~Old growth cypress trees, Audubon Corkscrew Swamp SanctuaryLong before our waters were impaired, our state’s most stately trees were cut for timber. But in Collier County a portion of Florida’s original old growth bald cypress forest remains. Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary boardwalk allows access into this majestic place considered the world’s largest old growth bald cypress forest. Amazing!
On Saturday, February 26, 2022, two of my “oldest” friends, Nic Mader, and Cristina Maldonado, and I, drove south below Lake Okeechobee and then west. This tour includes other destinations, but for this post, I will focus on Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. The sanctuary includes wet prairie, pond cypress, bald cypress and a sprawling central marsh. These photos are from the bald cypress section. The giants were just growing their fernlike, delicate leaves, some were bare.
As mentioned, Florida’s once glorious forests were raped and pillaged mostly in the years after the Civil War, the 30s, and post World War II. These ancient natural resources built the county at the expense of lost habitat, displaced wildlife, and certainly laid the groundwork for the the degradation of our waters. I can’t image seeing what was done then today!
Thankfully, some small portions are remaining. Corkscrew is one of them. Although bald cypress are dated to live 1700 years or older, the remaining trees in Corkscrew are estimated to be a “mere” 500 to 700 years old! Looking up Nic, Cristina and I almost toppled over, the trees’ branches reaching to Heaven, beautifully decorated by Mother Nature’s ornaments: bromeliads, lichens, mosses, and strangely shaped, draping strangler-figs.
“I feel young here!” noted Cristina. We laughed!
Young or old, unfortunately, the story of this swamp gets even bloodier. The plume trade also existed in this region. Local rookeries, because of the money attached to the trade of ladies hats, led ruthless plume hunters deep into the swamp. Hundreds of thousands of gorgeous wading birds, often with chicks, were slaughtered. This of course is what brought Audubon to action. Audubon realized that even thought so much was already lost; they must now fight not just to save the birds, but also the birds’ habitat. And thus today, we have Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Ending with more good news, Nic, Cristina and I saw an incredible number of birds in the sanctuary! Great Egrets, Blue Herons, Night Herons, Little Blue Herons, White Herons, Red Tail Hawks, Tri-Colored Herons, Pileated Woodpeckers and even a non-forgettable fast, circle-flying, click-sounding, Kingfisher that flew inches over the alligators!
My favorite part was when Nic said incredulously: “Is this like an old Florida post card or what?” She was spot on. Like an old Florida post card come alive!