Looking for a way to commune with nature, while learning a thing or two? Join a naturalist for a guided walk of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Beginning at 9: 30 a.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays through October 30, guests—up to 12 per walk—can experience the ancient cypress forest and swamp, protected and preserved by the National Audubon Society, along the expansive boardwalk on a one mile loop hike. The guided walk takes about 90 minutes, and takes guests through some of the sanctuaries unique ecosystems, including the old-growth bald cypress forest, lettuce lakes, pine thickets, and open scrub prairies. The early stroll is also a great opportunity for burgeoning birders to spot some feathered friends as they start their day. As part of the Atlantic Flyway and the Great Florida Birding Trail, there have been 200 documented bird species at Corkscrew, from raptors and wading birds to song and ducks (for the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Boardwalk Bird List [PDF], click here). And with the keen eye of the trained naturalist, guests will get a chance to spy them along the way, with the naturalist giving some insights into the bird species spotted and their importance to the local and regional habitat.
- The guided walk is free with regular park admission–$12 for adults, $4 for children. Space is limited to 12 visitors, and is on a first-come, first –served basis—arrive early and sign-up at the admissions desk. For more information, visit corkscrew.audubon.org/events/guided-walk-tuesdays-visitors.
Some of the bird photographs on display at R.J. Wiley’s exhibition.
After the guided walk, cool off in the Blair Audubon Center, located at the beginning of the sanctuary boardwalk, to get a dose of education and art. On display now is a collection of landscape, bird, and floral photographs from “Corkscrew’s Camera,” photographer R.J. Wiley. Named Audubon Florida’s Photographer of the Year in 2012, Wiley’s photographs have been published in magazines and newspapers throughout the country—including our own. Wiley’s work, which often takes him deep in the sanctuary, captures some truly awe-inspiring and mysterious moments in the swamp. Wiley’s work will be on display in Corkscrew’s Blair Audubon Center through September 30.
Landmark Cypress No. 4, Roosevelt
If you missed the opportunity to join Corkscrew’s guided walk, no worries, strike out on your own and visit the sanctuary’s Living Landmark trees. Along the 2.25-mile boardwalk, 12 very special trees are marked with bright yellow signs. These are the Landmark Cypresses. Each tree tells a unique story that helps weave the overarching history of the sanctuary together. From fires and storms to cavernous hollows and clinging epiphytes (air plants), each tree is a unique, towering example of primordial Florida. Along your self-guided walk, take a moment to explore each tree: there is much more than meets the eye if you take the time to look. And if you have kids in tow, make a game of it: see who can spot the most air plants, birds, or nests.
This self-guided hike will also give you an opportunity to visit one the boardwalk’s shining stars—the Super Ghost orchid. The largest ghost orchid ever discovered, it is a dynamic example of this exceedingly rare plant, producing more than a dozen blooms a year. What’s more, it can be seen from the boardwalk, albeit with a little luck and some binoculars. Located about a mile into the trek, near interpretive sign number seven, the “Super” ghost is about 100 feet away from the railing, some 50 feet in the tree.
The Super Ghost Orchid
Photo courtesy of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary/ R.J. Wiley
But wait, there’s more. Perched about 50 feet up in Landmark Cypress No. 5, Calusa, sits a smaller ghost orchid that usually produces one flower per year. The fact that these ghost orchids are so easily accessible to see, and that the super ghost is so prolific, makes Corkscrew somewhat of a pilgrimage for “Ghost Hunters” worldwide. Lucky for all you warm-weather hikers, summer is the best time of year to see the ghost orchids in bloom, as per the Corkscrew’s activity chart. In the summer of 2014, the super ghost had as many as 15 flowers in full bloom in early July. As of August 18, 2015 update, there were no buds or flowers, but keep checking Corkscrew’s activity chart, there is no telling when the Super Ghost will start blooming again.