CREW Announces 4th Saturday Summer Walks at Bird Rookery Swamp

The CREW Land & Water Trust is pleased to announce new 4th Saturday Guided Walks at the Bird Rookery Swamp this summer. 4th Saturday Walks at Bird Rookery Swamp are offered FREE of charge on the 4th Saturday of each month, May through August. Join CREW Land & Water Trust volunteer naturalists, George Luther and Bob Melin, for an entertaining and informative 2.5-hour guided walk on a portion of the CREW Bird Rookery Swamp trails near Naples, FL. 

Walks are open to the first 24 people who register. Walk-ins are welcome if space is available on the day of the walk. Registration for 4th Saturday Walks is online at

Bird Rookery Swamp Trail
Bird Rookery Swamp Trail


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Crouching Fawn Surprises Scouts

This past weekend Boy Scout Troop 11 got a real surprise while hiking the CREW Marsh Trails. Here’s what troop leader Jeff Dodd shared:

My group was out at CREW on Saturday backpacking. We stayed at the gate 3 campsite Saturday night. On the way to camp we were hiking along the Pop Ash Slough Trail and we came across a fawn standing in the trail. As it saw us approach it went into “stealth” mode crouching to get as flat as possible to the ground. Of course this little fella was right in the middle of the trail but I’m sure it thought it was hiding.

CrouchingFawn by JeffDodd
CrouchingFawn by JeffDodd

Fawns less than two weeks old usually crouch in place, rather than bolt away. It’s their way of “disappearing in place” because they are not quick enough yet to escape most predators. What a great sighting for this troop of scouts. Thanks to Jeff for sharing the story and the photo with us. And thanks for respecting the fawn and leaving it alone and safe!

If you have CREW wildlife sightings you’d like to share, please let us know so we can post them here for all to see.

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Mom Shares Her Family’s First Wet Walk Experience at CREW

Keri Harty
Keri Harty

A guest post by CREW visitor Keri Harty:

Even though I was afraid, I put my big girl pants on and decided that I couldn’t let my children miss this cool opportunity to see this treasure in our SWFL backyard.

… I now have firsthand knowledge of why everyone says that the trails are a MUST-DO during the rainy season. It was a totally different experience…You have to see it to understand it.

Dear CREW,

Thanks so much for asking about our recent trip and wet walk to the Marsh Trails! (Or making sure that we made it out alive….LOL!)

Keri's kids, brother, and sister-in-law
Keri’s kids, brother, and sister-in-law

We had A BLAST!!! I went with my 10 year old daughter, my 8 year old son, and my brother and sister-in-law. I decided to do the wet walk because my niece who is a FGCU student recently did the wet walk with her class and thought it was awesome. We have visited both the Cypress Dome Trails and the Marsh Trails many times in the winter and spring and have had wonderful adventures, but I was assured by my niece that I was missing an amazing and different world out there by only visiting during “dry” season.

Even though I was afraid, I put my big girl pants on and decided that I couldn’t let my children miss this cool opportunity to see this treasure in our SWFL backyard. I was actually going to go to Bass Pro and buy some camo pants to get myself psyched, but I decided my old jean shorts would do. J As we arrived at the wet part near the observation tower, even my brother and sister-in-law – who are very well traveled – asked if I was sure that it was safe to enter the small trail through the grass and swamp water. While the water is semi-clear in most spots, the sea of tall grass looks so ominous! I was thinking “Children of the Corn” only gator style. LOL!

I have to admit that I was very nervous in the water past the observation deck, but my brave little 8 year old son led the way with his big walking stick clearing all the webs made on the morning dew from the friendly spider residents and watching for anything suspect. (He dreams of being a herpetologist or Everglades scientist or guide, so this was right up his alley.) Since this is the end of the wet season, the highest the water ever got was mid-thigh, but that was CHEST high on my son. Was I a coward for allowing my precious boy to lead me on this adventure? Yes! However, I presented it to him that it was his very first guide through the Marsh Trails and he stood tall and felt very important. Most importantly, he did a great job pointing out the flora and fauna!

