We saw in a little guidebook (picked up at the public library book sale for $1) that if you were visiting Naples, Florida – Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary was well worth seeing. We planned a brief stop there on our way to Sanibel Island. But we had underestimated Corkscrew. It may look close to Naples, FL on a map, but it isn’t (we drove there in an hour and half over a back road). We thought its 2.25 mile boardwalk looked short, but it isn’t (we managed to walk so slowly it took 3 hr. to complete).
The reward was this: it is a gem of a place. We had taken a real slog of a 5 mile hike a few days before (that was really more difficult than we would have imagined) on a trail that went from palm forest to hardwood to marsh. We were clueless as to what we were seeing and distracted by the oozing mud underfoot and the scratches from the brushy trail. All was revealed at Corkscrew and our questions were answered. The National Audubon Society has done a terrific job of designing and operating this sanctuary.
We walked in ease on an environmentally friendly boardwalk, reading interpretive panels, and being as quiet as we could to see what we might observe. We knew already that we were passing through an ancient bald cypress forest.
The boardwalk led us through open meadow and it was there we saw a red shouldered hawk fly to her nest and palm warblers flitting towards a stand of trees. The marsh was teeming with wildlife: alligator, raccoon and at least a dozen species of birds observed from our bench on the boardwalk. A scope set up by the park staff revealed a barred owl on a nearby tree. Without the scope we never would have noticed – the owl was so perfectly camouflaged.
We had planned to arrive in Sanibel mid-afternoon and instead, crossed the causeway to the island in the dark, late for dinner. Our visit to Corkscrew Swamp was definitely worth a delayed arrival.
P.S. Two new things we learned on the trail: cypress knees and tillansia.