CREW and You, part 4: WHERE

Map of CREW

This is part 4 of a 6-part series on the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of the CREW Land & Water Trust.

Map of CREW
The CREW Project

It’s pretty often that we get a phone call at our office and someone says, “Where are you located?” or “Where is the trail?”

So let’s cover that today.

WHERE, exactly, is the CREW Land & Water Trust located?

At a field station. A super, top-secret field station, with radiactive sandhill cranes that guard the entrance. (Just kidding about all of that except for the field station part.)

The CREW Trust shares an office with two of our partners in the CREW Project – South Florida Water Management District and Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. Because this is a shared office, and we have no trails (really, none – it’s very boring), we use our address for mail only. If you do look us up on Google maps based on our mailing address, we appear to be somewhere in the middle of some strange fields off of Corkscrew Road.

Basically, where WE are isn’t as important as where the CREW Project is.

The CREW Project is a 60,000-acre watershed that spans Lee and Collier Counties. There are four trail systems that are open to the public for various recreation opportunities.

The CREW Trail Systems: A – CREW Marsh Trails; B – Cypress Dome Trails; C – Bird Rookery Swamp; and now a trail has opened in Flint Pen Strand.

The CREW Marsh Trails (4600 CR 850 (Corkscrew Road), Immokalee, FL 34142 ) were the first trails to open within the CREW Project and feature 5.5 miles of looped trails. The trails are located in Collier County and meander through pine flatwoods, sawgrass marsh, oak hammock and popash slough ecosystems.

The Cypress Dome Trails & Caracara Prairie Preserve (3980 CR 850 (Corkscrew Road), Immokalee, FL 34142) are located in Collier County near the Lee County border. The Cypress Dome Trails offer 6 miles of looped trails and connect to the Caracara Prairier Preserve, which is owned and managed by Conservation Collier.

Bird Rookery Swamp Trail (1295 Shady Hollow Boulevard, Naples, FL 34120) is an approximately 12 mile trail located in Collier County. The trail features a shell path, short boardwalk and grassy tram – a remnant of its logging history.

The first trail in Flint Pen Strand opened in November 2018 and more are in development. The 1.5-mile red trail offers views of the Kehl Canal along with sections of seasonal marsh and hydric pine.

See what’s flitting around Bird Rookery Swamp this week!

Special thanks to volunteer naturalist Dick Brewer, who regularly visits the CREW trails and compiles wildlife counts. This valuable citizen science is shared with the CREW Trust staff and our FWC biologists and helps give us a glimpse of all the wildlife using the trails.

Needham’s Skimmer, identified and photographed by Dick Brewer

Bird Rookery Swamp

Thursday, March 28 ~~ 7:25 AM – 2:10 PM

temperature: 59.3-77.8º ~~ RH 83.9-44.9%

sky: clear ~~ wind 7-12 mph


Common Gallinule – 1

Double-crested Cormorant – 1

Anhinga – 10

Great Blue Heron – 2

Great Egret – 12

Snowy Egret – 1

Little Blue Heron – 5

Tri-colored Heron – 1

Black-crowned Night Heron – 2

White Ibis – 72

Black Vulture – 3

Turkey Vulture – 4

Swallow-tailed Kite – 7

Red-shouldered Hawk – 23

Belted Kingfisher – 4

Red-bellied Woodpecker – 23

Downy Woodpecker – 3

Pileated Woodpecker – 5

Great-crested Flycatcher – 3

Eastern Phoebe –  1

White-eyed Vireo – 19

Blue Jay – 1

American Crow – 2

Tufted Titmouse – 9

Carolina Wren – 17

House Wren – 1

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – 2

Gray Catbird – 13

Common Grackle – 9

Palm Warbler –  2

Northern Cardinal – 13


Palamedes Swallowtail – 3

Tiger Swallowtail – 1

Ruddy Daggerwing – 1

White Peacock – 61

Gulf Fritillary – 1

Phaon Crescent – 1

Tropical Checker – 3


Eastern Pondhawk – 72

Blue Dasher – 82

Blue Dasher, identified and photographed by Dick Brewer

Needham’s Skimmer – 18

Regal Darner – 3

Halloween Pennant – 1

Slaty Skimmer – 1


Alligator – 41

Brown Anole – 1

Red-bellied Turtle – 3


White-tailed Deer – 1

Brrrrrrrr! Who is roaming Birdy Rookery Swamp in these wintry conditions?

