Dave's Yak Tales

Cedar Key Sunset

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Myakka River State Park

I choose the above photo for the title shot of this Yak Tale because it has two things that were a big part of my day. Alligators, two at 1:00 o'clock, and, bits of blue sky. (That's one o'clock from the bow, not time. Click the pic for a better view) I saw over one hundred gators, and saw blue sky today, Saturday, May 23, 2009, for the first time since Sunday at Tomoka State Park. It began to rain on the way home Sunday, and has continued ever since. Over 8 inches here in Winter Park, erasing a 7 inch yearly deficit in less than a week. Ormond Beach, home of the Tomoka River has had 22 inches. From red flag fire warnings, burn bans and water restrictions, to flooding, in a few days. Mother Nature can be a b#$@*.

Sarasota had some rain to, but just 3-4 inches. And the forecast called for "only" a 40% chance of rain. A check of water levels on the Myaka River showed they had risen several inches during the past week. Off to the immense State Park I drove.

Had to drive far, 142 miles to avoid rain. In the River at 8:45, launching from the Park Road, at the pull off just before the bridge.

Great blue heron, tri colored heron, and osprey. The osprey must have been grooming, I've never seen one with its chest feathers all puffy. Also saw a juvenile bald eagle in my first 15 minutes. Saw one in the saw area last visit, wonder if a nest is nearby. Here is the first gator picture of the day.

Not the first alligator. I paddled downstream, beneath the State Highway 72 Bridge, and entered the Myaka Wilderness. I had picked up the required permit at the Park entrance. The River narrows, twists and turns. Can be hard to take pictures, as you don't see the subject in time. Like this.

A shame I did not get the shot of one monster gator. Easily a yard wide. But is submerged before I could aim the camera. Spotted another bald eagle, lots of black crowned night herons. No pics of either.

Around another bend, and I saw a rare sight. A paddle. I've never seen any one ahead of me in the Wilderness, only encountering folks on my return. I tried to lay back, but soon caught up to them. Two guys with respect for the River, quiet, the lead paddler pointing things out, silent.

Like rosette spoonbills at the spot where the Myakka River enters Lower Myakka Lake.

Actually, the paddling pair was more interested in the two dozen or more alligators in the water just past the opening to the Lake. I told them gators are a dime a dozen, I was more excited to see the spoonbills.

The gators were impressive. Coming out of the River, I thought waves were crashing. No, just alligators leaving shore, into the Lake. I have never seen so many on this end of the Lake. Nor had I seen so many in the entire Lake, north to south. Lower Myakka Lake is shallow. The recent rainfall raised just enough for kayakers, and alligators. I think the alligators were checking it out, just like me. Several times, a swimming gator ran aground, then would run through the shallows, frothing the water, until it could swim again.

The large black shape it a hog. It, and several vultures, small black shape were interested in something in the tall grass near Deep Hole.

Deep Hole is a sink hole at the south end of the Lake. A major alligator hangout, as they gather in the deep water. As on the north end of the Lake, lots of gators were just outside the Hole. A bald eagle flew overhead.

I paddled through one of two channels, into the Hole.

Not only were there twenty or more alligators visible, but twenty or so spoonbills on the edge of the Hole.

A beauty and beast location.

I decided I should get out of the Hole, and in doing so had to push over the shallows near the spoonbills. To bad I did not get the pic as they took off.

Wildlife on the return across Lower Lake Myakka.

Back in the River.

I departed the Wilderness Preserve, back to the Park. Stopped for lunch at a picnic table on the left bank. Joined by this fellow.

Back in the yak, I paddled up River, passing the Park Bridge and my car.

Did some extra paddling this portion of the voyage. The Myakka can be tricky, at least for me, braiding around a couple islands. With a Park map, I determined when there was a fork, take the right channel. I took two rights, then came to a dead end. Paddled back to the last right. I must have missed a channel. Did not see it. Back the way I came. Back to the dead end. But, this time I saw the channel that got me back on track up River.

Take a closer look at the flying great egret. See the fish?

I reached the weir cutting off Upper Myakka from the rest of the River, landed. Walked to the concession, filled my water bottle. I had another two, but you can never have too much. The woodstork pic was taken from land.

Break over, I headed down River. A small motor boat was in the area near the weir, it turned back. Two people wrestled a rental canoe over the concrete weir/dam. Which, according to the Park website, they aren't supposed to do, because of the low water. The place to portage is not over the middle of the dam, but off to the side,where I was. Seeing the River was busy, I took an alternate, very shallow, channel to avoid the others.

Too bad the glossy ibis did not raise its head for a better comparison. I reentered the main channel ahead of the father and son in their jonboat. They were alternating between a 10 horse, and electric, and a pole to get down River. They need to sell it and get a couple kayaks.

The wind picked up, distant thunder rumbled, a few drops fell, but I was on the edge of the storm.

I don't think being on top the canopy walkway tower was the best place to be. But, I was on the water, so what do I know?

Paddled back to the bridge, following a gator through. Had to go past the bridge, then back up a channel to the car.

Took the bike out of the back, put the yak on the roof, and biked to the concession. Upon arrival, I saw a woman with a name tag walking in. "What time do you close?" "Five" "What time is it?" "5:01, what do you need" "Gator stew" "I think its still warm"

It was. Tight lid, full bowl, explains the spill. My view of Upper Myakka Lake from the upper level of the new concession building.

Close ups from the deck.

Sandhill cranes too. More birds here than at my next stop, the birdwalk, a long boardwalk at he north end of Upper Myakka. Only a few great egerts. A sign on the walkway has pictures of 23 birds seen in Myakka River State Park. I think I was 18 on the list. On I did not see, but saw last time and was not sure what it was, I could now identify. Killdeer.

Next stop, the canopy walkway.

Three levels to go when I took a photo of a swallowtail kite.

A short trail loops through the hammock near the canopy walkway.

I biked to the car, 8.17 miles on the odometer. Returned my wilderness permit to the entrance station. Earlier in the day, when I was searching for the elusive channel, I thought, this means I'll see something later that I would not have seen other wise. In the kayak, I'm an optimist.

As I walked out of the building, several deer moved into the forest at the edge of the parking lot.
I had not see any until now.

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