Myakka River State Park
Updated: Oct 25, 2020
May I start off by saying, most of our state parks and rivers in Florida are just incredibly fun to enunciate. From the first time I saw Myakka and realized how well it satisfied our checklist of offerings; this mama glamper knew we'd be staying there soon.
Full of newer infrastructure and incredibly well maintained, Myakka River State Park is actually one of the oldest and largest state parks in Florida. The Myakka River, which we could hardly find due to high waters from the constant rain fall, is a Florida Wild and Scenic River where it is described as "Where Prairie and River Touch the Sky."
There was no views of the water after check-in as we headed to our campsite. So, our anticipation was mounting after a slightly rainy yet sunny three hour drive across the state. To be clear, this place is big with three campgrounds and we feel lucky getting the one we did. The Palmetto Ridge Campground, though accommodating as many sites as possible, still offered up some sense of privacy with its trees, bushes and fencing in some areas. Our space was nice and wide, we were even able to keep our pontoon right next to our truck in the front. That meant we had a nice area for glamping behind our sweet setup. If you were curious, yes we were the only ones with a these two types of vehicles in it's drive. It's good to be different-
Setup took a bit and some new things to add to the list. This wasn't dirt like Tomoka a few weeks earlier. Nope, this was concrete and stone. Imagine Charlie's face folks when he realized it was concrete as he first set about to put the tent's stakes in the ground. It was priceless! So, moving forward, now we know you have to look at the substrate details when you book your site. But, by bringing some cinder blocks now too as part of our setup, if it happens again; no worries. See, with extra rope we were able to stake off into the small patches of dirt that did surround us for out tent so we felt secure enough. Surrounding us was primarily all new, larger rv's and this campground was perfect for them. However, the Old Prairie Campground appeared to be virtually zero privacy with a lot more dirt and grass to offer. Further down, by the boat ramp, was the Big Flat Campground that looked pretty nice but pretty slug. My advice, if you have an rv or trailer of any kind, it doesn't matter which spot you get because you won't be at your site much; the goal is to explore. However, if you are glampin' it with a tent, bring your cinder blocks and enjoy a well selected site in the Palmetto Ridge would be the best of the three. Important PSA here.
Ok, picture this...similar to Tomoka State Park, after setup, we load up our son and dog in the back then head off to explore. And then wow...this park literally has a canopy walk! Plus, an entire restaurant, store and a scenic drive that did not disappoint.
In fact, after making it to the end of the road, on our slow drive back we noticed a funnel cloud. It took a second to process, but it was real! Right before our eyes, a very significant tornado grew over the prairie at dusk, fed by the perfect mix of heat, humidity and wind.
Naturally, I was internally pretty fearful something terrible might happen to our own campsite, which we were miles away from at this exact spot you see. But, thankfully, as we drove we realized it was on the opposite side and we went back to cook our hotdogs over a fire. Prior to and while the fire was going, we started a lively game of Yahtzee at the supplied picnic table.
Quick thought, use the top of one of your bins as a flat service with short walls as a dice rolling surface. No cockeyed die in your future this way-
Anyhow, Dad's streak of Yahtzee rolling followed by a cheesy jig accompanied by a full "YAHTZEE" held true. No hard feelings of course, I later went on to dominate in Boggle.
Moral of this story, the picnic screen enclosure in now a new must in our kit, updated already on the site. It is that important. Mosquitoes we repelled but the no see-ums were fierce and my buffet of right thigh was just what they wanted. Remember, add to your kit as you can afford or see the need for; you deserve it.
After a wonderful night's sleep having missed any large storms or tornado touchdowns, we skipped breakfast since we made extra sliders and headed straight for the boat ramp. The concession area was top notch all the way with safari tram tours, scenic lake tours onboard the largest air boats ever and kayak/canoe rentals. We were too early to get extra water for the boat, so we set to task on getting our pontoon into the water from the small boat ramp onsite. It is clear, most people simply drop in using much smaller watercraft. But hats off to my hubby, he got us in first try and moored right up to the short for us to load up our dog and final gear. Even by 9am, the heat index was rising quickly so we opened up the Bimini top and slowly started our journey north to the Myakka River.
Due to the overflowing of the channels around us, the water was too high to clearly make out the path to the river and even with our new trolling motor in play, the opening we felt was right looked too narrow. So, our Myakka River excursion was more of a Upper Myakka Lake experience. In the brochure, it is stated that alligators are abundant and I will concur. If you want to see gators, by all means you will here; lots of them with mating calls galore that weekend in the end of June.
While out in the lake, we found a spot that offered an amazing breeze where we ate lunch and even jumped into the shallow area to splash about for a minute. Well, really Charlie jumped into the water to save my bucket seat.Good news, no one was eaten by gators and it ended up being refreshing and super shallow, only 2' deep with most the lake averaging between 3-4'.
Sadly, we packed in a bit early with not barely a single bite even with using the worms we ended up buying when our lures and spoons weren't working before lunch. Though we had more things to look forward to.
Getting back to the camp was nice. Charlie and I both took a nap enjoying the breeze of our fans and sounds of nature while Dad flushed the boat motor and got the boat ready to trailer home the next day. Once up, we decided to take the nature walk and check out the canopy walk. For me, it was the highlight of the trip. The canopy structure was impressive and looked really stable which is good for someone who has a slight fear of heights. Start to finish, reading all the signs along the way and stopping for pictures; it's a good hour or so. Bring water and wear bug spray and discover just how effective a natural canopy is at keeping one protected from the sun; it's awe-spiring.
Back at the site, the menu was slow cooked country style ribs with our ranch, bacon pasta salad, tuna pasta salad, and Mediterranean pasta salad. While the coals got going, we gave Nemo a much needed bath using the our hose. Thereafter, my boys played with fire and played Left Right Center again but this time with quarters; dad won. It was a wonderful evening for making s'mores as no rain came and the fan did it's job keeping bugs at bay.
Next day, we were ready to pack up after a light breakfast; everyone choosing something different. This time, we had it done at a nice leisurely pace in just under 2 hours; ideal. The boys went and showered, while I walked Nemo and through out the final trash bag. Then, we hit the road by 11:15am in search of a delicious pizza as a reward for our efforts.
Doing our part to support local, we found Il Panificio in South Sarasota just 15 miles from the state park. While headed there, we spotted a nice park that ended up being our lunch spot. It was as quick and nice drive, conveniently it was next to a gas station so Michael filled up while Charlie and I walked into this cute pizzeria. Keep in mind, I called ahead and timed it so when we got there the pizza would be done. It worked yet again as the man who greeted us was just closing the lid to our box, holding the pizza inside fresh out of the over. They say their pizza is a New Jersey style pie. Thin with big slices, yet the sauce and cheese goes clear to the edge of the crust; we all really enjoyed it.
All in all, we had a good time at Myakka River State Park and the area around it. It is clear Sarasota takes pride in that part of its county, we were impressed by how pristine it was. Yet, there is no real rush for us to go back either. Going out of rain season is a bit of advice we'd give. Regardless of whether you love a campground/park or not, the goal is go and to always make the most of it. Best part, for the whole trip including the fuel, food and drinks bought for the experience, less than $200 was spent for the entire weekend. Happy Glampin'!