The flooding of Myakka River State Park is a normal this time of year. In my opinion, it’s one of the best times to visit and take photos. Most of the roads are just above the water so you can pull over and gaze out at the surreal landscape and reflections.
This is a photo of a scene I’m familiar with, but my past pictures didn’t convey it well. However, it seems that on this recent attempt I finally got it. The reflections create this mesmerizing spectacle alongside the road. It reminds me of Big Cypress National Preserve in the Everglades.
I mounted the camera on a tripod and used an aperture of f22 to get everything in focus. I also used a remote shutter release to reduce shake. However there was a lot of light, and with the Sony’s stabilization, the remote wasn’t necessary. Now I have several pictures just like this that I quite like. So I randomly chose this one to share today.
Here is a scenic section of road through Myakka State Park. It’s not too far from the campground, so it’s not uncommon to see cyclists and hikers.
Spanish moss hangs from the oaks all around this region. Where I live, we have oaks draped with it. Squirrels and bird use it for nests, and after a storm, enormous loads of it get blown to the ground.
There are several roads like this in the vicinity. I think they’re called canopy roads. There is one just outside the park that I’ve taken photos of a couple of times.
I’ve tried taking pictures of the oaks and moss near my home, but there are too many houses in the background, it’s not the same. So when I’m out and about in this area, I’m always on the lookout for these types of scenes.
The other day I was at Myakka River State Park to try out some experimental gear. I didn’t have a plan other than to line up a few landscape shots. As I sat on a bench working with the apparatus, a mama and baby Limpkin strolled by.
They were eating snails and clams. The snails were easy enough to catch and eat. The clams they would batter with their beaks to break open the shells. I was no more than six feet away and what I found surprising was that, as long as I remained still, they tolerated my presence.
There’s nothing better than to observe wild animals in their natural habitat. The baby Limkin was more wary of me, but the mother seemed to decide that it was more important to eat than worry about me. Or maybe she did both. Whatever the case, it was a rare privilege I’ll not soon forget.
Every now and then I need to get away from the urban chaos. I was feeling that and jumped in the car to drive here to Myakka River State Park. It was after a rainstorm; in summer, storms come almost daily. As the runoff overflowed the banks the scene resembled that of a jungle.
This is at a trailhead and I was standing on the path in about six inches of water. Beyond this, there is a path that parallels the creek. It was a few inches above the water, so I walked along it until I heard the telltale sound of a bullfrog, which in reality is a nearby alligator. I thought better of it and walked back to the car.
The reason I came here was to capture the lush vegetation and flowing water. The foreground grasses give a hint of the current as it overflowed the path. Also, the reflections create a natural symmetry that completes the scene. Speaking of reflections, I just created a little study of reflections here, be sure to check it out.
Open spaces in Florida are becoming urbanized, but I am thankful for protected parks like this where nature can still be experienced with just a short drive from home.
Clay Gully is a little creek in Myakka State Park. One of the claims to fame here is the alligator population, this is a sanctuary for the Florida reptiles. I’ve been here at this exact spot during the rainy season when the banks were flooded and the alligators were not just in the water, but along the path. However when I took this a couple of days ago they were all the alligators where in the water, it was a little less nerve wracking than the last time.
The green vegetation is very much like a jungle. As I walked along the path I could hear all kinds of animal noises from within the trees. Of course it only gets louder at night when many of the nocturnal creatures come out.
Spring is a relatively dry season here, but as summer approaches we get the afternoon showers and storms that keep these waterways alive and vibrant. This creek is full of fish as it opens into Myakka Lake where Eagles, Hawks and Osprey can catch as many fish as they like. Often enough the eagles will wait until an Osprey catches a fish and then swoop in and steal it. One of the benefits of being at the top of the avian food chain I suppose.
