Bike & Hike / Birding / Southwest Florida

Naples Bird Rookery Swamp: It’s a beaut for hiking, biking, wildlife

Corkscrew Bird Rookery Swamp Trail passes through wetlands full of cypress and red maple trees.

Corkscrew Bird Rookery Swamp Trail passes through wetlands full of cypress and red maple trees.

NAPLES — Few South Floria hiking or biking trails rival Bird Rookery Swamp Trail near Naples for scenery and wildlife. It’s a beaut; the relatively new trail deserves to be known outside the Naples area.

I had been to Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary many times and have always loved it. But I did not know about this 12 mile trail on adjacent land, a few miles south, which opened in 2011.

The 12-mile Corkscrew Bird Rookery Swamp Trail is popular with bicyclists on hyprid or mountain bikes.

The 12-mile Corkscrew Bird Rookery Swamp Trail is popular with bicyclists on hyprid or mountain bikes.

What makes the Bird Rookery Swamp Trail so good?

  • It’s free. It’s owned and managed by the South Florida Water Management District as part of CREW, the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed.

    Corkscrew Bird Rookery Swamp Trail has excellent signage.

    Corkscrew Bird Rookery Swamp Trail has excellent signage.

  • It’s a great trail for fat-tire bikes. The trail, following a roadway built for cypress logging 50 years ago, is a wide grass path above the water level, so it is rarely muddy. It is a wonderful surface for walking. Bicyclists who passed us on our 8-mile hike raved about it as a mountain-bike or hybrid-bike trail. (Some said it was a challenge due to occasional soft ground; all agreed the scenery made it worth the trouble.)

    Young gators were plentiful in February at Corkscrew Bird Rookery Swamp Trail.

    Young gators were plentiful in February at Corkscrew Bird Rookery Swamp Trail.

  • It’s 12 miles long, but you don’t have to go the whole way. That’s a great length for bicycles and means hikers can make a day of it and go as far as they’d like. Those who want a shorter hike can enjoy a quarter-mile-long wooden boardwalk that starts about a block from the parking lot. At the end of the boardwalk is a pretty section of trail that features deeper ponds (and a huge gator on our visit.) Many families with strollers or less mobile members were using this first section of the trail.
Pond full of baby gators at Corkscrew Bird Rookery Swamp Trail .

Pond full of baby gators at Corkscrew Bird Rookery Swamp Trail .

  • It is full of wildlife. We saw dozens of gators, some sunning on the pathway so close we gingerly walked around them, some in ponds alongside the trail, including one pond with 13 baby gators about 18 inches long, some piled atop each other. Visitors have seen deer, bobcats, otters, black bear and even Florida panthers. (This is prime panther habitat.)
There are 12 miles of trails at Corkscrew Bird Rookery Swamp Trail.

There are 12 miles of trails at Corkscrew Bird Rookery Swamp Trail.

  • The birding is excellent. Even before we started the hike, the pond next to the parking lot had a woodstork, great white egret and a tricolor heron. Along the way, we saw hawks, big pileated woodpeckers, kingfishers and the whole range of Everglades wading birds. Better birders probably would have identified many songbirds and barred owls are often seen too.
    Good birding at Corkscrew Bird Rookery Swamp Trail.

    Good birding at Corkscrew Bird Rookery Swamp Trail.

    This lichen is often called Christmas tree lichen. Seen at Corkscrew Bird Rookery Swamp Trail.

    This lichen is often called Christmas tree lichen. Seen at Corkscrew Bird Rookery Swamp Trail.

  • The cypress swamp is exquisite. Most of the trail is lined with forested wetland dominated by bald cypress and red maples trees. The trees are full of airplants; the water is clear with duckweed and water lettuce. It is the best of pure natural Florida.

    Visitors walked gingerly around this gator at Corkscrew Bird .ookery Swamp Trail

    Visitors walked gingerly around this gator at Corkscrew Bird Rookery Swamp Trail

  • It’s quiet. I love a trail where all I hear are birds and nature – no road sounds, no power tools.
  • The trail is very well-marked with excellent signage.

I will return to CREW to try its other trails, which include the 5.5 mile Marsh Trail and six  miles of Cypress Dome Trails.

Clearly, this facility is a hiker’s dream, with enough options to warrant repeat visits.

Visiting Bird Rookery Swamp Trail

Address: 1295 Shady Hollow Blvd. West, Naples. CREW Trust: 239-657-2253.

Guided walks: CREW offers aschedule of guided walks in winter.

Hours: The trail is open sunrise to sunset seven days a week.

Amenities: There is a portable toilet in the parking lot and benches and a few picnic tables along the trail.

Directions: From I-75, take exit 111, Immokalee Road, CR 846, and head east. Follow that road as it curves north and watch for Shady Hollow Boulevard, where you’ll turn left.  From Alligator Alley, exit on SR 29 west and take a left on Oil Well Road, taking you east. Turn right on Immokalee Road and head north until Shady Hollow Boulevard, where you turn left.

 

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Things to do west of Naples

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2 Comments

  1. Just went to Corkscrew two weekends ago, wish I would have seen this post before, went to Panther Refuge Trail after. This one looks much better. Next time!

  2. Hey Bonnie,

    Such a great article, I am glad you had a great time at Bird Rookery Swamp! There is so much abundance and diversity there, a great view of true Southwest FL. I work out at CREW as their environmental education specialist. My only comment is the title, CREW has no official affiliation with Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, so its only Bird Rookery Swamp with our “corkscrew”. I would love to take you out on the other trails for a guided hike. Look forward to your next post.

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