The Wild and Scenic Myakka River

The Myakka was designated as the state's only "Florida Wild and Scenic River" by the Florida State Legislature in 1985. The act provides for preservation and management of the 34-mile portion of the river within Sarasota County.

Most of the watershed lies to the north in Manatee County, but the Myakka does not become well-defined as a river until its numerous tributaries coalesce near the Sarasota County boundary where the river enters Myakka River State Park. Prominent among the picturesque features here are two lakes and the extensive marshes between them.

These lakes and marshes form an elongated basin through which the Myakka River flows.

The park is famous for its diverse wildlife. You can see alligators and wading birds from the park drive year-round. In the winter, ducks and shorebirds feed in the shallows as bald eagles and ospreys fish from above. Sandhill cranes nest along the water's edge. Twelve miles of the Wild and Scenic River flow through the park.

Lower Myakka Lake lies in the 7,500-acre Wilderness Preserve south of SR 72. From the lake the river courses for several miles through a narrow, serpentine channel, bordered by spanish moss-laden branches of live oaks and graceful, arching trunks of sabal palm trees. These miles of solitude and undisturbed banks are ideal for canoeing. A privately-owned dam prevents access during periods of low water. It may be necessary to push the canoe through shallow areas. Remember, the uplands are private property.

Vegetation along the shore of the lower river reflects the saline influence of tidal waters. Narrow, tree-lined banks give way to a vista of spreading marshes. Mangrove trees appear with increasing frequency and manatees may be seen.

A mangrove island south of U.S. 41 supports a nesting colony of endangered wood storks and is designated as a Critical Wildlife Area. View the birds from a distance as it is illegal to disturb them.

A slow-speed, minimum wake zone is in effect for boaters to protect the manatees, prevent erosion and ensure safety of canoeists. Boat ramps are located at Snook Haven and Myakka River Oyster Bar (commercial) and at Myakka River State Park. You may discover more about the Wild and Scenic Myakka River here.

To help protect the river, you can become a volunteer or join the Friends of the Myakka River. Call 941-316-8139 or email for information or request a "Friends" application. Click here to purchase your membership online today!

The Conservation of our natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others.
— Theodore Roosevelt

What We've Achieved

  • Dr. Mary Jelks created the preservation culture of the river through annual cleanups and supporting the park with monitoring equipment.

  • Dr. Mary also developed the culture of preserving the natural habitat of forests and prairie grasslands through identifying the invasive species and creating programs to restore the natural habitat.

  • Donations made through the Friends provide commercial agricultural equipment to aid in preserving the habitat through spraying, controlled burns and other efforts.

  • The current ranger station was funded with donations from the Friends.

  • The canopy walkway was planned and built by Friends and is maintained with their funding.

  • The Palm Log restoration Project was a partnership with the State Park and partially funded by the Friends organization.

  • Sponsorship of the Concert Series and other events to raise funds for park projects and equipment.

  • Purchase of the swamp buggy, trucks and ATVs.


  • Harold Joslin

  • Dick Pfaff

  • Steven Schaefer


  • President - Miles Millwee

  • Vice President - Linda Greaves

  • Treasurer - Sandra Bernardi

  • Secretary - Evelyn McCorristin Peters