off the park road near the Park Road bridge, and paddled to Lower Lake Myakka. The top section has some tree cover, but then it opens to prairie with no shade to Lower Lake Myakka.


 

SR72 Bridge to Lower Lake Myakka

As a "wild and scenic river," river access is limited. The area south of the SR 72 bridge is a designated wilderness preserve, so we got our passes at the ranger station at check-in. The first day we were too late, they often sell out quickly (only 30 are allowed per day) so we went back early on our second day and were successful!


Wildlife

Known for the large number of alligators and birds, we saw many plus turtles.


Myakka River State Park

Myakka River State Park is one of Florida's oldest (developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1934) and largest (57 square miles) state parks. The park has hiking, fishing, camping, and wildlife observation. The park roads are also popular for bicycling. An observation tower and boardwalk offer different views. Fees apply.


Other Launches

In addition to the launches at the park (along the park road, at the boat ramp, or at Myakka Outpost), public access is also available at Snook Haven and Deer Prairie Creek Preserve, south of the park.

 

Snook Haven

Formerly a fish camp, Sarasota County bought the property in 2006. Parking, boat ramp, kayak/canoe launch, fishing, picnic, restrooms, gift shop, restaurant.

 


 

Deer Prairie Creek Preserve

Deer Prairie Creek Preserve covers 6,400 acres and protects 6 miles of riverfront. Parking, kayak/canoe launch, portable restrooms, picnic, hiking and equestrian trails. A small dam forms a pond.

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