A Crown Jewel: Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
Jun 25, 2018 08:00AM
Palm Warbler. Photo courtesy of Rod “R.J.” Wiley.
Gallery: Cape Outdoors - July-August 2018 [5 Images] Click any image to expand.
Corkscrew’s diversity and vitality rely on its hydroperiods—sustained periods during which storm water is being stored and the soil is otherwise waterlogged. Wetlands store and filter pollutants from water as it makes its way into underground aquifers or toward local tributaries and estuaries. They help prevent flooding and provide habitat for an array of wildlife. In the summer, the wet prairies are full of reproducing fish that live in the dense grasses and vegetation, foraging for algae and insects. These fish are part of the ecosystem’s intricate food web.
Keep an eye out for blooming beauties, such as the scarlet hibiscus. “Corkscrew is a gallery forest with 500- and 600-year-old bald cypresses loaded with epiphytes and orchids, including our famous super ghost orchid. People travel from all over the world to see that,” says Lauritsen. It is perched high in a tree, with a spotting scoop trained on it for visitors to see. They are rare and endangered and have been the target of poachers but “given this location, it is something we can show off,” he says.
Most ghost orchids have one bloom; the super ghost orchid has had up to 19 at once. The orchids may bloom two or three times a year; their schedules depend on the vagaries of climate conditions.
Volunteer boardwalk naturalist Sandy Hollenhorst of Bonita Springs enjoys seeing visitors’ faces light up when she points out a camouflaged barred owl or young birds fledgling from their nests. They react with “a sense of awe and appreciation for the beauty of nature. Every time you go out, you see something different,” she says.
Saving an Unparalleled Natural Resource
Today, the sanctuary encompasses more than 13,000 acres, with the 2.25-mile boardwalk and the Blair Audubon Center—dubbed “the crown jewel” of Audubon environmental centers.
The Corkscrew Watershed is part of the Western Everglades and still home to the nation’s largest nesting colony of federally endangered wood storks. The watershed also is connected to the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve and Delnor-Wiggins State Park, and the Estero, Imperial and Cocohatchee rivers along the way.
If You Go
Hours: The boardwalk is open daily from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., 365 days of the year.
Admission: $14 for adults, $6 for college students with photo ID, students 6-18 are $4, and children under 6 are free. (Entrance fees cover two consecutive days of admission.)
Directions: 375 Sanctuary Road W., northeast of Naples, 15 miles from I-75 on Immokalee Road (Exit 111); 239-348-9151; corkscrew.audubon.org