The Myakka was designated a Florida Wild and Scenic River by State legislature in 1985. It is one of only two rivers in Florida to be recognized with this special status. The act provides for preservation and management of the 34-mile portion of the river within Sarasota County.
Most of the watershed lies to the north in Manatee County, but the Myakka does not become well-defined as a river until its numerous tributaries coalesce near the Sarasota County boundary where the river enters Myakka River State Park. Prominent among the picturesque features here are two lakes and the extensive marshes between them.
These lakes and marshes form an elongated basin through which the Myakka River flows.
The park is famous for its diverse wildlife. You can see alligators and wading birds from the park drive year-round. In the winter, ducks and shorebirds feed in the shallows as bald eagles and ospreys fish from above. Sandhill cranes nest along the water's edge. Twelve miles of the Wild and Scenic River flow through the park.
Lower Myakka Lake lies in the 7,500-acre Wilderness Preserve south of SR 72. From the lake the river courses for several miles through a narrow, serpentine channel, bordered by spanish moss-laden branches of live oaks and graceful, arching trunks of sabal palm trees. These miles of solitude and undisturbed banks are ideal for canoeing. A privately-owned dam prevents access during periods of low water. It may be necessary to push the canoe through shallow areas. Remember, the uplands are private property.
Vegetation along the shore of the lower river reflects the saline influence of tidal waters. Narrow, tree-lined banks give way to a vista of spreading marshes. Mangrove trees appear with increasing frequency and manatees may be seen.
A mangrove island south of U.S. 41 supports a nesting colony of endangered wood storks and is designated as a Critical Wildlife Area. View the birds from a distance as it is illegal to disturb them.
A slow-speed, minimum wake zone is in effect for boaters to protect the manatees, prevent erosion and ensure safety of canoeists. Boat ramps are located at Snook Haven and Myakka River Oyster Bar (commercial) and at Myakka River State Park. The shallow, winding Myakka River flows 14 miles through Myakka River State Park, attracting and providing for a myriad of wetlands and uplands creatures. It entices canoeists, fishermen, and birders alike.