It was another early morning excursion at Myakka River State Park (our review) as we wanted to experience walking along the tree tops high above the ground on the Canopy Walkway. Each time we drove by the parking lot of this popular spot in the afternoon, it was totally full with cars with many more spilling out along both sides of the road. Afternoon didn’t seem like a good time to enjoy a visit here.
On this particular day we arrived around 8:30 a.m. and there was only one other car in the lot. Woo hoo, we’ll pretty much be by ourselves. From the parking lot it was a short walk to where the trail split – one way led to the Canopy Walkway and the other was the William S. Boylston Nature Trail.
We headed towards the Canopy Walkway figuring we could do the Nature Trail afterwards. The Canopy Walkway is suspended 25 feet above the ground and extends 85 feet through the tree tops above the Myakka Hammock floor. Completed in June of 2000, it is the first public treetop trail in North America.
Until we started visiting Florida, I never realized how many different varieties of palm trees there are. At Myakka, the very robust Sabal Palms abound. The Sabal Palm was named the official tree of Florida in 1953. According to the State Symbol USA website, “the growing heart of the new fronds (also known as the terminal bud), gives the palm tree its “cabbage” name, since this can be harvested as a food and resembles a cabbage head in shape (this is the key ingredient for a “heart of palm salad”). This was a common food for native Americans, but this practice is very destructive because it will kill the palm (the terminal bud is the only point from which the palm can grow and without this bud the palm will not be able to replace old leaves and will eventually die).” Interesting!
After a short walk, we could see the Canopy Walkway up ahead. Looking up at it, it didn’t look too scary, at least to yours truly who sometimes can be a little faint of heart at not having my feet on solid ground. Crossing it was easy peasy! If you are afraid of heights, don’t be nervous about this walkway – it feels quite sturdy, only sways slightly, is one way and because it is narrow, you can easily hold on to both sides. And don’t be nervous or intimidated by the sign “Danger Only 4 People At A Time”!
In the tops of the live oaks, we were nose to nose with bromeliads such as cardinal airplants and resurrection ferns as well as tiny creatures that weren’t visible to us such as twig ants and tree hoppers.
At the end of the walkway were the stairs up to the 76 foot high observation tower. Not a lot of room in the tower, must be tough later in the day when it gets busy. What a sweeping panoramic view of the treetops, wetlands, the prairie, the hammock and the slender ribbon of the Myakka River snaking its way to Upper Myakka Lake! A hawk provided entertainment as he flitted from one branch of a palm tree to another.
The Canopy Walk isn’t just a tourist attraction but is utilized by scientists to observe life in the treetops. According to one of their brochures “the value of this type of walkway was evident shortly after the walkway was completed in 2000 when an exotic weevil from Central America accidentally released in Ft. Lauderdale arrived in SW Florida. Wherever it invades, it decimates airplants. Local elementary science students are working with the TREE Foundation researchers to monitor both the weevils and airplants.”
Knowing that other people were arriving at the observation tower, reluctantly we descended from the treetops and walked the William S. Boylston Nature Trail which winds it’s way through the hammock. More interpretive signs. Another beautiful trail!
There were several geocaches hidden here but because of a very weak Verizon signal throughout the park we were only able to find two. We tried again on another day but this time Rob was getting eaten alive with skeeters so we quickly nixed that plan.
So that wraps up our wonderful stay at Myakka River State Park. It was really busy in the park during our stay, most likely because of Spring Break and the long Easter holiday weekend. But the crowds could be avoided by staying away from the boat basin and concession area. The campground was full, but predominantly quiet and peaceful. Most of the trails weren’t that busy at least early in the day. In fact, it was so enjoyable and knowing how popular it is, we have already made reservations for next January.
Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are some more photos….