This is one of many boardwalks at Myakka River State Park. Along it you can view mostly birds but maybe the odd alligator as well. Just like everywhere else Florida is experiencing growth and urban sprawl and so places like this state park are protected sanctuaries for local and migratory wildlife. I posted something similar to this recently from the same location. I like how the palms frame the path as it leads out into the swamp. A simple composition of the Florida landscape without the beach.
About a month ago I took a jaunt to the jungles of Myakka River State Park about forty minutes away. It was after heavy rains and I was there to look for some new images. The atmosphere was absolutely AMAZING. Everything other than the roads was flooded. And throughout the whole park there was an eerie silence. Maybe because of the humidity that hung in the air, maybe because I seemed to be the only fool photographer in the park, I’m not sure. But from a photographic perspective it was spell binding. That, combined with the solitude was like a waypoint between two worlds. I took photos at various points and just before leaving I stopped at a trailhead near the park exit.
This image shows the path partially submerged as it led away from the road and reemerged only inches above the overflowing river. The water from the river overflowing the path had flattened the grasses as seen here. A mixture of fascination and curiosity got the best of me and I decided to follow it into the jungle.
It was eerily quiet, I was alone, and my senses became heightened. I could hear a twig snap two hundred yards off. My mind kept running through the risk verses reward argument as I wondered if I was crossing the line. It was perhaps a little risky; if I fell in the water it could be bad.
As the park is in central Florida, it is a sanctuary for alligators. Not just a few, five hundred or more in the lake and surrounding rivers, like the one I was following upstream. My idea was that I wanted to get that low angle perspective of the water in the flooded river and so was looking for a vantage clear of foreground obstacles along the bank of the river. I stopped a few times to still my breath and listen. I warily proceeded, slowly and alert, and then it happened. Out of nowhere I heard a splash in the forest perhaps thirty meters away.
The forest floor was covered in about a foot of water and whatever made that splash was substantial, …not a twig. Frozen, heartbeat elevated, I strained with my eyes and ears, peering into the shadowed thick forest for any signs of movement. Nothing. Determined, I continued at a much slower pace, looking for that bend in the river to set up. Then, I heard it, …the sound of a bullfrog. (Lesson break: for those of you not familiar, male alligators make a sound just like a bullfrog.) If you hear that sound, and you are home and not near a body of water, it’s probably a bullfrog, no need to put your drink down. If, on the other hand, you are in a state park that is an alligator sanctuary, and just had heavy rains, and the rivers are flooded then it maybe, just maybe it’s not a bullfrog. The difference between the two sounds is resonance. Bullfrogs are small. Large four hundred pound twelve foot long reptiles produce a deep resonance that cannot be produced by an animal the size of a fist. The sound I was now listening to had a wonderful resonance.
So, here I am, in the jungle, looking for a composition, faced with a decision, do I get my shot or get the hell outta Dodge. At this point I’m thinking that last bend in the river a few meters back might of had some overlooked potential. To continue walking upriver for a better bend might just be the equivalent of pizza delivery for reptiles. Therefore I walked back a few paces to the previous bend in the river and setup my tripod. I figured that as long as I could hear him, I was probably okay. It meant he was stationary (so I reasoned), I really have no clue. I was born and raised in California, I was a boy scout; I backpacked and hiked a lot, I feel at home in the mountains. Put me in the swamps and jungles of Florida and I’m no better than the next Wal-Mart shopper. Strike that, I’m probably worst because I don’t know what I don’t know.
So anyway, I composed the shot and captured the image above and just about that time my sanity came running along and caught up to me. Basically she asked what it was on Gods green earth did I think I was doing? The fact that I had to think a moment meant I didn’t have a good answer. So with sanity leading the way I made a hasty retreat to the trailhead and into the car. Well, not that hasty. Just before I climbed into the car I snapped this selfie.
I think this last bit of documentation was probably a fool’s errand. I half thought that a ranger would later find the phone and the selfie and my disappearance would be satisfactorily explained and the search called off. Fortunate for me that never occurred and despite my questionable decisions I lived to see another day.