What's Behind That Door?

What’s Behind That Door?

guest post

Because Myakka River State Park is so huge, I shouldn't be surprised that I'm constantly learning new things about the park.  Tuesday I decided to find out what was "behind the door" on SR 72.  I've passed these types of gates several times and often wondered where the trails inside might go or what the trail might be like.  The gate I chose was the one that advertised the Myakka Island WildernessTrail.  I don't know if this is where back-packers park, but for me it worked out.   Because it's the rainy season, the "lot" was a bit wet but there was still an opportunity to find a dry spot.

Originally I intended to walk down the trail to see where it might lead but when I saw a soggy trail that appeared little-used, I just knew that I would get lost.  The beginning also offered too many options as to whether I wanted to go right, left or straight.  Getting "turned around" would be quite easy for me.

Had I  been better prepared or more knowledgeable as to how to navigate all of the options on these trails, I might have tried, but as it was, I just took a few pictures and left.  Reading trail maps is rocket science to me.  The area was wet, the grass was high and no doubt the biting flies or mosquitos would seek me out.  Coming back in late fall or winter might be a more comfortable time to check out this trail.

When I got home,  I found out that there is a science to navigating these trails.  The Myakka Trail includes 38.9 miles of loop roads but on the trails are various colored markers letting you know whether you're on the main trail or one of the many cross-trails.  Orange vertical rectangles designate a main trail and blue means a cross-trail.  For the directionally impaired and trail inexperienced, this might not serve me well.  I would be walking in circles as I choose one blue after another hoping to find a shorter route back to my car and the safety of a more well-traveled SR 72.

For those who like to hike or bike the back country, I read that there are 6 primitive campsites along the trail and 3 campsites at each campground (Mossy Hammock, Bee Island and Oak Grove).  Before going out for overnight camping, you'll need to pay and register at the park.  Campsites can be reserved in advance.  It's recommended that camp stoves are used whenever possible and that a campsite be left cleaner than what you found.  

Since no restrooms are available, you are to use the "cat method" for dealing with wastes and food disposal.  (Dig an 8 inch deep hole, 6-8 inches wide, away from trail and water.  Replace soil when finished.)   

It's recommended that you bring your own water.  Pumps are not always available or reliable.  If you see water jugs, they are for priming the pump.  Don't drink it.  All water should be treated, boiled, or filtered before consumption.  If you use the pump, make sure you re-fill the jugs for the next campers.   

Pets are not allowed in the campsites but leashed dogs are allowed along the trails.  

If overnight primitive camping sounds too much for you, you can always go for a short hike and enjoy the picturesque beauty that awaits.

Whether it's wet or dry, there's bound to be a place that appeals to you.  Since the Myakka River is starting to recede, a favorite trail of mine is not as flooded as it was a few days ago.

The fields are also starting to give up the flooded look.  Although many of the aquatic flowers had gone through their bloom cycle, the fields are picturesque and their placid look still beckons all passers by.

It's now possible to get to the weir without wading through the woods and the path along the way will offer many opportunities to take some pictures.

Although the weir is off-limits to visitors, nice views along the water or back into the woods are yours for the taking.

If climbing trees is your joy in life, climb away.  Tree-climbing alligators who like to slumber on tree limbs were nowhere to be found.

If you thought that was ludicrous, here's what I had read online.

If you thought trees were gator-free zones, think again. ... And while most lay people would be startled to see one of the large reptiles on a tree branch, tree-climbing is actually “surprisingly common” behavior for alligators and crocodiles, according to a 2014 study published in the journal Herpetology Notes. Jul 7, 2016.

(Do an image search on Google for "tree-climbing alligators" if you'd like to see some pictures.)

Life sure is amazing!



guest post by Nancy Dobias

Since the water level of the Myakka River has been slowly going down to what I THOUGHT was below flood stage, I figured the trails would pretty much be open.  Instead the river was still emptying into the woods to the point where a current was readily visible.

Wet walks into this section of the woods would not be high on my list since this is the trail where I generally see many of the BIG GUYS of Myakka.  I would glady cede this domain to them when the river has so overtaken the woods that they'd have no problem paddling their way among the trees to see what I might be doing.  In fact this guy popped up from the bottom of the river near where the river was flowing into the woods.

Since this trail was too water-logged, I next hit the main road of the park to see whether the "swamp-look" to the woods was still around.  Although some woods were drier than they had been, many were still presenting as a mysterious water-filled wilderness.

Generally I don't see any alligators here during the times when I'm at the park but I often wonder whether they cruise these "waters" as well.

When the Myakka River lays claim to the park, they certainly have speedier ways to move from Point A to Point B.  Whether they cruise the river, the forested "lakes," or the "pond-like" fields, the world is indeed their oyster as their options seem to be everywhere.

I'm not sure how well the BIG GUYS can maneuver in the fields though.  I don't imagine the water is over a foot here but if they did come a'calling, what a sight they would see.... scenery to enjoy.

The Upper Lake is another story.  Here they would have more room to roam freely.  As I was heading down to the Bird Walk, one alligator, however, was not taking advantage of his new deeper waters.  Instead he was patiently waiting...facing where the culvert emptied into the lake and possibly conducting many unsuspecting delicacies as well.

