Southwestern Florida is an ideal vacation destination for nature lovers. This region of the Gulf famously offers a mild winter climate, and easy access to lush nature preserves, white sand beaches, and Everglades airboat tours. Naples is a great base for exploring the region.
One must-do while vacationing in the vicinity is visiting the top rated Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, an important habitat for many endangered plant and animal species including Florida panthers and Wood Storks. Located just 30 minutes from Naples, this is the perfect daytrip destination when you tire of the beach.
History of the sanctuary
The 13,000 acre sanctuary sits at the Western gateway to the Everglades. The preserve was established to protect the largest remaining strand of bald cypress forest in North America. Natives were worried about losing all the cypress to the logging industry that was prevalent in the 40’s and 50s. Audubon began protecting the wading birds in 1905. In 1955, the first boardwalk was constructed. The name Corkscrew comes from a river which at one point flowed into the Gulf.
Today, this beautiful protected wetlands area is very popular with bird watchers. Bring your binoculars and be on the lookout for raptors, songbirds, and wading birds, which can all be seen year-round. Take a look at all the bird sightings since 1998.
In addition to over 200 bird species, turtles, alligators, otters, racoons, and Florida panthers also call the sanctuary home.
The Boardwalk Trail
The highlight here is a 2.5 mile long boardwalk trail. Corkscrew is a perfect choice for everyone as the trail is easy and well-maintained. You do not have to be a big fitness buff to enjoy a peaceful day out in nature observing birds and wildlife. There is also a shortcut trail for anyone who cannot complete the entire trek. However, the mysterious beauty of the forest will likely compel you to go further than you intended.
You will wind through numerous native habitats along the stroll including pine flatwoods, wet prairie, marshland, and the largest old growth bald cypress forest. On an interesting note, bald cypress trees are actually related to redwoods and can grow to be 130 feet tall. A stroll within the lush surroundings is very relaxing and peaceful even on the busiest of days. Corkscrew is a fantastic place to enjoy uninterrupted nature. Anyone who loves trees, birds, and the simple sights and sounds of nature should consider a visit.
Corkscrew is home to the largest population of wood storks. The threated species range is from Florida to North Carolina. Over 100,000 storks have been born here since opening. Corkscrew is considered the most productive colony.
The most common bird sightings within the preserve include Great Egrets, Little Blue Herons, White Ibis, and Turkey Vultures. Thirty four species of mammals also call the sanctuary home. The most common wildlife you may encounter will likely be an alligator, tortoise, or raccoon. Rarely, a Florida Black Bear, bobcat, or Florida panther make an appearance. Consider
yourself lucky if you come across one of these rare & beautiful animals.
Early morning is the best time to see wildlife in action. Visiting June through November (the warm, rainy season) will increase your odds of seeing gators. Typically, you will see these cold blooded creatures out basking in the sun during this time.
On your visit, we saw about 5 alligators including 2 baby gators. We also saw a turtle and numerous birds.
The entrance to this sanctuary is a bit steep at $17 per person, and worse, the price seems to go up every year. While there are many free preserves in Southwest Florida, it’s always great to know that your money goes towards supporting a good cause. Donations are also appreciated as they go towards protecting rare plant, bird, and animal life.
No walk in entry avilable. Check out the availability calendar to book your tickets online.