Florida’s first “Wild and Scenic River,” Myakka River State Park gets its name from the waterway that flows through it. Of Myakka River’s 66 miles, fourteen are contained in the park, as well as the Upper and Lower Myakka Lakes, which are fed by the river. These waterways are important resources for the various kinds of wildlife that are found in the park.
One of the park’s largest and most iconic residents is the American alligator. Florida’s official state reptile, alligators can often be seen sun-bathing along the riverbank. This is because they are ectothermic – or “cold-blooded” – meaning that alligators must use the sun and other environmental factors to regulate how hot and cold their internal body temperature is. As apex predators, alligators will eat a variety of other animals, including fish, birds and small mammals.
Birding is also popular along the river and lakes of the park, and with good reason, many species of birds call the park home. Anhinga are easily spotted standing in the sun with their wings spread wide, drying off after hunting underwater for fish. Ospreys and other raptors fly high above the water, using their incredible eye-sight to scan for food below. Brown limpkins and other wading birds stick to the shallows, where they walk through the water on their spindly legs. Be sure to bring your binoculars when visiting!
There are many ways to view the wildlife of the park. Paddling the waterways in canoes and kayaks is a popular option, as well as hiking along the park’s numerous nature trails. The park also offers boat rides on the Upper Myakka Lake that give visitors an excellent chance to view wildlife.