The Myakka Time Machine

Guest Correspondence


Florida State Statutes, Chapter 258.501  “Myakka River; Wild and Scenic Segment”: The Legislature finds and declares that a certain segment of the Myakka River in Manatee, Sarasota, and Charlotte Counties possesses outstandingly remarkable ecological, fish and wildlife, and recreational values which are unique in the State of Florida. These values give significance to the river as one which should be permanently preserved and enhanced for the citizens of the State of Florida, both present and future.

The Myakka River; scenic, wild and certainly, surreal. I can’t say remote because it’s not. It’s very close to town.

It’s a different world, not a world of few people, a world of no people. It is right on your doorstep and it’s yours, most of it is on your property. For nearly four years, my friend Jono Miller has invited me on a canoe trip down the Myakka River and unfortunately there was always some issue that prevented it from happening. A few weeks ago we were able to do it.

The Myakka is designated a “Wild and Scenic River,” the only one in the state. This was done in back in 1985. Shout out to the late, great Sen. Bob Johnson. Specifically, the designation recognizes the river’s extraordinary beauty and undeveloped character. It is also protected. From just about anything. And as I said, most of it is on public property. It’s not just a beautiful stretch if water. It’s a time machine. 

My wife and I packed lunch, sunscreen, wide-brimmed hats and lots of water. We had already left my truck down at Snook Haven off River Road, the float trip’s terminus, before we put the canoe in the water a bit south of the Upper Lake in Myakka State Park just after 9am. Truth be told, there was some additional motivation since, and this will come as no surprise, the water level is high due to all the rain we have had this summer, which makes for a faster ride and a much wider transportation channel down the river.

The 19-mile float down the tea colored river is nothing short of amazing. After floating under State Road 72, we did not come into contact with another soul for nearly six hours. You will, however, see beautiful scenery, lots of birds, fish hitting food on the water’s surface and many of those ridiculous, over-sized lizards that I am not at all fond of. They, by the way, make this really strange bellowing sound, which is quite unnerving when you hear it coming from both sides of the river bank, at least I think it was the gators making that sound. Don’t know…. ask Jono.

You may ask, if it’s such an amazing experience, then why do so few people do it? It’s because there are few places to enter or exit the river and only 30 people a day can sign out to do the trip from the park. It’s not like going to the beach; it takes a commitment. Do it, get out and go enjoy what is mostly your property—but don’t do it by yourself. Take a guide or there are vendors who will take you. Google it. No matter what, take a map, like the paper kind. Jono had one and he kept looking at it. It’s always nice having some idea of where you are.

I couldn’t help but think as I was floating down the river how many times I have heard the question“Why are you paving over the whole county?” or something along those lines. I don’t see how one can say that after floating down the Myakka, so thank you to anyone who had anything to do with protecting that river. And thanks again, Jono Miller!

Paul Caragiulo is a former Sarasota City and County Commissioner.

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