It was pretty easy deciding which place I wanted to share first. I have a lot of favorites, but my absolute favorite is easily Corkscrew Swamp. Cypress swamps are my favorite, and this place has the largest old growth bald cypress forest in the world. It’s also home to one of the largest nesting colonies of endangered wood storks in the U.S.
Roseate spoonbills, egrets, and other wading birds also like it there. You should hear this place during songbird migration! The woods are filled with hundreds of little birdy voices singing a sweet melody all year long, but it’s especially amazing during migration in September and April. If you’re into birding, this is the place to be! You’ll also see plenty of alligators, lizards, turtles, and snakes. There are otters that live here too, but I’ve only seen them once.
There’s a nice boardwalk that takes you through two and a half miles of mostly shady forest. It does get very hot there though! One day last summer, the “feels like” temperature was 107 degrees. and the shade was very much welcome on that day. I have a little fan I wear around my neck for days like that. It’s not exactly a super cool fashion statement, but it really helps! It probably goes without saying, but if you go on a warm day, even in winter, bring bug spray. You’ll definitely need it.
Corkscrew Swamp also does a lot for conservation. From their website:
“Conservation is at the heart of Corkscrew’s mission. For over a century, Audubon has worked to protect and restore the America’s Everglades. Famous for its abundance of bird life, the Everglades has faced many challenges. From the murder of Audubon Warden Guy Bradley by plume hunters as he fought to protect some of the Everglades’ iconic species, to the nearly devastating changes from the Twentieth Century efforts to ditch, dike, and drain the watershed for development and agriculture, Audubon has led an unprecedented ecological intervention. And the staff at Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary are at the forefront of this mission.
Land managers, field biologists, hydrologists, citizen scientists, students, and volunteers work thousands of hours each year in the Corkscrew backcountry to help us understand this vital ecosystem. These dedicated individuals work throughout the ecosystem to ensure that sound science underpins plans for Everglades restoration.”
Check out their website for more information on their conservation goals: http://corkscrew.audubon.org/conservation
I hope you’ll take a trip to Naples to check this place out. I promise you will not regret it!
Location: 375 Sanctuary Road, Naples, Florida 34120
Hours: 7am-5:30pm, seven days a week
Parking: Easy and free, with a large parking lot that always has spaces available, even when it’s busy.
Admission: Adult: $14
Full-time college student with photo ID: $6
National Audubon Society member with membership card: $10
Student (6-18 years old): $4
Children under 6: free
They also have “Friends of Corkscrew” memberships available for varying prices from $75, which allows unlimited visits for a year. Details here.
Restrooms: Clean, indoors, and air conditioned.
Food: They have a small cafe with pizza and such. There are also snacks in the gift shop, like juice and granola bars.
Best time to go: Birds are very active first thing in the morning, but so are the people. I prefer to go around 2pm when it’s quiet. It takes a good two hours to walk the boardwalk if you’re taking your time. The birds become more active again in late afternoon, but not as much as they are in the morning. You’ll still see plenty, but it will be less crowded.
Tips: Bring water, sunscreen, and bug spray. There are places to sit in the shade, but they’re pretty spaced out. During rainy season, bring an umbrella. Covered areas are few and far between. Be sure to come visit when the ghost orchid is in bloom! It’s one of the largest ghost orchid plants in the world! It is far from the boardwalk though, so you won’t get a super awesome view of it unless they have a scope set up, which they usually do when it’s in bloom.