Among many other creatures, we saw the most beautiful beetle. It was black and had a top so colorful and sparkly that it looked like a Mardi Gras parade participant. The hawks were screeching above our heads and the frogs were singing around our feet. We interrupted at least 4 different black racer snakes sunning themselves on the trails and it was my sister-in-law (not me) who almost stepped on one and screamed so loud that all the vultures in the trees flew for their lives. My daughter and son tried to revive a dying dragonfly and unfortunately were unsuccessful, but it was a good opportunity to discuss the “Circle of Life” and yes I did start singing the song to lessen their pain.

We found many different kinds of scat. Yes, we were excited about finding poop. Who wouldn’t be? Some we assumed was deer due to the plants in it and some we assumed was maybe bobcat. (It had a lot of hair in it 🙂

We also hiked the Popash Trail, which we had never done before, and that was really awesome as well. We really only went that far back into the trails to find the geocaches, but I am so glad that we did because it was just beautiful. Although, it is also a little scary because it is so remote and the trail so narrow. It was thrilling! As our feet left imprints in the jet black mud, we saw so many paw prints of recent animal trails. Of course we thought they were all bear and panther and estimated each animal to be at least 700 pounds in size, but I am sure most were much smaller. We DID however see human foot prints that looked like someone was walking barefooted. It was very strange. So of course that added to the thrill as we and the children concluded that it was either someone with those toe shoes on OR the Skunk Ape. LOL!

keri harty familyAnyway, I now have firsthand knowledge of why everyone says that the trails are a MUST-DO during the rainy season. It was a totally different experience. Especially in the hustle and bustle of our extremely hectic and busy lives, it was as if we stepped out of time into a magical world that only we were a part of. You have to see it to understand it. Every single student in our county should have the opportunity to visit this jewel. Thank you so much for your encouragement and information to make our visit out there a success. If you get reports of a 40-year-old woman running around the trails with her children wildly laughing, don’t worry, it is just the Harty family back for a visit.

~Keri Harty, October 2013

Note: Many FGCU “Environmental Biology of SWFL” and other classes come to CREW for field trips each semester. Kudos to their instructors for exposing them to the wonders of this amazing watershed and teaching about the important ecosystem services it provides to all of us here in SW Florida. And special kudos to Keri’s niece for encouraging Keri to bring her family out for a wet walk to experience CREW in a whole new way!

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What Walks the Trails When You’re Not There?

If you’ve ever walked the CREW hiking trails, you know that sometimes you get to see animals like armadillos and bobcats and black racers – and sometimes you don’t. Yet, you know they are out there – wandering, feeding, sleeping, living their lives. If you’re observant, you can see signs of them everywhere in the form of tracks, scat, nests, and trails.

So, what really walks those hiking trails when we’re not there? Remote cameras are a great way to capture animal activity. One of our CREW volunteers deploys and monitors a remote camera out in CREW. The camera location changes with the seasons, and we often get some great shots of animals rarely seen by people. If you ever wondered what walks the trails when you’re not there, take a look at these shots captured recently…and then make plans to come visit a CREW trail soon.



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CREW Bird Rookery Swamp Trail

Physical Address: 1295 Shady Hollow Boulevard, Naples, FL 34120

Hours: One hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset

Trails/Facilities: Free – donations accepted, Open to public

Trail Information

The Bird Rookery Swamp Trail officially opened in July 2011. The Bird Rookery Swamp Trail offers 12 miles of hiking and biking trails, including a 1500-ft. boardwalk with wheelchair accessibility. A 1/4-mile crushed shell path leads to a 1500-ft. boardwalk, then the trails become ground level, sandy/grassy, relatively flat berms with swamp on both sides. The trails are actually old tram roads used when the area was logged many years ago. Biking can be a challenge on the grassy/sandy trails, but quite rewarding. The maple-cypress swamp is home to alligators, otters, Florida panthers, bobcats, white-tailed deer and more. There is one portable toilet at the beginning of the boardwalk and several benches along the trail within the first 1.5 miles. Beyond that there are no structures.

