The Myakka River – Wild & Scenic Splendor
The Myakka River is a significantly diverse dark water river approximately 60 miles in length just off the gulf coast of southwest Florida. Due to strong citizen interest in preservation of it’s pristine nature and scenic qualities, the Myakka River was declared a ‘Wild and Scenic River’ by the Florida State Legislature in 1985. Only two rivers in the state are recognized and privileged with this ‘Wild and Scenic’ level of special state protection.
The majority of the Myakka Rivers’ watershed is provided north of Sarasota County. The river becomes well defined as it enters the county, converging from numerous tributaries. Two large lakes and an extensive marsh system mark it’s course into and through the Myakka River State Park. The lake and marsh areas together form an elongated basin that is famous for it’s diverse wildlife. Alligators and wading birds are present year-round. Many exotic species of waterfowl are found in the winter months. South of State Road 72 is a 7000 acre area which includes the lower lake that is known as the Wilderness Preserve. Below the lake the
Myakka River courses through several miles through a narrow, serpentine channel bordered with sprawling branches of live oaks heavy with spanish moss. The oaks are complimented with the graceful arching trunks of sabal palm trees. This segment features miles of solitude and undisturbed banks. Approximately five miles south of the lower lake a privately-owned dam prevents access from the south during all but extremely high water level periods. Some areas in this section may be shallow enough during winter and spring to require fording and pushing of canoes and kayaks for short distances.
Further south still, in the Venice area, some development in the way of an occasional house and commercial facility will be encountered. The Myakka River begins to widen and vegetation along the banks begin to reflect the saline influence of tidal waters. Narrow, tree-lined banks eventually give way to spreading marshes and mangrove trees appear with increasing frequency. Ospreys and vultures are common to this area of the river, and the occasional fortunate boater may see a manatee or two. A mangrove island south of Tamiami Trail (U.S.41) supports a nesting colony of endangered wood storks and is designated as a ‘Critical Wildlife Area’. As it is posted around the island, you may view from a distance, but it is illegal to approach close enough that birds fly away. The Myakka River eventually empties toward Charlotte Harbor, where it is joined by the waters of the Peace River and Intracoastal Waterway. The nearest access point to the Gulf of Mexico is through the inlet between Boca Grande and Cayo Costa Island on the west side of the harbor.
It should be noted that local governments are securing more and more property along the Myakka River and constantly upgrading facilities to allow for more and greater access to this beautiful waterway. You should check back regularly for updates. New things are being added all the time.