Myakka River State Park and Oscar Scherer State Park
Posted by Bill True on
Sarasota is home to two of Florida's top rated state parks, Myakka River State Park and Oscar Scherer State Park.
Both parks have a long and vibrant history. While the parks differ greatly in size and amenities, both parks offer exciting and diverse activities.
Myakka River State Park is one of the biggest and oldest state parks in Florida today. In the 1920s, the city's first mayor, A.B.Edwards, decided he wanted to have land set aside, safe from over development and for usage as park lands. He partnered with the Sarasota Fresh Water Fish and Game Protection Association to address the Internal Improvement Fund and express his idea to them. The land was in foreclosure, and Edwards was able to convince the Internal Improvement Fund to buy 17,000 acres from A.C. Honore Palmer Estate. The Civilian Conservation Corps was brought in to help make the land functional. They started building the necessary bridges, roads, and cabins, and although the process necessitated the destruction of some native trees and vegetation, the Corps replaced all plant life that was removed during the construction.
In 1942 the Myakka River State Park first opened to the public. Now 70 years later, it is a popular destination for camping, canoeing, kayaking, picnicking and fishing, making good use of its nearly 60 acres of wetlands and forests. Myakka River State Park holds special events throughout the year, including campfire storytelling and guided nature walks; popular attractions include the Canopy Walk and exciting airboat tours. The park is famous for its many opportunities to view alligators up close and in their natural habitat, not to mention Florida bobcats and panthers. The bird viewing platform provides an exceptional vista frequented by eagles, great blue herons, egrets and more.
Oscar Scherer State Park was originally owned by Elsa Scherer Burrows and consisted of 460 acres of natural Florida land. Elsa Scherer died in 1955 and deeded the land to the state of Florida, in memory of her late father, Oscar Scherer. In 1956 Oscar Scherer State Park opened to the public; it is a popular place to camp, canoe, kayak, picnic and fish. Many acres of scrubby wooded trees provide for a rare opportunity to see the threatened scrub jay in its natural habitat. Oscar Scherer State Park offers guided canoe trips all year round (Wednesday mornings at 9:00am) and also offers guided walks through the park to learn about native birds and plants. Of special note is the fact that motorized boats are not allowed in park limits, but snorkeling in Lake Osprey is an interesting alternative.
In keeping with Florida's natural heritage and love of the outdoors, Oscar Scherer holds a celebration every year for Earth Day, the third Sunday in April.