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For a looong paddle to lunch in Venice, try Myakka River to Snook Haven

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myakkapaddlespeedAs usual, I underestimated the distance and overestimated our stamina. Five of us made what turned out to be a long paddle to lunch at Snook Haven Park on the Myakka River. When it was time to head back — upstream and against the wind — a couple of paddlers decided to wait for a ride instead.
In a perfect world, I would have anticipated that, and we could have left one of our vehicles at the restaurant. Ah, well.
The paddle back was tough. No coasting against the current, so we had to muscle our way around each bend in the Myakka. This was the kind of paddling day that leaves you with sore hands and a crick in your neck. It’s a good thing I ate so many sweet potato fries at lunch.

myakkapaddletiedyegatorLaunching off I-75
We started at the north end of Laurel Road at what’s called Venice Myakka River Park. This is tricky, because the name is easily confused with Myakka River State Park. Anyway, what a great spot.
First of all, it has beautifully shaded paths and benches for bird- and gator-watching. Second of all, it’s convenient to I-75, exit 195. Third of all — I don’t think we need a third of all.
There is one little thing, though.
The dock for launching kayaks is fine, but it’s a good 100 yards from the parking lot. Be prepared for the haul, especially if you’ve got little kids, older paddlers and lots of gear.
The trip down to Snook Haven is lovely, but it is several miles, and you do have the traffic noise of I-75.
For lots of people, a better trip might be upstream from Venice Myakka River Park. It’s pretty and quiet.
When you’re ready to turn back, you’re paddling with the current, so you can take it easy.

myakka snook haven mapMyakka’s Haven
For a lunch or dinner paddle, there’s Linger Lodge on the Braden River in Manatee County. Also the Nav-A-Gator on the Peace River in Charlotte County. We chose the Myakka River and Snook Haven, which was taken over by Sarasota County last year. People say the food and atmosphere are better, but I kind of miss the grungy old place.
For now, at least, you can’t rent canoes or kayaks at Snook Haven. That should change. If you’re coming from Venice Myakka River Park, you’ll paddle under a small bridge at Border Road and a larger one at I-75. This divides the trip into thirds, if that’s any help.
Scenery along the way includes massive oaks and thin palms growing sideways from the banks of the river. Turtles perch on logs and alligators rest on sandy banks. When a great blue heron swoops away, you can hear its powerful wings beat over the water. If you’re heading downstream, don’t get carried away. You’ll have to paddle against the current on your way back.

 

Interested?
Venice Myakka River Park, 7501 E. Laurel Road, is a convenient put-in for river paddling off I-75, exit. 195. At Snook Haven Park, 5000 E. River Road, paddlers can put in, get out or have lunch. 485-7221.
Last modified: January 9, 2014
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