Forests are like gigantic stands of lollipops. Since plant sugars are manufactured high overhead, organisms that depend on those sugars, such as insects and birds, are also far from the ground. Until recently, we did not know much about life in the treetops of the world’s forest because their canopies were difficult to reach. Now scientists can climb safely into the "high frontier" to discover some of its wonders.The Myakka Canopy Walkway provides easy access to observe life in the treetops of an oak/palm hammock. As an outdoor laboratory for research and education, it is a place for discovery and opportunity for visitors to Myakka to see its canopy inhabitants up close.
The walkway is suspended 25 feet above the ground and extends 85 feet through the hammock canopy. A tower soars 74 feet in the air to present a spectacular view of treetops, wetlands, and the prairie/hammock interface. Visitors can look down on eagles, hawks, vultures, and other birds in flight.
The walkway proved its practical value with a shocking discovery a few months after it opened. An exotic weevil from Central America (Metamasius callizona), accidentally released in Ft. Lauderdale about 1990, had arrived in southwestern Florida. Wherever the weevil invades, it decimates bromeliads. Myakka is providing valuable information that may, one day, stop the weevil.
The Myakka walkway is the result of a unique partnership among Selby Gardens, Friends of the Myakka River, TREE Foundation, and the Florida Park Service. The structure was completed and dedicated in June 2000.
For information about becoming a canopy guide at Myakka River State Park, please call 941-361-6512. To sponsor research and education efforts at the walkway site, contact TREE Foundation. You can also visit your local library or bookstore and read more about canopy ecology:
- Life in the Treetops, Margaret D. Lowman, 1999
- The High Frontier, Mark W. Moffett, 1993
- Life Above the Forest Floor, Donald Perry, 1986
Myakka River State Park is located on SR 72, nine miles east of I-75 in Sarasota, Florida.