Too cold to head to the trails? Thinking the animals will be huddling somewhere for warmth?

That is true for many of our reptile friends, but the weekend’s heavy rain combined with the cool temperatures made for a lot of wading birds out and about Monday morning at Bird Rookery Swamp!

CREW Trust volunteer naturalist Dick Brewer braved the elements and sent in his wildlife count from yesterday’s chilly excursion.

Photo credits: Dick Brewer

Bird Rookery Swamp

Monday, January 28, 2019 ~~ 7:20 AM – 1:20 PM

temperature: 47.1-54.0º ~~ RH 84.0-76.8%

sky: overcast ~~ wind 7-10 mph


Muscovy Duck – 1

Double-crested Cormorant – 2

Anhinga – 29

Great Blue Heron – 16

Great Egret – 34

Snowy Egret – 2

Little Blue Heron – 19

Tri-colored Heron –  7

Black-crowned Night Heron – 35

White Ibis – 145

Roseate Spoonbill – 2

Black Vulture – 38

Turkey Vulture – 9

Red-shouldered Hawk – 14

Belted Kingfisher – 5

Red-bellied Woodpecker – 15

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – 1

Downy Woodpecker – 1

Pileated Woodpecker – 7

Great-crested Flycatcher – 3

Eastern Phoebe –  3

White-eyed Vireo – 9

Blue-headed Vireo – 2

Tufted Titmouse – 3

Carolina Wren – 10

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – 8

Gray Catbird – 28

Northern Mockingbird – 1

American Goldfinch – 1

Common Grackle – 11

Black-and-white Warbler – 1

Common Yellowthroat – 10

Palm Warbler –  19

Northern Cardinal – 9

Painted Bunting – 3


Alligator –  7


Gray Squirrel – 2

River Otter – 2

Raccoon – 5

White-tailed Deer – 1

Know before you go: Holiday Hiking

Looking for some vitamin D therapy this holiday week? The trails are waiting and wild Florida is happy to see you!

But before you slip on those flip flops (please no) and head out to one of the CREW Trails, check out a few of the things you might want to know before you go. It will save you the pain of fire ant bites if you DO opt for flip flops (again, please please please no).

For trail conditions, click here.

CREW Marsh Trails

Address: 4600 CR 850 (Corkscrew Road), Immokalee, FL 34142

Hours: Open every day, one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset

Cost: Free; donations accepted

Facilities: Port-o-potty in parking lot; no trash cans – please pack it in, and pack it out

Miles of trails: 5.5 combined miles of looped trails

Wear: Closed-toe shoes, socks; pants advised if grass is high (as of 12/24/2018 grass is only high along Alternative Marsh trail)

Pack: Water, bug spray (if desired), snack

Safety: Fire ants do nest in disturbed areas along the edges of the trails, so please walk in the middle of the trails.

Can’t Miss Spot: Head out to the Observation Tower, which overlooks the 5,000-acre sawgrass marsh. The marsh is a key part of the watershed and helps filter the water that eventually ends up in the aquifer (and then, in your glass!)

Notes: Do not trust Google maps! Instead, follow these directions:

From Naples/Bonita Springs/S. Fort Myers: Travel  I-75 N to exit 123 (Corkscrew Rd.).  Go 18 miles east on Corkscrew Rd.  You will pass the CREW Cypress Dome Trails.  Go another 4 miles and you will see the CREW Marsh Trails on your right.  Look for the brown road signs.

