Cork Screw Swamp Sanctuary on Florida’s West Coast contains numerous wetland eco-zones that remain undisturbed from pine lands to cypress swamps.
The modern day visitor can experience Florida the way it looked when Ponce De Leon first set foot there in the early 1500s by going to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, maintained and operated by the National Audubon Society. It is slightly inland between Fort Myers and Naples on the West Coast of Florida and occupies 11,000 acres of wilderness. Alligators, black snakes, turtles,herons, and mosquito fish abound. This small piece of wilderness contains a variety of wetland forests that are mystical and alluring.
Swamp Forests and Wet Prairies Intermingle
The visitor should expect to see a variety of wetland forests including pine lands consisting of slash pine and saw palmetto with a few scattered cabbage palms. Dense stands of cypress growing right out of the wet swamps are yet another part of this sanctuary. It is in the cypress swamps that the visitor can see cypress knees or “breathers” growing up out of the clear and slowly moving water. Adventurers have the luxury of a mile-long boardwalk that allows them to walk without getting wet from pine lands to wet prairies to cypress swamps. Along this walkway, they can see things up close.
In between the pine lands and cypress stands are swaths of wet prairie where a full view of the the Florida sky looms above. The wet prairie is a land without trees consisting of grasses and sedges. It is a great place to view wood storks, egrets, and circling red-shouldered hawks. The wet prairie lies at the heart of the sanctuary and makes for a great place to relax and enjoy the open space.
The pine lands section of the sanctuary is a great place to see epiphytes hanging from the trunks of trees looking like air pineapples. It is here that “hammocks” or clumps of broad-leaved trees grow more densely and taller in the center giving an appearance of islands. In the midst of the hammocks grow varieties of wetland vegetation including resurrection ferns and swamp maples.
Cypress Wetlands Are Home to a Variety of Fascinating Birds
The cypress wetlands with flowing waters form a perfect environment for mosquito fish, small alligators, turtles and swamp lilies. Blue herons go hunting for insects atop the swamp lily pads by spreading their three toes to maintain balance. Their delicate movement is sheer poetry. They are patient and very slow moving and usually succeed in catching a squirming insect. All the while, cardinals chirp in the distance. The visitor just might hear the rapid tapping of the pileated woodpecker deep within the swamp. Strangler figs wrap their way, like a corkscrew, around taller cypress trees that are bedecked with strands of dangling Spanish moss.
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is truly a great place to spend the day exploring a land alive with mystery and beauty where the visitor can forget the pressures of daily life in a pressure-cooker economy.
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary: A Self-Guided Tour of the Boardwalk (Naples, Florida, 1991)..
Marjory Stoneman Douglas, The Everglades: River of Grass (Sarasota, Florida, 1997).