Trail Use Guidelines

Following these guidelines will help take care of the CREW Trails, be prepared for visiting the trails, and will greatly increase the respect afforded to all who use the CREW Trails, as well as adjacent property owners.

The CREW Trails are owned and managed by the South Florida Water Management District, in cooperation with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission and the CREW Land & Water Trust.

  • Handicapped access: CREW’s Bird Rookery Swamp Trail has handicapped parking, a handicap-accessible viewing platform and a crushed shell path leading to the 1500-foot long boardwalk, accessible for wheelchairs. Beyond the boardwalk (on the east end) the trail becomes grass/dirt with roots and can be underwater in summer and fall. The Cypress Dome and Marsh Trails are ground level of grass/sand and may be suitable for wheelchairs during the dry season, but may be difficult to push.
  • ALL CREW trails can be seasonally wet – especially during late summer and fall. In some areas, water can be thigh high. Be prepared to get your feet wet.
  • Be aware that there is some poison ivy along the edges of the trail, especially on the Popash trail at the CREW Marsh, and there are plenty of ticks. Ticks are common, especially when the grass is tall. Hikers need to be aware and vigilant about checking themselves.
  • Snakes, some of which are venomous such as rattlesnakes (pygmy and diamondback) and water moccasins inhabit CREW. They are all protected by law and should be respected. Keep watch and maintain a safe distance when you encounter a snake along the trail. Closed -toed shoes are recommended for hiking.
  • Alligators are common sightings in Florida wetlands, especially at Bird Rookery Swamp where they like to sun themselves up on the trail. It is illegal to harass, feed, or otherwise interact with an alligator. Give them plenty of space when walking or biking near them on the trail.
  • Protect your dog, as well as wildlife! Use that leash!  CREW recreational use rules require dogs to be on leash and under control at all times. Dogs may disturb hiding fawns, ground-nesting birds, snakes, etc. CAUTION: The walking of dogs and pets at the Bird Rookery Swamp Trail is NOT recommended due to the presence of alligators.
  • No camping or building of fires allowed, except at designated campsites with a special use permit.
  • Drone guidelines: The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) manages all special use permits for the CREW Lands as they are the land owners. To use a drone on the CREW lands you must first apply for a Right of Entry Permit (ROE). Keep in mind that without the proper permit, it is illegal to take off or land a drone within the SFWMD lands. These rules and regulations are enforced by SFWMD and FWC law enforcement. In addition, a certificate of liability insurance coverage is required by the SFWMD. Lastly, as a drone will be involved, they also need copies of any licenses you have associated with operating drones. 

  • Stay on the trails. There are portable toilets at the trailheads/parking lots for each of the three CREW trails.
  • At Caracara Prairie Preserve, be careful of cattle. Keep your distance.
  • Leave any gates open or closed, just as you find them.
  • Pack for safety.  Be prepared for your trail adventures!  Bring your own first aid kit and individualize it for personal health concerns such as allergies or prescriptions.
  • Please pick up any litter that you see and pack it out.
  • Pass the CREW Trust name on to others you meet on the Trail so our direct support base can grow.
  • Always leave your itinerary with someone back home. Cell phones do not always work on parts of the trails, especially in the remote northern end of Bird Rookery Swamp. Texting may work when calling does not. The CREW Marsh, Cypress Dome and Bird Rookery Trails are all located in Collier County, where 911 texting is now available.
  • ALWAYS BRING WATER. For longer hikes, bring a drink with electrolytes. 
  • The CREW Trust does not allow smoking or pets on CREW-sponsored guided walks.
  • Note: You use the CREW Trails at your own risk
  • We always welcome feedback about the trails.

For complete SFWMD public use rules, click here.

10 Replies to “Trail Use Guidelines”

  1. Hi from NH. I will be visiting sunny Florida in November and would like to register for a guided walk. How do I do that? Thank you!

  2. I biked the Bird Swamp trail Thursday. Enjoyed the ride and if you do it expect the 12 mile ride to take almost 2 hours. A lot of gators out. Went counter clockwise and encountered wet conditions on west to east part of trail between marker 6 and 3. Also had to walk bike across several gullies between 6 and 3.

  3. Rode counterclockwise at Rookery to just past the southwest corner before I had to turn back. Most incredible bike ride experience I’ve ever had! It was tough, muddy and at some points riding through a foot of water. A couple times I carefully waded across narrow thigh-high streams to continue, watching for the gators that were thrashing into the water to escape my approach. I can’t wait to return! It started pouring rain halfway through my ride, then turned thunderstorm with strikes all around and thunder cracking through the trees like explosions, so I turned back realizing I wasn’t even close to completing the loop. I wish I had a GoPro!! Thank you, CREW, for preserving this gem of a landscape for us to enjoy! I will be back very soon.

  4. first time hiking the crew bird rookery swamp and was very concerned about the closeness of the alligators. I am not sure the correct way to pass or if there is something we should do to be safe? It is a wonderful hike as far as we went but turned back because of the alligators in the path. If there is please let me know so we can enjoy the rookery on the return trip to Florida.

    1. We get it! However, you can feel reassured that you can pass normally around the tail with as much space between as possible. They are trying to regulate their body temperature and do not want to move.

    1. Electric bikes are allowed on some of the CREW Trails as long as you’re riding a pedal-assist class 1 type electric bike. There are some models where pedaling isn’t necessary, as they have a full electric option, and those are not allowed. However if it’s a pedal assist, you may ride them on the CREW trails that allow biking.

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