Not to be confused with Myakka River State Park, this is the 9000 acre Myakka River State Forest about 20 miles downstream from the State Park and eight miles from the Gulf of Mexico. The facility is only 17 miles north of Sue’s parents in Port Charlotte. We had often seen the sign saying “turn here” at River Road and US 41 but never had. Their website showed 20 campsites so we thought we would check it out.
Our stay here was just two nights and was really an experiment to see if we liked “primitive” camping (no water or electricity at the campsite, no bathroom, just a porta-john a quarter of a mile away) and, after installing the new refrigerator, to see how much energy we would use from our 12v battery in two days so we could have a baseline to estimate how long we could camp off-the-grid.
We learned that our fresh water tank and battery hold enough of their respective commodities to last us four, maybe five days. The only things we don’t have without shore power are heat and hot water. The weather was warm enough that we didn’t need heat and warm enough that our fresh water was probably 80 degrees by late afternoon so a shower was cool but not too bad. It’s easy to heat some water on the butane burner for dish washing. We also learned that if we park with the trailer pointing north the sun shines on the water tank side all day heating the water (a little bit) and the refrigerator side stays in the shade so the compressor runs less, using less precious battery power.
This experience was quite different from camping in a state park. The lack of utilities made hardly any difference at all but the solitude… Wow!
First of all it’s been very hard to find camp sites in state parks this winter. Probably a combination of a better economy and the polar vortex has brought more people south this year. So we pull into the state forest without a reservation and find 13 of the 20 sites available. And by the way, it’s $10 per night instead of $30. So far so good.
The best part is that the sites are huge – 300′ wide x all the way to the horizon! Plus the camp ground is set back from the road 1.3 miles and is roughly in the middle of the forest land so it’s very quiet and very dark at night. An occasional airplane or loud motorcycle was practically the only man-made noise. We got to the site about 1:00 PM and by dinner time only four other campers had driven past. I think one person walked by.
This was once a cattle ranch so it’s not heavily forested but rather mostly palmetto scrub with a healthy sprinkling of slash pine and palm trees here and there. The campsites are not carved out of the jungle as they often are at state parks but they are so big they are perfectly private. We could not see nor hear anyone else.
Our site (#7) was typical of the campground and surrounding landscape.
This is the road through the campground:
We spent the first afternoon enjoying the solitude, just sitting around reading and writing, walking for a couple of miles then dinner outdoors at the picnic table.
The next morning was equally strenuous then followed by lunch at Vino Loco and a walk on Englewood Beach. Dinner outdoors again with some excellent star gazing.
On our final day we followed one of the marked nature trails for a four mile hike (more of a leisurely stroll). Many parks have marked nature trails. Marked means a sign here and there giving the name of a tree or plant. This trail wins the “obvious” award with a sign pointing out ‘drainage ditch’. After lunch we packed up and drove 25 minutes back to Port Charlotte.
We really enjoyed the seclusion here. The location is very convenient , close to Sue’s parents and just five miles into Englewood with restaurants and shopping and eight miles to the beach, yet it feels like the middle of nowhere. We liked it so much we are coming back for a four night stay next week and are definitely going to check out more primitive camping spots.