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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
While still keeping plenty of respectful distance, I got down to a closer level with the gators to zoom in for some more shots.
After our share of excitement on the one side of the bridge, we checked out the other side.