Birders will delight in the abundance of songbirds that frequent the cypress trees along the boardwalk, as well as the many raptors and wading birds found along the trails. Barred owls are common and swallow-tailed kites frequent the area in summer.

Trail Map


  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Nature study/photography
  • Geocaching
  • Birding
  • Running

The walking of dogs along this trail is not recommended.


 From Fort Myers/Naples: From I-75, take exit 111 and turn east (away from Naples) on Immokalee Road (CR 846). Travel 11.4 miles and turn left onto Shady Hollow Blvd. (One mile past the Oil Well Rd stoplight – Shady Hollow is where Immokalee Rd goes from 4-lane to 2-lane). Go to the end of Shady Hollow (approx 2.4 miles). Parking lot is on the right.

From Immokalee: Travel west (toward Naples) on CR 846 (Immokalee Road) for approx. 16.5 miles. Turn right on Shady Hollow Blvd. Travel 2.4 miles north to parking area/gate.

Google Map to Bird Rookery Swamp Trails:

Go back to the Visit CREW page.

What you need to know about the Purple Trail

Click for a PDF copy of this map

10 Ways to Enjoy the CREW Trails This Summer

10 Ways to Enjoy the CREW Trails This Summer

by Deb Hanson marsh bdwalk2

Summer is approaching and our schedule of events is empty. The CREW Trust has had a fabulous fall/winter season at CREW this year with the help of our project partners, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) staff who owns and manages the CREW lands, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission biologist who monitors wildlife and habitat at CREW, and our fabulous volunteers and FGCU interns who assist with guided walks, trail maintenance, exotics removal, and many other tasks.

Since October 1st, 2012 over 6000 people participated in our guided hikes, strolling science seminars, school field trips, and special programs for CREW Trust members and the public. Thousands more explored the CREW trails on their own and have connected with the watershed in many ways.

But don’t stay away from CREW just because we don’t have many organized summer programs planned. Come on out and enjoy CREW in a whole new way on your own. Summer is a time for the CREW trails to rest. With fewer footprints along the paths, grass grows taller, wildlife ventures out, and of course – with the arrival of summer storms – the water levels rise. By October, the marsh and swamps of CREW will be wet and green and teeming with animal activity. Summer is truly the most amazing time of year to experience CREW.

So, put on your old sneakers and long pants, sunscreen and bug spray, and try one or more of these suggestions to enjoy CREW on your own this summer:
1. Go for a Treasure Hunt  – CREW is home to over 100 geocaches – hidden treasures placed out in the woods along the trails that can be located by GPS coordinates – thanks to local geocachers JunglePete and The Unusual Suspects. If you’ve never been geocaching, grab your GPS unit or smartphone, go to for info and CREW coordinates and give it a whirl this summer.

caloosa trailheads2. Take a Run – running the CREW trails is a lot more interesting than pounding the pavement or hitting the treadmill at the gym. Research shows that running outdoors gives you more exercise due to varied elevation and wind resistance, too. Plus, fresh air and proximity to trees heals and refreshes. Check out the Caloosa Trailheads Facebook page to connect with like-minded folks or find a running buddy, then come run a mile or two or ten at CREW.

3. Track an Animal – hit the trail with one purpose: to track a critter. Summer means rain and softer ground, so tracks are more easily found along the trails. Challenge yourself to locate and identify five new animal tracks this summer. Grab a track field guide or app, a tape measure and a friend, then see what you can learn about animals that come out to play at CREW during the summer.

4. Just Sit There – 99% of the time people come to CREW walk, run or bike the trails. Rarely do people go to one spot and sit still. Yet 100% of the time, if you sit still in one place for more than 10 minutes you will see, hear, and experience more critters than in three hours of hiking. So, pick a trail, find a spot, and just sit there. Watch the magic happen.

camping fire5. Spend the Night – CREW has two primitive campsites that are free and available by Special Use License through the SFWMD at If you’ve never been out at CREW at night, camping can give you a whole new perspective about the place. Practice “Leave No Trace” and enjoy the quiet serenity of CREW after dark.

