Inflatable whitewater kayak Myakka River State Park’s 58 square miles of pristine wetlands, pine forests, and prairie also feature:
Canoe and inflatable whitewater kayak rentals
Hike-in primitive campgrounds or full facility family camping with kids
Biking and hiking trails (with bike rentals)
Guided airboat and tram tours
Wooden sky walk and lookout tower
Rustic pine log cabins
Canoeing and Fishing Kayak for Big Guys with Florida Alligators
Fishing kayak for big guys – The best part of Myakka River State Park is watching Florida alligators from the safety of a canoe or inflatable whitewater kayak. Some of the most adventurous and scenic canoeing and fishing kayak for big guys in Florida happen within Myakka River State Park where both the Upper Myakka Lake and 15 miles of Myakka River trails allow paddlers to see Florida alligators up close. Paddlers bring their own boats or rent them at the Myakka River Outpost boat ramp ($20 the first hour, $5 each additional hour). The ramp is opposite a small, sunny river bank where prehistoric Florida alligators sun themselves at a safe distance. For more adventurous alligator watchers, late fall and early winter are the perfect seasons for paddling alongside the Florida alligators as they move slowly in the chilly temperatures of November through February.
Full Facility Camping and Kids’ Programs
Families come to watch Florida alligators, and they stay overnight in Myakka River State Park’s five 1930’s-era cabins, or one of 76 full facility campsites that include electricity and fresh water. The campsites are packed pretty close together, but families who are camping with kids rarely stay near their tents for long. Myakka River State Park features unique educational programs for kids that include Ranger and Junior Ranger Programs that reward kids with an earned badge. Three full playgrounds and 37 miles of groomed nature trails give families and other Florida wildlife lovers plenty of natural habitat to explore. And kids can enjoy the tree-top catwalk that includes a long stairway climb up the unique 74-foot wooden tower where a panoramic view over Florida wetlands awaits.
Reservations for Camping and Watching Florida Alligators
Myakka River State Park is managed by the Florida State Park service. Other parks include Wekiva Springs State Park that is close to Orlando, Florida’s Disney World and Universal Studios, which may be more convenient for camping with kids who want theme park experiences as well. The cost to access Myakka River State Park’s campgrounds and paddling trails is $2-6 for the day. Overnight campsites are available for $26 per night ($5 for primitive campsites). Pine log cabins are $70 per night (and sleep 6 comfortably), and air boat or tram tours are $6-$12 per person. Spring and summer campers should check ahead to make sure periodic flooding does not ruin a planned trip. Fall and winter camper-paddlers can go ahead and make reservations at Myakka River State Park and enjoy the Florida alligator watching adventure of a lifetime.
Alexander Springs Campground
Here in Florida, we don’t get to enjoy the changing of the seasons like the majority of the country. The colors of leaves on the trees are pretty constant throughout the year, but then so are the temperatures. That moderate climate allows us to enjoy outdoor recreational activities almost year round. In the central part of the state, the Ocala National Forest is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts with a multitude of interests including, boating, canoeing, kayaking, camping, hiking, swimming, fishing, biking (as well as motorcycling and ATV’ing), scuba diving, snorkeling and water skiing. In the southeast corner of the 607 square mile forest lies Alexander Springs Campground, where my father-in-law and three brothers-in-law and I tent-camped this past weekend.
The Alexander Springs Campground is situated around Alexander Spring, a 200 foot wide pool that forms the headwater for the Alexander Creek. Water flows from a huge opening in the bottom of the pool at an average rate of 70 million gallons a day and is in a shallow enough area that the “boiling effect” can easily be seen from the surface. The water is crystal clear, which makes for some fantastic views for swimmers and snorkelers in the shallow portion and for scuba divers who venture into the deeper areas that are lush with underwater vegetation that merges into Alexander Creek. The spring alone is a premier example of the beauty of nature and the great outdoors.
Here are a few high points for campers and backpackers who want to experience Alexander Springs:
67 Campsites – The campground area is comprised of 4 “loops” which contain 67 campsites suitable for tents, pop-ups, and RV’s. There are no hook-ups (electric or water), but each site has a picnic table, grill, contained fire ring and lantern pole. Each campsite has a paved driveway and a raised tentpad. Only 2 vehicles (that can be slept in) per site are allowed and they must remain on the paved portion. Rangers drive around in golf carts all night and check. Extra vehicles must be parked in the overflow parking area near the entrance to the campground at a rate of $10 per night. Sites are shielded by brush and trees to afford a small amount of privacy, but there are also paths that cross through the back of some sites to allow easier access to the bath houses/restrooms.
Bath Houses/Restrooms – Each of the 4 loops have a bath house/restroom at their centers, allowing easy access for campers in those loops. Each one has separate male/female areas with toilet facilities, sinks and hot showers in each. Perhaps “hot” is being generous. The showers were more than lukewarm, but definitely not steaming hot. Still, they were welcome respites and much more enjoyable than the cold showers I have endured at some campgrounds. The bath house/restrooms also had a separate small room in between the men’s and women’s areas where campers could wash their cookware and utensils in a large industrial sized stainless steel sink. Sunday morning, after cooking pancakes and sausages for all of us, I stood outside that room with my 2 frying pans and 1 spatula for 15 minutes waiting on 2 women to finish washing the tub full of dishes they had brought down to the room. I think it was either their whole weekend’s worth of dishes or they were the designated dishwashers for a very large group of people.
Hiking/Backpacking – At the campground itself, there is a 1.08 mile trail that loops around one side on the spring called the Timucuan Indian Trail (“Ocala” is thought to be the Timucuan word for “fair land” or “big hammock”). I bypassed that trail on this trip because I had plans to hike a portion of the nearby Florida Scenic Trail up through the Ocala National Forest. I had the option of picking up a spur trail just outside the entrance to Alexander Springs Campground or hiking a half mile down County Road 445 to get on the trail. I chose to walk the half mile because the spur would have taken me in a longer circle to get to the same starting point and I was in a hurry because I got a late start Saturday morning. But I did get to hike about 3 1/2 miles up the trail to the north and then back the same distance before returning exhausted to the campsite in the early afternoon. You can read about that on my blog.
Alexander Springs Campground in the Ocala national Forest is a great place to camp, hike or backpack, as well as a place to enjoy a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities by yourself or with family and friends.
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