If you have done much hiking, especially in marshy and wet areas, odds are you have hiked on a boardwalk or a wooden platform. Florida is well known for boardwalks at places like the Everglades, Fakahatchee Strand, and the Big Cypress. Isle Royale National Park in Michigan also has many platforms, so hiking on man-made wooden structures is not unique to the south. Perhaps my favorite planked walkway is the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary boardwalk.
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary boardwalk
The Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary boardwalk is one of the best boardwalk trails I have ever hiked on and a great Florida adventure. It is a 2.25 mile loop made entirely on a wooden platform above the swampy water below.
The Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is run by the Audubon Society and is located northeast of Naples. The sanctuary contains the largest remaining virgin bald cypress forest in the United States.
The day I visited the sanctuary was in a driving rain. It was not pouring, but a steady shower left the swamp almost devoid of people. After paying the $12.00 entrance fee, I proceeded to start the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Boardwalk Trail.
Corkscrew Swamp wildlife
There was a sign at the beginning of the trail with a marker where people could write the animals and birds they had seen on the trail. Barred owls, cottonmouth moccasions, Okeefenokee fishing spider, anhingas, alligators, wood storks, and painted buntings were some of the species noted that day.
There was a warning at the start that sometimes you share the walkway with the animals. At one point on the trail a raccoon was running toward me until it noticed me coming toward it and it hightailed it off the boardwalk into the tall grass. Other than this masked marauder, I saw no other species on the actual platform.
Corkscrew Swamp flora
Many people do not think of a marsh or swamp as beautiful, but Corkscrew Swamp is amazing. I would call it otherworldly as the flora is like something off of an Avatar set. Cypress trees and protruding cypress knees, ferns, saw palmettos, cabbage palms, strangler figs, bromeliads all make an appearance in the fascinating ecosystem. The greenness and lushness of the swamp is a dominant trait of the experience that really stands out.
The fauna is pretty spectacular here too. Due to the cold and rainy weather, I did not see a ton of wildlife. I did see some anhingas, egrets, wood storks, and a barred owl, but no alligators on the first day. I hiked around the boardwalk twice, and I had enough of the drizzling rain and cold although I enjoyed having this beautiful place to myself.
Make Corkscrew Swamp a multi-day adventure
The $12.00 entry fee is good for two days, so I decided to take them up on their offer and return the next day for more boardwalk hiking. Save that receipt if you want to return for back-to-back days. The next day was a 180 degree flip. It was warm and sunny and in the upper 70s. It gives you an opportunity to with hope, see some of the elusive animals you missed on the first day.
There were more people to contend with, but there was also more wildlife prevalent. A few alligators were spotted including one small one sticking his head out right under the boardwalk. The barred owl was out again, but this time he was in a tree only a foot away from the trail.
The park has a group of volunteers that hang out on the boardwalk and when an interesting wildlife species is spotted, they stay by the animal and alert hikers as they come by on the trail. There was a guide at the barred owl and at the alligator. The great thing about the boardwalk is you are walking on top of a very vibrant environment with many great opportunities to see wildlife.
Great family adventure
For this reason, Corkscrew Swamp is a great place to bring children. Hiking on the platform is completely safe, and 2.25 miles is a manageable distance for most families. There is no elevation gain as the boardwalk is as flat as a pancake. There is a shortcut boardwalk that allows people to only walk a mile if the 2.25 route is too much, so it is also a nice option for elderly folks who want to hike a mile and experience this beautiful area.
If you need a break from the beach when in southern Florida and want to see an alligator, some birds, and one of the most interesting ecosystems around, make sure you take a detour to the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary boardwalk empire.
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