The Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is about 30 miles east of Naples, and is an incredibly accessible way to view the Everglades ecosystem. The 2.5 mile walk along elevated boardwalks takes you through “pine flatwoods, wet prairie, around a marsh, and finally into the largest old growth Bald Cypress forest in North America”. There is an abundance of wildlife to observe, and plenty of spots along the way to sit in the shade and enjoy the birdsong. Morning is considered to be the peak time to view the many species of birds in particular, but I visited with friends during midday and we found it full of life.
Just past the visitors center and as you begin the boardwalk loop, a blackboard serves as a daily testimony to the wildlife seen that day. It’s a wonderful reminder as you begin your walk that if you pay attention, you may well be treated to both common (raccoon) and dramatic (water moccasin, alligator) sightings. Southern Florida is experiencing a moderate drought right now, so during the first part of our walk, my friends were explaining where the water line normally is, and it was alarming to see how far from the norm things are right now. The rainy season in Florida is during the summer months, so there is widespread hope for a very rainy summer this year.
Audubon implies birds, and there are many to see here. A hawk was there to greet us right at the entrance, and another red shouldered hawk was enjoying a meal of a frog as we came to the end of the walk. In between, there were finches, tufted titmice, and a variety of interesting water birds congregated in the substantially smaller than normal lettuce pond area. It’s Florida though, so searching for alligators is always on the itinerary and we found three large adults. I never would have spotted two of them without the help of my friend Dick, who recently moved to the area and has been going through naturalist training as part of his preparation for search and rescue missions with the Civil Air Patrol. Dick was able to find them by searching for their leathery exteriors, or just a hint of their spiny backs. This one was on the far side of the pond and I only saw him clearly by blowing up a photo I took with a 300 mm zoom lens. The adult female that we found in clear sight appeared to be wearing her Easter bonnet early, and was surrounded by baby alligators that added to the excitement of watching her.
The swamp was filled with interesting shapes and textures in the forest, and my friend Deanna, who is a talented painter, pointed out several interesting lines in the trees that I wouldn’t have noticed without her drawing attention to them.
It was such a treat to spend the day with dear and longtime friends, especially after traveling alone for the past couple of weeks, and as I realized how their perspectives were helping me to see even more of what this beautiful sanctuary had to offer, I felt a lot of gratitude for the fun and thoughtful company of friends.
Overall Impression: I loved this place! If you are in the area it is well worth the trip, especially if you want to get a feel for the Everglades without heading all the way down to the National Park. It’s very accessible and an easy walk through mostly shaded areas.
Cost for the day:
Admission: Free, but places like this are run on donations and volunteers so if you go, please be sure to contribute something! Memberships, a few bucks in the donation box, or buying something from the terrific selection of items in the gift shop all count!
Meals: We stopped at Jason’s Deli back in Naples, which is a regional chain. They made me an awesome reuben on gluten free bread for only $13.32, including a drink and chips.