~Saturday, February 25, 2023~
Another swamp tour today but this time, instead of a bike trip, it was via a raised 2-½ mile boardwalk through a multi-layered wetland. The drive took us northeast of Naples, about 45 minutes from our campground. Being a Saturday, the parking lot was full. Lucky for us, we picked the perfect time with our noon arrival, as most people were ahead of us. Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is owned by the Audubon Society, whose mission is to conserve and restore natural habitat that affects all of the wildlife in this delicate region. Currently, there are over 500,000 members and 500 Audubon chapters nationwide.
With over 13,450 acres of wetland area in the heart of the Corkscrew Watershed (part of the Western Everglades), this particular sanctuary contains the largest remaining bald cypress forest in the world. But it is also an important habitat for animals and rare plant species alike. From the minute you exit the visitor center, you begin your exploring via a raised platform. This boardwalk is very special not only as a means to view the wildlife and beauty of the swamp, but in how it was built.
The Audubon Society built this particular boardwalk with a special tropical hardwood that requires no chemical treatment and is harvested in a sustainable way that helps preserve the Brazilian rainforest where it was grown. Very cool!
The further we walked, the more we could read the changes in landscape from more sparse vegetation to lush. In terms of the water levels (the lifeblood of the swamp), a 2-foot lower elevation causes water to flow in, creating a much different environment than the drier pine flatwoods. In this region, there is less water this time of year than the summers; opposite of what we would think. It would definitely be interesting to come back and see this in a different season. From the visitor center, the area is mostly Pine Flatwood forest, leading to Pond Cypress, then Bald Cypress (about 700 acres) with the Central Marsh area beyond that. Within each region live different plants and animals. In terms of trees and plants we noticed Sabal Palms, Saw Palmettos, Pond Cypress, Bald Cypress, Strangler Figs, a ton of air plants, an abundance of ferns, Old man’s Beard, and Pickerelweed. For animals, we were lucky enough to see a family of racoons and a juvenile alligator resting on a log (I couldn’t get a good shot of him), Anhingas (even one diving underneath the water to do a little fishing), Great Egrets, and White Ibis.
So beautiful watching these animals in their natural habitat gives us a wake-up call that we all need to do our part to protect their precious environment and the rest of the planet. But how do we do more than throw money at the cause? Each one of us can make a difference by doing little things such as planting native plant species that reduce water consumption, reduce pollution by walking or biking, conserve water use, and reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers. Did you know that Florida has lost 45% of its wetlands since 1845? That is startling. Our take away from touring these precious areas in Florida has really heightened our awareness overall, that we ALL need to do more. Wetlands are a critical part of our natural environment. Spread the word that the “Sunshine State” is not all about amusement parks and white sandy beaches. O.k…..I’m coming off my soapbox now, but hey, it’s my blog and I’m glad I have a platform to spread consciousness.
Now for some less important matters, though vital when it comes to quenching thirst. After our peaceful, relaxing tour, we got a little jazzed up with a few fun drinks and live music at Stan’s Idle Hour Restaurant which
was recommended to us by our kayak tour guide Lewis. We’ve heard of Marco Island which is actually only minutes from our campground, but we’d never heard of the little town of Goodland that is right before it. To get there, we crossed the locally famed Goger Bridge (formerly named the Goodland Bridge), dedicated to Goodland resident Stanley Russell Gober. Stanley, a long-time resident for more than 40 years, was an entertainer, humanitarian and owner of Stan’s Idle Hour. In fact, his establishment would put Goodland on the map. He supported many fundraising efforts for charities ranging from Hospice to members of the military as well as many local causes. So here we are celebrating Stanley along with everyone else. Evidently this is where the locals, not tourists hang out. So we were happy to oblige. We enjoyed a nice shady spot right next to the water (again). The Buzzard Rum Punch was delicious as we watched the many boats come and go to and from their temporary stop. The husband/wife team played mostly 70’s and 80’s music with she on acoustic bass and he on electric guitar. Apparently they come down from New Jersey for a few weeks every winter to entertain the locals and us tourists. A nice way to top off our day!
After all the fun and relaxation, it was time to kick things into gear for our departure tomorrow. First was a much needed bath for Sadie, especially after her time at the beach a few days ago. Her little “spa treatment” definitely reinvigorates her. Next, a few loads of laundry. Nice to have 3 washers at our campground and even better that they use credit cards than fiddling with quarter machines. Yes, it is a rare thing. Boy, this hot, humid climate certainly lends itself to more frequent days of laundry. While heading to pick up my last load in the dark, donning my trusty headlamp, I spotted a Barr Owl sitting on top of one of the dog station poles.
I was so close to him, that I felt the wind from his wings as he took off to a more private location. I guess doing laundry at night pays off!