From N Ft. Myers/Charlotte County/Lehigh Acres: travel I-75 to exit 138 (the ML King/S.R. 82 exit).  Travel east on S.Rr 82 toward Immokalee for 20 miles.  Watch for a small blue C.R. 850 sign, then turn right on C.R. 850 (Corkscrew Rd.).  The Marsh Trails are apporximately 2 miles down the road on your left.  Look for the brown road signs.

Trail Map:

Cypress Dome Trails and Caracara Prairie Preserve

Address: 3980 CR 850 (Corkscrew Road), Immokalee, FL 34142

Hours: Open every day, one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset

Cost: Free; donations accepted

Facilities: Port-o-potty located close to parking lot on the beginning of the green loop (head toward Jim’s Pavillion)

Miles of trails: The Cypress Dome Trails offer six combined miles of looped trails and connects to Caracara Prairie Preserve, which is owned and managed by Conservation Collier.

Wear: Closed-toe shoes, socks and long pants recommended, especially as there may be muddy conditions in the middle of the Wild Coffee Trail (the farthest part of the white trail).

Pack: Water, snacks, bug spray. Bring extra water if you plan on heading out to Caracara Prairie Preserve as well.

Safety: December is small game hunting season and there are hunters on the property; hunting is monitored by FWC. Fire ants nest in distrubed areas along the sides of the trails, so walking in the middle of the trail is advised.

Can’t Miss Spot: Head out on the green trail (turn right from the trailhead) and it will wind around, past the pavillion, and then meet up with the blue trail (a shortcut). This is marker 4 on the map, and in front of you will be a beautiful Cypress Dome. It is almost dry this time of year, and you can see the water level marks on the bark. Take a photo of yourself or a family member next to the cypress tree so you can see how high the water gets in that area during rainy season!

Notes: Again, don’t trust Google Maps. Follow these directions:

From Naples/Bonita Springs/S. Fort Myers – Travel I-75 N to exit 123 (Corkscrew Rd.). Travel 14 miles east on Corkscrew Rd. The Cypress Dome Trails will be on your right just past a big curve to the left (north). Look for the brown trail signs.

From N Ft. Myers/Charlotte Co./Lehigh Acres: Travel I-75 to exit 138 (the ML King/S.R. 82 exit). Turn left (east) off the ramp. Travel 20 miles toward Immokalee (east) on S.R. 82. Turn right on C.R. 850 (Corkscrew Rd.). You will pass the CREW Marsh Trails at the 2-mile mark. Continue for 4 more miles. The Cypress Dome Trails will be on your left. Look for the brown road signs.

Trail Map:

Flint Pen Strand Trails

Address: 15970 Bonita Beach Road, Bonita Springs, FL 34135

Hours: Open every day, one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset

Cost: Free; donations accepted

Facilities: One port-o-potty located in the parking lot. No trash cans; pack it in, pack it out.

Miles of trails:  At this early stage, there is one trail open – the Billy G. Cobb Memorial Trail (red trail). It is approximately 1.5 miles long with a blue shortcut trail.

Wear: Closed-toe shoes, socks. Long pants if grass is long but at this time the grass should be short.

Pack: Water, bug spray.

Safety: This trail is not flat and has a lot of terrain changes. Fire ants are a hazard as they like to nest in disturbed areas along the trail.

Can’t Miss Spot: The Melaleuca ghost forest, an area of invasive trees that were treated years ago and are now dead. This area shows what happens when you remove the invasives and allow the land to heal itself, and you will spot young slash pine that are growing and will eventually help this spot return to a hydric pine flatwood.

Notes: Park in the parking lot (and not along the side of Vincent Road). Stick to the marked trails at this time, as some of the surrounding area is privately owned.

Trail Map:

Bird Rookery Swamp Trails

Address: 1295 Shady Hollow Boulevard, Naples, FL 34120

Hours: Open every day, one hour before sunrise to one hour past sunset

Cost: Free; donations accepted

Facilities: Two port-o-potties in the parking lot; no trash cans – pack it in, pack it out

Miles of trails: One almost-13-mile loop. There are no shortcuts back to the parking lot, nor are there any vehicles to come get you if you go out too far and are too tired to walk back.

