kayakers

The Straight and Narrow Avoids Disaster

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The Straight and Narrow Avoids Disaster

Guest Post by Nancy Dobias

A few years ago when I was at Myakka River State Park, I was taking pictures at the picnic area across the road from the canopy walk.  I happened to notice a group of about 6-8 kayaks coming down the river.  One or two were paddling faster and were further along than the rest.  When I looked back to see why the group was so strung out, I happened to notice that one lady was a novice.  The older woman was SIDEWAYS in the river.  Her family and friends were in kayaks on all sides of her...protecting her... shouting out instructions...giving quick words of encouragement as the frustrated woman struggled to find her way in the river.  As I watched her frantically trying out the various suggestions, her kayak went from one side of the narrow channel to the other.  

I couldn't believe what I was seeing.  I knew up ahead she would encounter the bridge and all the BIG GUYS that hang out along the banks of the bridge.  "How on earth is she going to be able to maneuver through the bridge uprights? What if she hits one of those uprights and overturns?  What is she thinking???"  I worried.  

I looked ahead to see if the kayaks in front would turn around to come back to assist.  They didn't.  The rest of the group formed a tighter cluster around the woman.  Perhaps they understood she HAD to control the kayak before she could go any further.  Gradually the woman seemed to calm down.  Gradually she got the rhythmn of what she needed to do.  Together the group paddled their way past me, on their way down the river towards the bridge, and safely through its uprights.

I always wondered if that woman truly understood the danger she was in when she decided to go kayaking on the Myakka River and saw the Big Guys clustered along the bank of the river by the bridge.   She was a novice.  She had a current to manage.  She had a kayak to maneuver through uprights.  She had enormous alligators watching.  

I would have thought that if you are a novice, you would first find a safer place to learn how to kayak.  I would NOT get my first experience on a body of water that has current and that is filled with alligators.  Since alligators are assumed to be in all freshwater, I would have at least chosen a pond.  My assumption would be that there's no current and that there would be fewer alligators.  

Today I discovered I could toss that assumption out!  Today there was a boatload of alligators in the Upper Lake.  I know they're always there, but I generally don't see them.  Today everywhere I looked, I saw them.  If I had decided THIS was the day I was going to learn how to kayak, I would have had a heart attack to have been out on the Upper Lake as a novice kayaker learning the fine art of kayaking....  "What if I hit one of them?"  What if one of them hit ME?" 

There was also a boatload of kayakers.  The enormous number of alligators apparently doesn't bother those who are experienced.  They just glide in and among them and of course the alligators could care less about the kayakers....but I think that's because the kayakers know what they are doing....

For someone who knows nothing about the sport, I would hope that those who are novices should always kayak with those who are experienced at this sport....

After all you might not want to accidentally paddle through two alligators who are "eyeing" each other....

Hope everyone has a WONDERFUL NEW YEAR and HAPPY PADDLING if you're a kayaker or one in training!

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Row, Row, Row Your Boat.

Guest Post by Nancy Dobias

Going to Myakka River State Park is always an unknown as to what you may or may not see and experience.  I was told that the best way to experience the park was to kayak along the river.  (My sentiments exactly!) Today when I was walking along my favorite trail, I wasn't sure if I'd see "snakes" or alligators. (Ok, that was just a pretend snake but it did look like one!) The woods were as peaceful as always and I was the only one making my way through the trees and along the river....

At least I was the only one until a couple of kayakers quietly paddled by.  I heard one comment about an alligator on the left and another one on the right.  I couldn't see what they were seeing, so I continued my hike and figured I would see the alligators up near the overpass.

What a surprise I had!  When I reached the overpass, there wasn't just ONE alligator on the left and ONE alligator on the right.  There were TWENTY or so alligators out and about.  Most were sunning themselves on the bank but there were about 8-10 dog-paddling in the river.

A few more entered the water when the kayakers approached.  I guess they didn't appreciate the insensitivity of someone disturbing their slumber and perhaps they wanted to show their displeasure.  The alligators were never aggressive.  They did not swim toward the kayaks BUT in my imagination, they no doubt would doubled-back and come up under the kayaks and.

I think I will wait on kayaking, BUT I absolutely envy all those who have had this experience.  What great pictures these men must have!!!  

Myakka in July

Myakka in July

July is a wonderful time to visit Myakka River State Park. With fewer crowds this time of year, the park can be a quiet, tranquil place to see wildlife and just relax. Spotted fawns are not uncommon. The rumbling of bellowing gators can be heard. Flowers are blooming. Butterflies are abundant and dragonflies are feasting on mosquitos. Cloud formations can be quite spectacular in summertime, especially at sunset or before a storm. 

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Since July is the beginning of the rainy season, there is usually a lot of standing water on the sides of the roads and on the trails. If the hiking trails are too wet to walk, a trek down Powerline Road can be quite rewarding. You may have to dodge a few puddles, but deep ditches on both sides of the road are filled with water perfect for gators, birds, snakes and aquatic plants. You may see young gators being guarded by a protective mother or an anhinga coming up for air after searching for a meal. Powerline Road, early in the morning or evening, is a great place to see deer, turtles, raccoons and owls. 

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Canoeing and kayaking are great this time of year and a wonderful way to see wildlife on the river. Bring your own vessel, or rent one from the concession. There is no better way to see birds, turtles, fish and alligators than to get on the river for a leisurely paddle. Don’t forget your camera!

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Another fun thing to do in the summer at Myakka is to take the airboat ride. A very large, covered airboat seating up to 70 people takes passengers for a gentle, breezy cruise around the Upper Myakka Lake. The captain captivates his audience with knowledge of wildlife and park history. Swallow-tail Kites may be seen soaring overhead, or perhaps you will see a gator swimming in the cool water. Wading birds and jumping fish make for a pleasant journey.

If hot, humid weather isn’t your thing, there are still ways to enjoy the park. Myakka offers a seven-mile scenic drive, an air conditioned visitor center and a concession that offers a variety of food and ice-cream. If you dine inside, there are great views of the boat basin and lake from the second floor. A beautiful gift shop awaits you with jewelry, home décor, clothing, kid’s stuff and many Myakka souvenirs.

If you are a photographer, some of the flowers to be on the watch for this time of year are Swamp Hibiscus, Black-eyed Susan, Trumpet-creeper, Spider Lily, Beauty Berry, Tar-flower and Buttonbush. In the butterfly garden in front of the ranger station, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds can be seen in the morning hours, feeding on the nectar from the Fire Bush.

You may want to book a couple nights in one of our air-conditioned cabins. Built by the CCC in the 1930’s, you can get an idea of what it was like living here eighty years ago! Our cabins offer a complete kitchen, hot showers, two double beds and a beautiful back porch. An oasis from the rest of the world, you won’t be disappointed. We also offer over 40 full hook up sites for RV’s and Campers. Please call Reserve America for reservations at 800-326-3521.

Please come visit Myakka River State Park this summer and see what The Real Florida is all about. The park is open from 8am to sunset every day of the year. The back gate is open from 8am to 5pm on weekends and holidays. The concession is open every day of the year except for Christmas and Easter. For more information call the ranger station at 941-361-6511.