Oscar Scherer may not be as well-known and recognized as Myakka River State Park, but this plot of natural Florida spanning more than 2 square miles offers something for every visitor.
The park offers miles of trails and creeks leading to Lake Osprey. Explore the parks more than 15 eco-recreation activities including swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, fishing, camping, hiking, biking and camping. Pets are allowed in the park’s campground and visitor recreation areas, so long as they are kept on a six-foot leash at all times.
The scrubby flatwoods of Oscar Scherer state park are well known as a pristine habitat for Florida scrub jays, a threatened species of birds found only in Florida. The park is excellent for bird watching and other wildlife viewing, which includes bobcats, bald eagles, gopher tortoises, white-tailed deer, eastern cottontail rabbits, American alligators and more. While appreciating the wildlife, please remember not to harm, harass or feed animals of any kind.
One will find events nearly every weekend, including concerts, festivals and tram tours taking visitors through the park with knowledgeable park rangers. Another fun regular event is the guided night paddle undefined a gentle water-tour guided by park staff through the fragile estuarine mangrove habitat of South Creek.
During some resource management work in 1986, shell scatter sites were discovered in the southern portions of the park. These sites were the remains of campsites used by Native Americans who paddled up South Creek to hunt in the woods.
In the early 20th century, turpentine processing was an economic activity in the area. When turpentine processing ceased around 1925, the Burrows family used the land for ranching and farming.
Elsa Scherer Burrows left the family’s 460-acre South Creek Ranch to the state in memory of her father, Oscar Scherer, who invented the process for dyeing shoe leather. In 1956, the park was open to the public.
Oscar Scherer has a very active community of volunteers who publish informational material, lead bird walks and nature strolls, present outreach program, maintain and improve hiking trails and campsites and much more. Last year alone, the friends of Oscar Scherer Park volunteered more than 26,000 hours of service to the park.
One of Florida’s oldest and most diverse state parks lies on the eastern edge of Sarasota County, just a short drive from the area’s scenic beaches. Myakka River State Park, named for the Myakka River-- the state's only "Florida Wild and Scenic River," is the ideal place to commune with nature. Nearly 57 square miles of hiking, biking, bird-watching, camping and more await nature-lovers.
Wildlife, Canoeing and Airboat Rides
Birding aficionados often arrive at the cover of dawn to catch sightings of rare Florida birds co-mingling with lounging alligators. Visitors preferring to see wildlife from a comfortable distance can board Florida’s only covered airboat for a narrated tour of the Upper Myakka Lake. Powered by air, the boat gently glides across the freshwater lake providing ample opportunities to spot alligators, birds and fish. Renting a canoe or kayak allows visitors to get up-close-and-personal views of wildlife, often just inches away from their vessel.
Discover unspoiled vistas of nature by boat. A boat launching area makes fishing the freshwaters in the park popular. Anglers can also cast a line from bridges and platforms or wade into the water’s edge. Fish include gar, bass, sunfish and more.
Hiking and Biking
There is more to do out of water. Climb 25 feet high and trek across the canopy walk to discover a tranquil and sprawling view of the park or look for native plant species along the boardwalk stretching over the Upper Myakka Lake. Don shoes and hike nearly 40 miles of loop hiking trails of dry prairie land intermittent with a variety of native trees providing canopies of shade. Discover seven miles of paved trails on two wheels with affordable bicycle rentals.
Visitors are welcome for the day or can stay overnight. Three campgrounds offer 90 campsites ranging from primitive setups to wooden cabins for individuals, groups and families. All campsites are within close proximity to hot water and a variety of equipment is allowed.
The park hosts activities and events throughout the year. Popular are the Moon Concerts on the full moon each month and “Take a Walk on the Wild Side,” guided tours.
For more information visit, http://www.myakkariver.org/ or to plan a Sarasota eco adventure visit www.VisitSarasota.org.