Wear: Closed-toe shoes, socks, bug spray.

Pack: Snacks and plenty of water, especially if you are going to do the full loop. The swamp is quite humid and you can get dehydrated quickly on a warm day.

Safety: Turn around before you feel tired. This is very important at this trail system, as we have had people head out too far, then decide they cannot walk back to the parking lot – and their only option is to call 911.

Also, this trail is home to numerous alligators. Read all alligator safety signs – you will pass several in the parking lot. Remember this is their home, and you are a visitor. Turn around and go the other way if an alligator is on the path. You may not throw rocks or harass the alligators; if you see someone doing this, call FWC law enforcement.

The walking of dogs/pets is NOT recommended at this trail due to the presence of alligators.

Can’t Miss Spot: The lake at the culvert, just past the boardwalk. You may see alligators, great white egrets, herons, roseate spoonbills and the occasional limpkin feeding in the water.

Notes: Please read all signs and safety information. For first time visitors, a short, easy walk is to head out to the short boardwalk, walk to the first pond, then turn around and head back. This will be around a mile and you will see cypress trees, red maple, wildflowers, ferns, air plants, migratory song birds, herons and more.

Trail Map:


BRS sign

Check out what you might see at Bird Rookery Swamp this week!

Long-time CREW Trust volunteer naturalist Dick Brewer is a treasure-trove of information and brilliant citizen scientist. This week’s critter count includes a chicken turtle, almost 30 red-bellied woodpeckers and a great photo of two crested caracaras. Interested in making your own critter count during your next hike? Print out Dick’s BIRD ROOKERY SWAMP Wildlife Checklist and take it with you!

Bird Rookery Swamp

Wednesday, December 19 ~~ 7:05 AM – 1:00 PM

temperature: 54.0-76.0º ~~ RH 85.5-60.5%

sky: sun early, clouds late ~~ wind: calm at start, then 8-12 mph


Wood Duck – 2

Double-crested Cormorant – 5

Anhinga – 28

Great Blue Heron – 11

Great Egret – 10

Snowy Egret – 3

Little Blue Heron – 7

Tri-colored Heron – 3

Cattle Egret – 1

Green Heron – 4

Black-crowned Night Heron – 11

White Ibis – 22

Roseate Spoonbill – 1

Wood Stork – 2

Black Vulture – 12

Turkey Vulture – 26

Osprey – 1

Red-shouldered Hawk – 14

Crested Caracara – 2

American Kestrel – 1

Common Gallinule – 1

Killdeer – 5

Mourning Dove – 2

Barred Owl – 2

Belted Kingfisher – 8

Red-bellied Woodpecker – 28

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – 4

Downy Woodpecker – 1

Pileated Woodpecker – 8

Great-crested Flycatcher – 1

Eastern Phoebe –  7

Carolina Wren – 13

House Wren – 1

Blue Jay – 1

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – 21

Northern Mockingbird – 2

Gray Catbird – 21

Common Yellowthroat – 1

Palm Warbler – 5

Pine Warbler – 1

Northern Cardinal – 4

Common Grackle – 77


White Peacock – 21

Phaon Crescent – 1

Barred Yellow – 16

Tropical Checker – 1


Alligator – 11

Brown Anole – 1

Banded Water Snake – 1

Red-bellied Turtle – 5

Florida Chicken Turtle – 2


River Otter – 2

Raccoon – 1

Chirp chirp CHECK! Take these wildlife checklists with you when you hit the CREW Trails.

Our volunteer naturalist of many years, Dick Brewer, is well known on our website, blogs and social media for his hours of work as a citizen scientist in the field and for his almost-weekly critter counts.

Now you, too, can complete a critter count! Even if you aren’t quite sure what animals are out there.

Dick has combed through years of observations by himself and others and created two wildlife checklists: one for Bird Rookery Swamp and one for the Cypress Dome Trails. The lists have everything from alligators to skippers, bitterns to bats. Check them out and print a copy for your next visit to the trails!