6. Engage Your Senses – most folks walk and look when hiking the CREW Trails. Next time you go, take advantage of the summer humidity and focus attention on your sense of smell. Every animal and plant has a unique scent. Expand your sensory experience by listening and touching, too. Just be sure you can ID poison ivy first!

7. Take the Road Less Traveled – Do you take the same trail every time you come to CREW or have a favorite that you always share with friends and visitors. This summer, take a different trail or loop. Try the Pine Flatwoods Trail at the CREW Marsh or the White Loop/Wild Coffee Trail at the Cypress Dome Trails, or if you’re really ambitious (and well-prepared with water, food, and sun protection) try to get to the north or west tram at Bird Rookery Swamp. Head a new direction and see what surprises await you.

8. Awaken Your Sense of Wonder with a Child – Rachel Carson proclaimed “If a child is to keep his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” So, take a child by the hand and explore CREW, experience bugs and birds, get dirty and wet, spend unstructured time playing in nature. You may be surprised at how much it helps you connect, too.

CowNov.19979. Get Your Cowboy/girl On – Adjacent to the CREW Cypress Dome Trails (and connected via the White Loop) are the Caracara Prairie Preserve Trails, owned by Conservation Collier and the CREW Land & Water Trust. These three miles of trails traverse an active cattle ranch. So, put on your cowboy hat and take a hike through oak hammocks, towering pines, and some beautiful wet prairie. Be prepared to get your feet wet crossing the ditch from the Dome Trails to the Caracara Trails (Oh, and no dogs allowed – to keep the cattle safe).

10. Catch a Sunrise/Sunset – all the CREW Trails are open to the public from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset, so start your day right and head out to the Marsh Overlook early one morning this summer to watch the sun rise over the 5000-acre Corkscrew Marsh. Or, if you’re just not a morning person, try getting there just before dark to watch the sunset filtering through those billowing summer storm clouds. Either way, you’ll enrich your life and your spirit!

However you choose to experience CREW this summer, we’d love to hear from you! Share your adventures with us by posting pictures and comments on the CREW Land & Water Trust Facebook page or send us an email to let us know what you did that was new and exciting.

We’ll be publishing our fall/winter program schedule later this summer, so stay tuned…and have a wonderful time at CREW or wherever you spend your summer!

New Marsh Trail Hikes added to CREW schedule

Due to popular demand, we have added three more guided hikes led by our fabulous volunteer Master Naturalist, Dr. David Cooper. These hikes are general natural history and interpretive hikes that stroll approximately 3 miles through pine flatwoods, oak hammock, popash slough and sawgrass marsh. Hikes run from 9 AM to noon.

In addition to his usual 3rd Tuesday hikes, the new hike dates are:
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Saturday March 17, 2012
and Saturday, April 21, 2012.

To register, click here: Register for More Guided Hikes @CREW Marsh on Eventbrite

New Bird Rookery Guided Hikes Scheduled

Photo by Kathy Broyard

Do you want to hike the Bird Rookery Swamp trails with an expert naturalist and storyteller? Here’s your chance to learn all about the cultural and natural history of Bird Rookery Swamp. See bobcat and bear sign, find birds and butterflies, enjoy gorgeous scenery, and hike among the beautiful cypress and maple trees.

CREW volunteer, George Luther, will be leading hikes on most Wednesday mornings, January through March 2012 from 9:00 AM to noon. George’s sense of humor, extraordinary knowledge and outdoor skills will have you coming back for more.

Dates for the hikes are: January 4, 11, and 25; February 1, 8, 15, 22, and 29; March 7, 14, 21, and 28.

Space is limited. Register today! To register for a guided Wednesday Hike at Bird Rookery Swamp, go to or click here

Register for Guided Hike @ Bird Rookery Swamp in Naples, FL  on Eventbrite