Corkscrew Swamp isn’t a swamp for all the cork from my wine drinking.
Mr. Cottage and I along with Father Cottage took a vacation back in the fall of 2016, we journeyed to South West Florida. During our time there, we went on a day trip, just east of Naples, to The Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp. A magical place indeed. I could only hope to capture some of this incredible beauty with my camera. So if you will indulge me today, I will share a photo heavy post of some of that special day.
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary occupies approximately 13,000 acres in the heart of the Corkscrew Watershed in Southwest Florida, part of the Western Everglades. It is primarily composed of wetlands. These include the largest remaining virgin bald cypress forest in the world (approximately 700 acres), which is the site of the largest nesting colony of Federally Endangered Wood Storks in the nation. In addition to the wood stork, Corkscrew provides important habitat for numerous other Federal and State listed species, including the Florida Panther, American Alligator, Gopher Tortoise, Florida Sandhill Crane, Limpkin, Roseate Spoonbill, Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron, White Ibis, Big Cypress Fox Squirrel and the Florida Black Bear. Several rare plants are also found here, most notably the Ghost Orchid. The rare orchid was blooming while we were there, unfortunately, I did not get to see it.
A 2.5-mile boardwalk meanders through pine flatwood, wet prairie, around a marsh and finally into the largest old growth Bald Cypress forest in North America. These impressive trees, relatives of the redwood, tower 130 feet into the sky and have a girth of 25 feet. Their massive branches are draped with mosses, lichens, bromeliads and ferns. The forest is also home to hundreds of alligators, otters, white-tailed deer and red-bellied turtles. A wide variety of wading birds, songbirds, raptors and the fabulous Painted Bunting.
Cypress leaves are delicate and lacy.
In 1800’s, it was highly fashionable for ladies to wear plumes from egrets and other wading birds. This fashion craze caused the plumes to become quite valuable and hunters could make a lot of money hunting birds. Hunters destroyed entire breeding colonies. The Audubon Society was formed by citizens that were concerned for these birds. They lobbied legislators to stop plume hunting. The society also raised funds to pay local residents to enforce the new laws. These deputized citizens camped in the swamps during nesting seasons. Three of these wardens were murdered while trying to protect the birds. No one was ever convicted of their murders. Plume hunting was eventually stopped in 1917, due to Audubon’s campaign to stop this slaughter. This was the beginning of Audubon’s commitment to conservation of birds, land, and wildlife in America and Corkscrew Swamp.
Pine Snags are dead pines – which play an important role in this ecosystem.
Father Cottage engages some of the Audubon volunteers in conversation. As a retired forester, Dad is in tree heaven here.
The way the swamp and water changes is amazing. In some places, the water is so clear you can see straight to the bottom. In other areas, it looks black.
Here the water is almost completely covered in Water Fern – it almost looks like grass.
In this photo, you can see some of the cypress knees. Cypress knees are cone-shaped and slow-growing above the high watermark, their purpose is to stabilize the giant trees.
Strangler Fig – often thought to be vines growing on a host tree. Strangler figs can grow like a normal tree from the ground up; they also may start high up in another tree and send roots down to the ground.
Old Man’s Beard – lichen
White Peacock Butterfly
Southeastern Lubber Grasshopper – we don’t have grasshoppers like this back home in Virginia.
Air Plants Twelve species of air plants are seen along the boardwalk. Each one is related to the pineapple. All of them are epiphytes or plants that grow on other plants without the aid of soil. They are not parasites and do not harm the host tree.
The boardwalk is 2.5 miles long. On this visit, we walked about half of that distance. I look forward to many more visits to this wonderful place and completing the entire loop. I hope you enjoyed the walk with me.
Thank you for being here today.