Out of Town Paddling – Sarasota County, FL

I thought I would write about one of the places we have paddled when we have visited Danny’s grandparents in Florida. We are always looking for close to home (grandma’s home) things to do when we are visiting in Venice, FL, which is located in Sarasota County, on the Gulf, south of Tampa.

Twice we have canoed at Oscar Scherer State Park. This is a nice state park, with a canoe livery and canoeing and kayaking on South Creek.  Oscar Scherer State Park is located in Osprey, FL.  I think it only cost $6 per hour to rent a canoe.  It costs $5 to get into the park.  The “livery” is actually you rent the canoe at the park office and they give you a key to the canoe and you put in where they are stored.  It is a nice flatwater paddle.  We went with our son alone and a second time with Danny and his cousin, Isabella.  We saw lots of turtles. It is a very quiet place to paddle.  One time we were paddling in a mild rain and the other time we had better weather.

After paddling, there is a small, well shaded playground to play in. This is always a plus at this age. (Last time we had a 5 and 6 year old with us.)

I thought I would mention a second place to paddle in Sarasota County. We have actually not canoed there. We considered it, but chose to take the air boat tour instead.  Myakka River State Park is located in Sarasota, FL.  It is a much bigger park than Oscar Scherer and has much more to offer.  We were in Florida a week when it had been raining for 2 weeks.  We were able to take the air boat ride between storms.  We really wanted to do the canopy walk. It is a 30-40 minute walk that goes into the tops of the trees on a suspended walkway. When we got there it turns out it is not all on a boardwalk, some of it is along trails which were underwater by 1 foot the week we were there. This is  unusual. And had we known there was water to walk through, we would have worn our water shoes, but me in my new pair of leather tennis shoes and my husband in his only pair of tennis shoes with him and our son in his main tennis shoes, this was not going to happen. We were also with family who wore flip flops and ballet flats, so not the footwear for water walking.

They offer canoeing but it is $20/ hour for the first hour and $5 per hour after that.  So it is much more expensive than Oscar Scherer State Park.  I guess it is so much more expensive because it is an outfitter which offers the boats, not the park itself.  But that outfitter has a store, (actually 2 stores) and a grill cafe.  There are picnic tables, under shade. We picnicked in the picnic pavilion, where we were joined by some very aggressive squirrels.  We noticed a bird of prey during our lunch and also noticed that all the squirrels stopped moving when the bird of prey was around. I’m not sure, he may have gotten one of the squirrels.  We didn’t get a good look at the bird, not that anyone knew enough to identify the bird, but it may have been a hawk.  We didn’t know what a hawk sounded like but decided to start sounding “Caw, Caw” to see if we could get rid of the squirrels.  Well, it worked, as long as someone was yelling “Caw, Caw”, the squirrels stood still and didn’t approach us.  That is how we solved the problem of aggressive squirrels while eating lunch.

As for the canoeing; the river is wide and really big.  There are American alligators in the river. In fact we went on the air boat tour and that is mainly what the boat captain/tour guide was steering us towards. We did not see any alligators up close.  I think he said there were about 500-1000 alligators in the park.  That didn’t seem like very many considering the size of the park, but still he did caution us from going in certain areas where the babies are staying with their moms.

In the summer, the best time to see alligators is on the 10:00 am boat tour. We couldn’t find half of our party which drove in a second car, so we missed that tour and took the 11:30 am tour.  That being said, if you are canoeing and are concerned about seeing alligators — as in you don’t want to see them, then go in the hot part of the day in the summer.  In the summer it gets too hot for them and they stay on the bottom to stay cool.  I imagine that it is the exact opposite in the winter.

We will definitely be going back to Myakka River State Park. It offers an over ground trip in an open air bus when it is not the rainy season, (mid-December – the end of May).  When we were there, most of the land trails were underwater.  Myakka River State Park is a river and two lakes.  During this especially rainy weather, the lakes were much bigger and the river was much wider than it normally is.  That was good for an air boat tour, as we were able to get to places which would not normally have enough water to boat.  But obviously, all this water made it hard to hike on the trails.

They even have bike rentals there, that may be something to do next time we are there.  So if you find yourself south of Tampa, looking for some canoeing or other outdoor adventure, look into Oscar Scherer State Park and Myakka River State Park.

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