Naples, Fla. 34120
Finding a piece of Florida exactly as it was when the first Europeans stepped foot on its shores is probably a forelorn hope. Even the most pristine places have plants and animals living within their confines that aren't supposed to be there. Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, however, comes pretty darn close. It is large, and it is wild. It is a place where the age of trees is measured in centuries rather than mere decades.
Corkscrew is unusual in several regards. For one, it is privately owned, operated by the National Audubon Society. It covers 13,000 acres, including 700 acres of bald cypress swamp, the largest stand of virgin bald cypress forest in the world. It is home to the largest nesting colony of wood storks in the U.S. It also provides habitat for a number of endangered plants and animals, including the Florida panther, gopher tortoise, Big Cypress fox squirrel, Florida black bear and the ghost orchid.
More numbers: more than 700 species of plants, 29 of which are listed as endangered. Seven distinct habitats, including bald cypress swamp, pond cypress swamp, wet prairie, pine flatwoods, marsh, lettuce lakes and oak hammock.
It's the kind of place where you might encounter pretty near every type of creature Florida has to offer. It is a gem among gems.
We've been there during the warmer months; we've been there in cooler months. Like any place, what you'll see will vary with the season. In the cooler months, Corkscrew reveals more of itself as the cypress drops their needles and other vegetation dies back. Birds are easier to spot. In the warmer months, vegetation shrouds much of Corkscrew, but more wildflowers will be in bloom.
The boardwalk is 2.25 miles, and wanders through a variety of wet habitats — swamp, marsh, cypress forest and wet prairie. The boardwalk is well elevated, but encounters with a few animals are possible. Corkscrew also has a shop, interpretive center and café. Hours are 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Admission: $14 for adults and includes a second visit the next day. Plan at least two hours, preferably longer, for your visit.
Note during the pandemic, Corkscrew has required guests to make reservations to tour the boardwalk. Walkups were not being admitted, and no admissions after 1 p.m.. Check the website (link above) for further updates regarding admissions, etc.
For a pdf map of Corkscrew, click here. For a list of plants found in Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, check the Institute for Regional Conservation. For information on birding, check the Great Florida Birding Trail. Take our Virtual Tour.