As I stood on the road taking my pictures, I hoped that he didn't mind my interfering with his lunch.  I did watch his front legs to see if they might be getting tensed but no doubt if they were, it would have happened too quickly for me to have it registered.  As it was, he did what alligators always seem to do.  He waited and waited and waited.

At another place, I happened upon another patient alligator...one who seemed to be watching one of the birds who had been "fishing" in the flooded field.  Upon closer inspection, the "alligator" was just a submerged tree limb.

Sometimes what you think is there is NOT there but sometimes it is.  That's what happened when I first glanced at a tree beside the road.  The bird who was resting on its trunk was so blended with the trunk that he was not readily visible to those driving down the road.

In fact I had to vary my position to get a clearer shot.

As I watched him favor his one leg, I wondered how long he had been standing in this same spot.  For birds who generally hunt in the woods or fields, the water-logged conditions of the park must make for one exhausting day as they perch on a side of a tree watching the world go by and waiting for the waters to finally recede.

Should you ever want to know the water conditions at Myakka River State Park, here's a handy site that will tell you what the level of the Myakka River is and what impact that level will have on the various sections of the park.


I think the park is pretty in any stage.  If you have the time, maybe you might think so too.



by Nancy Dobias

It sure is unpredictable what the river or the wildlife might be doing at Myakka River State Park.   I've certainly learned that a + b is not always c. 

For instance:

a= the river is already up and trails are flooded   b= we've been having torrential downpours daily   c= main road floods

Wouldn't you expect the river to be over the road?  It's not.  It's close to the road. Where did all that water from those downpours go???

Another oddity is that ever-changing nature of the aquatic plants and their colors.  For those who favor lavender or light purple, this is the week for your color to be in.  The other colors are now a distant memory.

It's just remarkable how many color changes have occured in this field in the past few months.

What's not unusual is that there's always wildlife to see at the park.   You never know when you might come upon some critter that captures your interest.  Today I was going so slow looking for where the alligators might be resting that as I was driving along, a red-shouldered hawk passed me.  He swooped along at eye level beside my side window, and then he flew to an overhead branch in front of me.  There he awaited my admiring appreciation of how handsome he was.

At times I could see him listening to the sounds my camera was making.

But he must have been used to posing for the cameras.  He waited patiently for my camera lens to adjust to his every movement.  I believe he liked his profile shots the best.

If I were too slow in taking the pictures, he naturally gave me a look that said, "Can't we just hurry this along?  Exactly how long can I be expected to maintain the majestic haughty look???"

But when the camera started clicking again, he settled down and adjusted his poses accordingly.  Again, the side profile was his favorite.

How long he would stay was anyone's guess but since he didn't look in any hurry to leave, I continued clicking away.

If you're not doing anything, maybe you might take your camera and go out to the park.  Drive very slowly.  No doubt he'll swoop down to get your attention too. This hawk sure likes to pose!

By the way, I didn't see one alligator!  It was another one of those a + b does not always equal c....

Myakka Mystery Solved

Guest post by Nancy Dobias

Myakka River State Park is home to many amazing sights.  With each visit, the park continues to impress and astound me.  Although I had gone out to view the flooded river and its effect on the park, I did not expect to come across MACHINERY that would intrigue me!  For the life of me, I could not figure out why anyone would park all this equipment in a park whose forecast was to involve more flooding in the days to come.

"Surely this is not for the campers...why wouldn't they just evacuate the park if they're worried about the river becoming a problem?"  were my initial thoughts.  On and on I imagined all kinds of uses for the portable spotlights.  It wasn't until I got home and called the park that I found out THE REAL STORY and I never would guessed the reason for the lights.

It turns out that Myakka River State Park hosted a MOON OVER MYAKKA 5K run.  Because the event was from 8:30--11:59 AT NIGHT, the lights were there to illuminate the course and to provide the "glow" factor that inspired runners to get past all those woods and lakes and flooded fields that were "home" to many glowing eyes.

All slots in the race were sold out by the time the race was held.  The race was limited to 400 runners.  Participation awards were given to all participants and no doubt bragging rights and awards were granted to those who placed in their divisions.   There were even awards for the "most lit up runners" (I think the hard cider was served afterwards) as well as for the runners having the best costumes.  

For those who were unable to get to the park, the organizers even offered a VIRTUAL MOON OVER MYAKKA 5K run and I believe that this too was sold out!  If you're wondering "What on earth is a virtual run?"  You're not alone.  I didn't know either.  It turns out that you run or walk the same amount of miles, but you do it at your own pace, in your own gym or home, through your own neighborhood, etc.  You turn in your results and you too get a participant award.  The virtual run participants, however, don't get the fun of attending the party afterwards.

Following the run, cheeseburgers and fries, cold beer, hard cider, soft drinks and music awaited all who attended or participated in this event.  Group karaoke and competitive games of corn hole were also on the list of activities.  Whether they had to harmonize with the alligators and other night creatures, I don't know, but I imagine it must have been lots of fun for everyone!  

As for how the park looked a few days after the race, it was as mystical as ever.  The Myakka River was laying claim to her woods...

and to her fields. The river had not yet claimed the road...

but park benches and picnic tables were coming a bit too close.

Dry access to trails or picnic areas were now offering the "wet" experience...

and birds of prey could be seen "hunting" along the main road...

and in all of this,  the woods continued to provide mystery and allure to any who take the time to wonder.