A bald eagle perched on a snag, a Florida panther stalking through the forest, and a great horned owl surveying pine needle-littered sand for a tasty meal—animals you are guaranteed to see if you come to Myakka; that is, as long as you take a trip to the Visitor Center. Located across from the Ranger Station off S.R. 72, it’s the best place to go to plan your day at Myakka River State Park.

These animals, preserved by taxidermy, are displayed in real-life habitats complete with photographic backdrops that make you feel as if you are looking out a window into one of the park’s natural communities. The pine flatwoods and marsh displays depict shy creatures you are less likely to encounter, such as an otter and a rail. Look carefully and you’ll discover tiny critters, like frogs and hummingbirds, that are difficult to spot. The displays seem to challenge you to “name that animal!” Don’t worry, the answers are all there in the picture keys if you get stumped.

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