Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary – Audubon’s Crown Jewel
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is owned and operated by the Audubon Society. Through protection and education a pristine wilderness area dating back more than 500 years survives to teach us the importance of this living ecological organism for now and the future. A 2.25 mile long boardwalk winds its way through a lush and primitive habitat within the largest ancient bald cypress tree stand in North America. Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is considered by some to the Crown Jewel of the Aububon Sanctuaries. In the drier spring months, the swamp’s two ‘lettuce lakes’ become shallower and concentrate prey for wildlife. While we visited on a cool, foggy winter day and found the atmosphere alive with the musical song of various birds including the haunting cries of the Red Shouldered Hawk, in the spring the lettuce lakes become quite a competitive feeding ground and offers an experience not to be missed. Sounds carry through the tall trees which only enhances the magic as you try to identify the source of bird song or rat-a-tat-tat of the woodpecker! The musicality, the stillness, the dripping vines and the filtered light open a portal into another time. The sanctuary brochure tells us that the Audubon Society’s first encounter with Corkscrew was in 1912 when wardens were sent out to save egrets from the plume hunters getting feathery adornments for ladies’ hats..the fashion of the day. Audubon bought this land parcel in the 1950’s in order to protect the ancient cypress forest from loggers.
The selection of photographs that follows only gives a hint of the diversity of the swamp and only reflects a single leisurely walk through in the winter time. As I have found with many of the parks and refuges, every trip is an adventure rich with new discoveries. Every time!! My first encounter this visit was with the glittering dew laden spider webs described in the previous post, but then the rest of the story:
A Map of the Corkscrew Swamp Location Near Naples, Florida
Early in our day with the morning fog filtering color and light. This observation post shows the boardwalk has been accepted as its own by the swamp as it is covered with lichens like the living trees and blends in perfectly.
Colors of the cypress forest muted pleasantly by the diffusing fog.
Red Shouldered Hawk observes his domain from his perch high in the cypress trees. Generally the presence of the Red Shouldered Hawk indicates a tall forest with water nearby. Their haunting, evocative screams and calls pierce quiet and allude to time immemorial.
The Red Shouldered Hawk flew over me when I was taking a different picture and alighted nearly above me. These are my first pictures of one and I did not realize how dark their eyes were and how they looked for all the world to me like pitted ripe olives!! That doesn’t detract from their gaze being as penetrating as their cries. Truly!!
I do not know if this tree is dead, not at all. But, the condition of the top did remind me of the signs present in the sanctuary that dead trees are left standing as they are habitats for many lifeforms.
The craftsmen who built the boardwalk truly earned that reference. I have never seen a finer made boardwalk, everything perfectly mitered and lined up in every way. I liked the very methodical way the path wound through the sanctuary and how they shaped the wood around various trees as you see in the center of the shot. The swamp may claim it as its own but it is a fine work of man to have facilitated this experience for so many.
Yellow Rat Snake – We had company on the boardwalk. Didn’t stay to chat though, just slithered to the other side and down.
The majesty of ancient trees!
Strangler fig roots are seen wrapped around the trunks of host trees throughout the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. While they may look like vines wrapping the trees, they are actually roots of the Ficus aurea or Florida Strangler Fig which begins growth from a dispersed seed. Seed germination takes place in the canopy of the host tree and the seedling lives as an epiphyte until the roots find their way down to make contact with the ground. The strangler fig then enlarges, strangles the host tree and can become a free standing tree on its own.
Unbelievably green fern carpets the sanctuary floor contrasting with the greys and browns of the trees….and the boardwalk.
Yellow Crowned Night Heron at Lettuce Lake
Lettuce Lake, Corkscrew Swamp -The water is all flatness and reflection now but later in the year these lettuce lakes are choked with lettuce like aquatic plants from which they get the name.
I loved scenes like this one with the soft but bright diffused lighting in the trees and the sunlit green ferns, shadows and patches of blue sky in the watery layers. It is quite simply beautiful!
Any time of year is wonderful to visit and support this magical swamp sanctuary. We can see how John James Audubon himself fell in love with the woods and was compelled to draw its wonder.As Ever, Judy