Myakka River State Park, Circa 1950

One of the first protected lands in our area, the park opened in 1942.

By Bethany Ritz May 18, 2023

Myakka River State Park, 17 miles east of Sarasota, Florida, is as popular during the winter months as during the summer. The park's scenic river, rendezvous of myriads of exotic birds, is a favorite subject for photographers." So says the note accompanying this photo—and indeed, the sky is bustling with as much visual intrigue as the landscape.

Myakka River State Park offers a reminder that it's not only development that has been embedded into Sarasota's present-day impulses, but acts of land preservation, too. Arthur Britton Edwards, Sarasota's first mayor, was a guiding force in preserving lands when he convinced the state of Florida to purchase the first 17,500 acres that make up Myakka River State Park.

Thanks to Edwards, the land was acquired by the state in 1934 and Myakka River State Park opened in 1942. Today, the park spans nearly 58 square miles. Even on the hottest days, a wildlife tour in a shaded boat offers a cooling breeze while passengers learn about the history and witness the beauty of the place—along with a few alligators along the shoreline. 

Today, the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast continues the tradition of Sarasota's hundred-year balancing act between development and the critical preservation of vital habitats with the nearby Myakka Headwaters Preserve, part of the growing Southwest Florida Wildlife Corridor.

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