WasatchWill

Jan 12, 2017

Florida's Myakka River State Park

While on our visit to South Florida, I had hoped to sneak in a drive out into the Everglades to look for some alligators as we had gotten to see on a day trip to Miami from Ft. Myers on a prior trip several years ago.  Unfortunately, our schedule became so full of other activities we couldn't swing it.  However, the man assisting with my grandmother's trust referred to us Myakka River State Park, knowing it wasn't much out of the way for Jess and I on our drive north out of state and back to Utah.  It was said to be full of gators.



Wednesday - December 28, 2016

To get an earlier start on the road and ensure some time at the park, Jess and I skipped out on the complimentary breakfast from our hotel and got right to driving northward.  After doing a bit of preliminary research on Myakka River State Park the night before, my excitement grew with the opportunities to see some wild alligators and other wildlife commonly found in the park.

After leaving North Fort Myers at about 7:30 am, we arrived at the park a little over an hour later.  Shortly into the park, we pulled right over near a bridge which is often a hot spot for viewing gators.  Unfortunately, it must have been too early in the morning and not warm enough for any alligators to be out of their inland burrows and around the water yet.  Plenty of birds were out though, and it was interesting to read the caution signs warning about the potential danger alligators pose.

Alligator viewing area with no gators

Caution

Anhinga

Had we seen any gators at that time, we may have been content with that and may have turned around right then and there to continue on our drive up out of Florida that day.  Instead, we decided to explore a few more other areas in the park.  First would be a short little trail that led to a canopy walkway, i.e. a short board walk suspended 20 feet into the air between two towers to give hikers the experience of observing the forest canopy at eye level.  One of the towers rises to 75 feet off the forest floor offering a 360 view across the canopy of the surrounding forest.  Along the way, we took a moment to watch some squirrels at work and also learned of another meaning for hammock.

On the Canopy Walk Trail

Hammocks aren't just something to lounge and sleep in...then again

Resident squirrel

Squirrel!

Canopy Walk, first tower

On the Canopy Walk bridge

Looking up the 2nd tower, 75 feet up

At the top of the 2nd (observation) tower


Pano from the 75 foot high observation tower

Myself and Jess

75 feet high

After living in Utah and spending most all my time out west for so long now, it was sure weird to be so high up and not be able to see any hint of any mountains in any direction.  However, after climbing up and down the stairs of the 75 foot tower, it was as good as hiking up a small mountain.  It was also interesting to see flora along the side of the trail that was completely different from what I'm used to in the forests and deserts of Utah.

After our brief experience with the canopy walk, we drove on up to Myakka Lake where a waterfront plaza and gift shop stood.  Gators can often be viewed at spots along the waterfront there too, but again, no such luck for us.   The gift shop wasn't open yet, but would soon be, so we stuck around viewing all the waterfowl around the waterfront while we waited for it to open so we could browse and purchase a few gifts for our kids back at home.  There was also opportunity to purchase tickets for an airboat safari ride, and had we the time, it would have been awfully tempting.

Close by was a beautiful great blue heron.  Then out the other way, we were treated to the sight of a bald eagle swooping down out of nowhere as it pulled up a fish out of the lake before retreating to some distant trees with its breakfast.  At that moment, I'd never seen a wild bald eagle so close before.  They are among my favorite animals, so it was exhilarating for me to witness it.  I tried to get my camera set and zoomed but the action was happening all too fast that I had to settle for a shaky video from which I was able to pull some stills from.

Great Blue Heron

Bald eagle with breakfast at Myakka Lake

Bald eagle flying away at Myakka Lake

After the bald eagle excitement, the shop had opened and Jess and I were able to go in and get some nice gifts for out kids.  From there we began to work our way back out of the park.  We ended up pulling over at another trail that led off the road with a little waterway that ran parallel to it.  I decided to run up it a short ways to scout it out.  Things didn't look too promising in the way of any gator sightings until on my way back to our car, I was able to look over and see the back end of a gator catching a bit of sun not more than 20 yards away.  Unfortunately it's front end was hidden out of sight behind a thick of grass.

1st gator sighting of the day...sort of

Once I got back to the car, we continued to drive on out of the park, but along the way, the first spot we had stopped at was now crowded with a handful of other cars pulled over and a number of people out and about.  Were there at last some alligators out and about now too?

Jessica and I got out to see for ourselves...Yep!!!  There were a few of them.  Most were swimming out in some water while another beached itself on the bank for some sun.

Alligator out for a swim

Alligator out for a swim

Another Great Blue Heron tempting fate near the gators

Beached alligator and heron out to the above right

Beached alligator

While still keeping plenty of respectful distance, I got down to a closer level with the gators to zoom in for some more shots.

Daring to get a little closer

And a little closer

Gator on the beach and gator in the water behind

Gator on the beach and gator in the water to the side

Zooming in a little closer

Close up

Jessica and myself

Heron and Gator...this could make a great kids book!

After our share of excitement on the one side of the bridge, we checked out the other side.

The other side of the bridge, no trolls here!

There wasn't as many gators on the other side.  In fact, there was only one that we could see and it was out having a swim.  I had Jessica pose as bait in front of it.

Jess posing as bait for a gator

Lingering gator behind Jess

Close up of the gator behind Jess

We then returned back to the other side of the bridge to watch the other gators for a bit longer.

Looking like a sea monster

Head shot

Another head shot

Looking like a dinosaur

Alligator on the bank

Satisfied with our findings, we finally committed to a departure from the park.  We had spent at least an hour longer than we had planned to, rippling down all of our other plans for the drive that day, but I think it was well worth it.

Video


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About Will

Will Will lives at the footsteps of Utah's famed Wasatch Mountains. He enjoys hiking, camping, backpacking, sports, running, vegetable gardening, nature, food, photography, art, and spending time with his wife and kids.

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