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Myakka River State Park Boat Rides and Tram Tours: What to Expect

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One of the few thousand alligators that rule the roost at Myakka River State Park in Sarasota.

December 2022 update: After a closure due to Hurricane Ian damage, Myakka River State Park has now reopened for day use and camping, according to its website. Boat tours, cabins, and some other parts of the park remain closed. Check out the park website before you go for more information.

There are lots of cool reasons to visit Myakka River State Park in Sarasota–58 reasons, to be exact, with the park’s 58 square miles that cover wetlands, hammocks, prairies, and pinelands, according to a park brochure. Then there are the many animals you can see, from alligators (like, lots of them), birds, squirrels, turtles, deer, and more. Read our recent article on our other blog for more scoop on visiting Myakka River State Park. When you’re ready for something a little different beyond walking or biking at the park, we recommend you give a boat ride or a tram tour a try.

Each tour is about an hour and takes you to parts of the park you may not otherwise see. You’ll have a chance to see more wildlife and enjoy breezes (and perhaps some heat) as you let someone else educate you about the park’s wildlife and history. If you’ve spent any time hiking or biking around the park, the boat or tram tours can come as a welcome respite.

Here’s a little more information about the boat and tram tours at Myakka River State Park along with some tips for the best experience possible.

The Myakka River Queen seen from afar.

Myakka River State Park Boat Tours

Come aboard the Myakka River Queen to take in life along the Upper Myakka Lake. What you see will likely differ depending on the weather. Our last boat tour happened to be on a windy, cloudy day in late December, so we weren’t getting a sunny view with a ton of alligators. That said, we still saw gators as we left the docking area, and the captain then took us to the other side of the lake where alligators were congregating. You can scurry to the side with the best view to see gators or other wildlife, but tour captains will often navigate the boat and do a good job of making sure people on both sides can see things close up. The tour narration will fill you in on the wildlife at the park and the make.

The Myakka River Queen boat tour is covered overhead but open on the sides. Tours cost $20 + tax per person and $12 for children.

A view from the tram at Myakka State Park.

Myakka River State Park Tram Tours

During our recent visit to Myakka State Park, we realized that the boat tour appears to be better known than the tram tour–everyone coming to the ticket counter window was asking about the boat tours. So, let’s give a little more info about the tram tours to fill you in.

The tram tour will take you to an unpaved road of the park that’s much less traveled, and the captain (as they call the guide) will carefully maneuver the somewhat bumpy tram while filling you in on park facts and history through the loudspeaker. A few things we learned during the recent tram ride:

–There are about 4,000 alligators at Myakka State Park. On a hot day in the park, you’ll see about half of those sunning themselves. We’re kidding, of course. Maybe you’ll only see 1,000!

–The open areas of the park that are less traveled get about 100 lightning strikes a year.

–There are black bears in Florida and they have been spotted at Myakka Park, but only rarely. Your chances of running into a black bear are very slim.

–The land for Myakka River State Park was originally used and developed by cattle ranchers.

Bertha Palmer, a businesswoman from Chicago, purchased land that is now part of the park and introduced some modern farming approaches to Florida ranching. Certain areas of Sarasota carry on her namesake, such as the Palmer Ranch community.

One cool view from the tram. The open areas of the park get 100 lightning strikes each year.

The view you get on the tram tour is dependent on the time of year. For instance, there was an open field area that the captain said looks like a lake during the summer rainy season. If you’re taking the tram tour in May, you’ll be able to see the yellow wildflowers that amass in the park (you can still see these even without the tram tour as they grow along the side of the road toward the main park area). During the tram tour, you may also see the remnants of a prescribed burn, done every year or two in some parts of the park.

The weather and the time of year also will affect the wildlife you see. With the dry weather during our recent tour, the only animal we saw was vultures. Another time we visited a few years ago, we spotted a deer and turtles.

Like the boat tour, the tram tours are $20 + tax for adults and $12 for children through age 12. Children under age 3 are free.

In this view from the tram, you can see remnants of a prescribed burn that took place. Prescribed burns help to manage landscapes, according to the National Park Service.

6 Tips for the Boat Tour or Tram Tour at Myakka River State Park

  1. Call ahead to confirm that boat or tram tours are offered the day of your visit, if your heart is set on doing one of these tours. That’s because they can be very weather-dependent. During our recent tram visit, the boat tour wasn’t offered because the park was so dry, water levels in the lake were down and the boat was pretty much stuck in mud. Another time we visited, the tram tour wasn’t offered. Another reason to confirm tours: The boat tour schedule changes depending on the month, with the most tours offered from January to March.
  2. Tours are first come, first served.
  3. Bring something to drink or a small snack, but no alcohol. Someone commented on the idea of bringing alcohol to a morning tour on the tram. The ticket counter clerk’s response? “You’d be surprised,” she said.
  4. Leave your four-legged friends at home. Trust us, you don’t want Fido falling off the boat or a tram. Well-behaved pets are allowed on a six-foot leash at Myakka but aren’t allowed on tours, concession areas, in camping cabins, or in other buildings.
  5. Wear your sunscreen. Both the tram and boat tours are covered overhead, but a lot of sun can still peek through on the sides.
  6. Think about the best experience for the adults, teens, kids, or adults who act like kids in your group. The boat ride may hold most people’s attention better, but the tram tour is still something different and offers a lot of history in its narration….great for history and wildlife buffs. If you’re still not sure and you have a little time and money to burn, perhaps you could do both tours.
This cute deer was seen near the park entrance. Tour or no tour, there’s always plenty to see at Myakka River State Park.

Written by floridaculture

June 1, 2021 at 3:37 pm

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