Construction on Corkscrew’s 2.25-mile boardwalk began in 1955—not long before efforts began to monitor water quality and bird populations. (Courtesy Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary/ Rod Riley)

Retrospective


Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

Collier County residents came together to create this 13,000-acre preserve that captures the essence of Old Florida.

On a calm, clear morning, birders, visitors and volunteers stroll the boardwalk at Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, stopping to take in views of towering bald cypress trees, patiently waiting for the perfect photo of Florida wildlife or training their binoculars to see which bucket-list bird is perched nearby. The 13,000-acre, privately owned Naples preserve is home to 17 wading bird species, most famously the formerly endangered wood stork. The birds’ nesting success each year is closely monitored and their population is an indicator of the health of the wetlands. The wood stork features prominently in the story of the sanctuary today, but, more than a century ago, it was a different story starring a very different bird. In the early 1900s, towering hats festooned with feathers were in fashion. Colonies of birds were hunted for their plumage, including great egrets that nested in the Corkscrew Swamp. “The recognition that the birds needed to be protected is a key point in history,” Sanctuary director Lisa Korte, Ph.D., explains. One of the strengths of the National Audubon Society, she adds, is that it not only focused on wildlife protection, but also helped feather consumers to understand their impact on the bird colonies.  In 1905, the National Audubon Society was founded in an effort to protect all birds, including the colonies
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