Friday, February 21, 2020

Florida Day 3 Continued: Myakka River Tram Ride

My sister on the tram

After the chilly boat ride on Lake Myakka, my sister and TQ and I met up with my folks and Belle the dog. The three of us had reservations for the 2:30 tram ride (no dogs allowed on either the boat or the tram, so my folks weren't participating in those), but after a quick discussion we decided to change to the 12:30 tour, so we wouldn't have to keep a close eye on the time over lunch and birdwatching. One definite bonus to visiting the Myakka River State Park on such a chilly day - it may have meant most the lake alligators had said "See you later", but it was definitely easier to get on the tours you wanted. If you're ever visiting this park on a nicer day, you definitely need to get there early to get on those.

We'd been there exactly one week too early for the tram the year before, and my folks were disappointed because they'd really enjoyed that on earlier visits to their Florida friends. I'm not sure why our timing changed this year but again, this was a bonus to that. This park is one of Florida's largest, hhere's a lot to see and a variety of beautiful Florida environments. Our tour guide knew so much about the various areas she took us through, and she did a great job of taking the local history and biology and weaving it into a well-imagined story of what you would have found here and done here if you were an early settler.

She also found us more alligators - we drove into a Wilderness Area (with a sign with multiple warnings and rules and also vultures circling hopefully overhead) and shortly found ourselves in a sheltered swampy area. This turned out to be a popular nursery for the mother alligators, who are very protective of their babies and take very good care of them.

We also saw one deer - TQ was able to get a photo of her with his phone, I was still fumbling with my zoom lens when she left, but here was TQ's photo.

Before we went into the wilderness area, we drove past a floodplain - dry in the wintertime, it floods in the spring and there's a beautiful explosion of flowers. After the alligators, we drove on through woods and prairie, learning about saw palmettoes (which will cut you up if you run through them) and sabal palms (whose hearts are edible, nicknamed "swamp cabbage", and from what the guide was saying, pretty yummy), and the lichens and air plants that carpeted the bark of the trees, and the wildlife for whom this is home (our guide pointed out a pig trap, and we'd seen some pigs during the boat ride - pigs were brought to Florida by the Spanish explorers in the 1500's and thrived; the park has to work very hard to keep them under control). Even the Spanish moss dangling from the trees got into the story, as harvesting the stuff was one way of making a living in this area. Cattle also provided a livelihood, and in fact before the park became a park it had been a ranch - you can read a short history at the website I linked to in the first paragraph.

I'm so glad we got to do this this time, it was a very interesting tour by a very knowledgeable local.

Note later: It's bothering me as I think about this post how there's no mention of the people who lived here before the Europeans came. The nature of the tour guide's narrative wasn't a complete history lecture, she was focusing on what it would have been like to be a certain person living here at a certain time - but to add in that older history, this was originally the territory of the Calusa

All photos after this - click on any of them for a slide show view.


songbird's crazy world said...

Swamp Ape?

Great photos

Alana said...

I only had limited time in Sarasota on my January visit. Hopefully, next year, a lot more time. It's been about 45 years since we visited Myakka (tried to camp there; were driven out by hoards of mosquitos - in November!) My husband would love that tram ride and all the gators you saw! Next time we are not driving through on the Interstate - we are stopping.