Bike & Hike / Birding / Southwest Florida

Corkscrew Swamp in Naples: Explore via beautiful boardwalk

Corkscrew Sanctuary Naples hawk

This red shouldered hawk was right next to the Corkscrew Swamp boardwalk, clearly visible up close. It stayed calm and still while many visitors passed by and clicked cameras.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary: Hike exquisite cypress forest in Naples

NAPLES —  One of the most exquisite parcels of land that has been preserved for us in Florida is found about 15 miles east of Naples — the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.

The facility’s signage says its special because the endangered wood stork nests there and because it is the largest piece of ancient cypress forest preserved in Florida.

Corkscrew Sanctuary Naples Great Egret

Great egret at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples

But I think it’s special because walking its 2.25 mile boardwalk takes you into a green and liquid world where at every turn you see scenes so beautiful they could have been arranged by the world’s best floral designer. And, of course, they were.

I’ve visited Corkscrew Swamp both in winter and summer, and have found it to be a quiet place, where you can hear a rustle in the brush that signals a snake’s movement. On a recent visit, the air was filled with bird calls and butterflies.

My companion was an orchid lover who got goosebumps when he spotted the trees lush with airplants, resurrection ferns and birds nest ferns, to name only a few.

Wildflowers along boardwalk at Corkscrew Swamp, Naples, Florida

Wildflowers along boardwalk at Corkscrew Swamp.

Corkscrew’s boardwalk travels through a pine upland, a wet prairie, a cypress forest, and a marsh, and excellent interpretive signs help identify plants and ecosystems. For example, we were stunned by the profusion of maple trees with bright red leaves in the prairie. We learned their leaves are red when they first emerge in a sunny locale and turn green in the shade.

The National Audubon Society began its effort to save Corkscrew Swamp in 1912, when it hired wardens to protect egrets and other birds from plume hunters. (A shelter on the trail marks the spot where a plume hunter’s camp had been.)

Sixty years ago, this parcel, the last three miles of a bald cypress forest that once stretched 20 miles, was  owned by a lumber company and scheduled for logging. Local folks who loved this swamp — birders, photographers, garden clubs — raised $200,000 and the Audubon Society purchased it.

Corkscrew Sanctuary Naples star orchid

A Corkscrew volunteer stood on the boardwalk to point out this star orchid in a tree. You would have never spotted it without help!

The Corkscrew trail, largely shady, features benches and rain shelters along the way.  The Audubon Society offers many aids to enhance visits — a field guide,  a children’s activity book, free wheelchairs and strollers.

Every season brings special charms. In winter, birder travel from all over the world (I met a woman from Great Britain while there) to spot painted buntings and other species. In August, the very rare ghost orchid (famous from the Meryl Streep movie, Adaptation) blooms and can often be spotted.

Don’t be afraid of a summer visit. The boardwalk is largely shaded and the gambusia fish eat mosquito larva, so the bugs aren’t bad.

For those who do not wish to walk the full 2.25 miles, an optional trail shortens the walk to one mile.

Corkscrew Sanctuary Naples Christmas Wreath Lichen

This beautiful red lichen on the Corkscrew boardwalk railing is called Christmas wreath lichen.

If you read the many reviews on Tripadvisor.com, you’ll find the only visitors who didn’t love the place are those with high, unmet expectations for wildlife sightings.  My advice? Go for the trees and plants, and consider the wildlife a bonus.

Packing a picnic? There are tables under trees around the parking area and seating on the patio porch or inside next to a snack bar.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and Blair Audubon Center
375 Sanctuary Road West
Naples, FL 34120
239-348-9151

Admission: $14 for adults, $6 for full-time college student with photo ID, $4 for students 6 to 18 and free for kids under 6.

Hours:

  • October 1 through April 10: 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Related information:  The preserve’s website.

 

 

Things to do in Naples near Corkscrew Sanctuary

 

Updated March 2017

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2 Comments

  1. Maureen says:

    Is thereANY place to walk with your dog?

  2. Mary Morrison says:

    Do you have a “full moon” walk scheduled for Dec.? If so, I would like to reserve 7 tickets.

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