One of the tricks of traveling is to eat where the locals eat. This
is why we chose Deep Hole, a 150 foot deep sink at the south end of
Lower Myakka Lake, for our lunch stop. This was populated by about
20 alligators including a 14 foot bull as well as numerous black
buzzards. A flock of rosette spoonbills was also nearby. Entry into
the sink required some wading at the rim but the gators obligingly
got out of our way. It was anxiety-provoking during our meal as some
of the larger ones gradually and deliberately swam closer.
Our trip began about 11:00 AM after we all registered our license
tags in the park office to ensure that if our cars remained in the
parking lot after sundown they would know to go looking for our bones
the next day. Sandy Huff, in her Paddler's Guide to the Sunshine
State describes paddling in Myakka as "not for the faint of heart"
due to the abundance of gators there. I have heard that this is due
to the fact that during the ongoing rapid encroachment of nearby
Sarasota and Bradenton into alligator habitat, the gators are
regularly relocated into the park.
The launch site here requires portaging several hundred yards across
a grassy picnic area from the parking lot. Easier spots occur two
miles upstream at the bridge and 4 miles up at the concession stand
but these would have required additional return paddling decreasing
the amount of the wilderness to be viewed. The water was low today
(4.1 ft at Myakka City Gage), several feet lower than the last time I
did this trip. There were frequent beaches on the two mile stretch
of river which meanders through oak/palmetto forest then marshland
down to the lake. Just about every bend was populated by at least
one gator. Some would launch into the water as we approached,
sinking to "periscope depth" with only eyes and snout showing, then
suddenly disappearing completely in the tannen stained water.
Others, usually the largest, would hold onto their beach perches.
One, right at eye level as I closely rounded a bend, was particularly
The entry of the river into the lake required some poling and a north
wind made crossing the lake challenging. After lunch we mostly waded
through mucky sand across about 1/2 mile of very wide river or small
lake. After that the banks again grew more forested. We proceeded
down past a spot labeled Shineytown on one map but showing no sign
of recent settlement. When we ran into a spot which required more
wading, we decided to turn around.
On the way back the wind was with us across the lake and the minimal
current made going upstream relatively easy. As we crossed the lake
we spotted a herd of feral pigs on the northwest shore. I went
ashore trying to get closer but being downwind was easily spotted and
they fled. I remember visiting this park in the '70's and having
these pigs approach the car for food. More recently, the rangers
discourage feeding and hire people to trap these animals, exotic to
Florida even though they have been here since introduced by the
Spaniards in the 1500s. They tend to tear up many acres of soil with
their rooting activity. I have seen a sow with ten piglets in tow so
they must be very prolific. In any case, they are universally very
skittish these days, always fleeing when approached in any manner.
We got back to the put-in about 4, all very fatigued after about a
ten mile trip. We took our time with the return portage and returned
to our CCC built palm trunk cabin for an excellent three course meal
of salad, shrimp creole, and pudding prepared by Katie Dupin.
Paddlers on this trip included Frank and Katie Dupin, Jim and Mia
McDermott, Mary Martha Vaught, and yours truly.