Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Naples
A mere fifteen miles from I-75 exit 111 is one of the greatest nature preserves in Florida; the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. The forest at Corkscrew is the largest remaining old growth Bald Cypress forests in North America. You might have quickly read over that without really appreciating what that means especially Southwest Florida. The forest at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is a special place and so very rare that it represents less than 2% of the cypress forest that was once known. The preservation of this stand of five-hundred year old trees has conserved quite a special area for naturists, both novice and experienced, to see a sliver of what old Florida was before the logging companies tore through in the 1940-50’s.
Audubon volunteers are a valuable asset to the sanctuary and often help visitors locate and identify the plants and animals along the way. I’ve been to the boardwalk when telescopes were trained on particular species of birds and small signs were on the boardwalk railings telling visitors which animal, bird or flowers were just a few steps away.There’s about thirteen-thousand acres that make up Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. It’s a marvel of history, nature preserve and an education outpost. One of the most notable features is the two mile wooden boardwalk which has been carefully woven through the cypress preserve. This boardwalk takes visitors into the belly of the forest, through the swamp, across prairies and within inches of some of the most spectacular plants and animals of the Everglades.
It’s not uncommon to see any number of the over two-hundred plus species of birds plus dozens of reptiles and mammals. It is not possible to visit and not see something remarkable. You’re probably even guaranteed a gator sighting. If you visit at the right time of the year you may even be blessed to lay your eyes on the famous “super ghost orchid”.
On my last visit, summer was on the way so there were brilliant, red swamp hibiscus and button bush in blossom everywhere. The flowers had attracted many varieties of butterflies, including hundreds of the rare Ruddy Daggerwing. Butterflies were everywhere we looked and even landing on us. The water in the ponds was still low from the long, dry winter so fishing was good for a few of the resident alligators and a fine collection of wading birds.
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is a place that everyone in the family can enjoy. The elevated boardwalk is mostly in the shade so it’s cooler than you may imagine, even with summer temperatures returning. There are plenty of benches for rest along the way especially near the ponds so you can watch the birds feeding and the alligators and turtles sun.
When your boardwalk tour is complete be sure to visit the gift shop to cool off and pick up books about Florida nature. There is also the swamp theater you can visit both before and after the boardwalk tour. It is a fifteen minute presentation of the daily and annual cycles of the swamp complete with bird, reptile and predator sounds so you’ll recognize what you hear in the sanctuary.
The facility is open daily so it will be easy for you to find time to visit. To learn more about Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, visit: www.corkscrew.audubon.org. Happy trails … and boardwalks!
*Special to Southwest Spotlight*