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  • Writer's pictureDan Wagner

Explore Deep Hole in Florida's Myakka River State Park

Located close to the western edge of one of Florida's oldest state parks lies a true hidden treasure of the state. Unless you're a local, chances are slim you'll stumble upon it. Deep Hole, within Myakka River State Park, is a colossal sinkhole, 300 feet wide and 130 feet deep, partially submerged by Lower Myakka Lake. It stands as one of the prime spots in North America to witness wild alligators up close. During Florida's dry season, typically from October to May, you can spot hundreds of alligators basking along the sandy north shore of the sinkhole, sometimes catching birds or wild boars for a meal. The pictures of Deep Hole are stunning, but experiencing it firsthand is truly extraordinary. As frequent travelers to Sarasota, we've had the opportunity of experiencing Deep Hole on more than one occasion. Here's the lowdown on how to plan your visit.

Myakka Deep Hole

Trailhead elevation 12'

Water None

Don't miss Keeping an eye out for wild boars that roam the grasslands

Hiking to Deep Hole

Make your way to the Myakka River State Park Ranger Station, ensuring you enter through the park's southern entrance along SR-72, as the northern entrance along SR-780 is frequently closed. The park issues only 30 permits daily, so arriving when the park opens at 8 AM is crucial. Permits are bundled with the nominal park entrance fee. Upon reaching the ranger station near the park's entrance, you'll be provided with a hang tag permit to display in your vehicle, a trail map, and the gate code leading to the Deep Hole parking area and trailhead, located approximately a mile west on Lower Lake Court off SR-72.

Myakka River State Park Deep Hole map

A notice at the trailhead cautions hikers about the potential presence of alligators in the vicinity, although encountering one before reaching Deep Hole is highly unlikely. The sandy trail near the beginning of the hike is bordered by live oak trees draped with Spanish moss, offering patches of shade that are seldom encountered along the trek.

Myakka Deep Hole

Shortly after, the terrain transitions to vast dry prairie, an endangered ecosystem exclusive to Florida unfolds. From this point onward until Deep Hole, shade is practically non-existent, so bear that in mind and prepare accordingly, especially during the summer season.

Myakka Deep Hole

The dry prairie is home to wild boars, so keep your eyes peeled for opportunities to catch a glimpse of them. During our last visit, we saw a large adult boar crossing the trail just thirty feet ahead of us.

The two-mile (one way) trail is mostly unmarked but relatively straightforward to navigate. The only divergence in the trail occurs around 1.8 miles into the hike. At this point, both paths lead to Deep Hole, but for safety and conservation reasons, it's advisable to take the right fork. The left path brings hikers uncomfortably close to alligator habitats. Upon veering right, you'll traverse a section of the trail bordered by dead hardwoods, likely inhabited by sunbathing turkey vultures. Continuing forward, you'll enter a shaded area with the Myakka River coming into view.

Myakka Deep Hole

After exiting the shaded area, you'll find yourself close to the Myakka River's bank. Here, you'll turn left and track alongside the river until you reach Deep Hole, approximately 100 yards ahead. The photograph below was taken during our last excursion, three months after Hurricane Ian struck the Gulf Coast in September 2022. Normally, the shoreline, which was submerged when the picture was taken, is teeming with alligators. However, due to the flooding, the shoreline wasn't visible, resulting in far fewer gators than usual.

Myakka Deep Hole

On a typical sunny afternoon in November or December, you can anticipate encountering a hundred or more alligators sprawled along the shore. The image below, taken in 2020, depicts an ordinary day at Deep Hole.

Myakka Deep Hole

Upon reaching Deep Hole, it's helpful to note that you'll be facing east. Therefore, if you plan to take photographs, your best window is midday or later, when the sun is high enough not to interfere with your shots.

The park remains open until sunset every day of the year, and it's mandatory to return your hang tag permit to the ranger station before closing time. Myakka River State Park offers a multitude of activities, allowing you to easily spend an entire day there. The William S Boylston Nature Trail, featuring a canopy walk and observation tower, is very popular and definitely worth exploring. Additionally, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding along the Myakka River, tram and boat tours, and observing alligators from the Alligator Bridge are fantastic experiences within the park. If you have more time to spare and don't mind the journey to Lido Key, we highly recommend kayaking through the mangrove tunnels there as well.

1 Comment

Feb 25

So many gators! Deep hole is a bad place to throw a stick in the water for your lab to retrieve!

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