Sarasota has long been defined by its ultra-white sandy beaches and glittering sunsets. But just nine miles east of I-75, you’ll find an environment just as beautiful, an enormous swath of primal Florida that’s alluring, exotic—and sometimes savage.

Established in the 1930s, Myakka River State Park is Florida’s largest state park, sprawling over 58 square miles. Its 37,000 acres of unspoiled wetlands, prairies, hammocks and pinelands teem with plant and animal life. The Wild and Scenic Myakka River runs through the park, its dark tannic waters flowing through bottomland swamp and freshwater marsh and spilling into lakes and sinkholes. Alligators, turtles and cottonmouths swim in the river. Herons, cranes and limpkins strut through its shallows, feeding in the muck. In the rainy season, the river rises and floods large swaths of the park; in the dry months, it shrinks and wildlife again lines its banks.

Let's take a look inside.

 

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