CYPRESS DOME TRAILS wildlife checklist

BIRD ROOKERY SWAMP Wildlife Checklist

This week’s Bird Rookery Swamp critter count

Wondering what there is to see – or what may be seeing you – at Bird Rookery Swamp this week? Check out volunteer naturalist Dick Brewer’s critter count!

Bird Rookery Swamp

Monday, September 24 ~~ 7:05 AM – 1:25 PM

temperature: 76..0-93.8º ~~ RH 88.8-56.1%

sky: mostly sunny ~~ wind 0-5 mph


Anhinga – 5

Great Egret – 1

Snowy Egret – 1

Little Blue Heron – 2

Green Heron – 1

Black-crowned Night Heron – 3

White Ibis – 1

Black Vulture – 7

Turkey Vulture – 3

Red-shouldered Hawk – 20

Mourning Dove – 4

Common Ground Dove – 2

Belted Kingfisher – 2

Red-bellied Woodpecker – 26

Pileated Woodpecker – 6

Great-crested Flycatcher – 5

Eastern Wood Pewee – 1

unknown flycatcher – 1

Carolina Wren – 16

Blue Jay – 3

Tufted Titmouse – 6

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – 3

Northern Mockingbird – 3

White-eyed Vireo – 29

Louisiana Waterthrush – 3

Northern Cardinal – 13

Common Grackle – 4


Tiger Swallowtail – 4

Palamedes Swallowtail – 23

Viceroy – 5

White Peacock – 49

Ruddy Daggerwing – 3

Phaon Crescent – 10

Cloudless Sulphur – 2

Barred Yellow – 1

Brazilian Skipper – 4

Eufala Skipper – 3

Three-spotted Skipper – 53

Tropical Checker – 13

Red-waisted Florella Moth – 2


Eastern Pondhawk – 22

Halloween Pennant – 12

Needham’s Skimmer – 3

Blue Dasher – 9

Eastern Amberwing – 1

Citrine Forktail – 3


Alligator – 57

Brown Anole – 13

Pig Frog – 7


White-tailed Deer – 3

Boardwalk Construction complete at Bird Rookery Swamp

On June 14, boardwalk construction ended at Bird Rookery Swamp and the trail re-opened on Friday, June 15.

The replacement of the boardwalk is a multi-year project, funded and completed by the South Florida Water Management District. This year’s work replaced the middle part of the boardwalk. In 2017, one third of the boardwalk, starting from the tram and working towards the parking lot, was replaced.

The new boardwalk sections are built with Azek composite decking, which is expected to withstand the humid, wet conditions present at Bird Rookery Swamp. The final section is expected to be replaced in 2019.

Trail conditions at the newly-reopened Bird Rookery Swamp

Oh, hello people. Where’ve you been?

Thank you everyone for all of the happy comments on our blog, in our inboxes, in private messages an Facebook and in comments on social media. We’re just as excited as you are that Bird Rookery Swamp is finally open!

The closure wasn’t just hard on staff, or our visitors. It was really hard on our volunteers. Many of them started volunteering with us because they visited Bird Rookery Swamp so often and feel a connection to that trail system and the flora and fauna that call it home.

As soon as it opened, our BRS regulars hit the trails and sent us happy selfies, trail condition reports and photos.

Volunteer Peter Davis, an avid cyclist who leads a private buided bike tour that is exclusively offered at our silent auction each year, sent us this trail conditions report aimed mainly at cyclists – but it’s great information for those hikers that like to do the whole almost-13 mile loop.

A summary of Peter Davis’ report from 3/12/2018
–  Work by the South Florida Water Management District’s contractor has improved portions of the trail that needed attention prior to the hurricane. 
–  The trail is in relatively good condition for cycling up until the fork at approximately mile 2.
–  Around mile 3 and onward the trail gets softer and there are sections of tall grass and other plants that make it hard to see the trail below the vegetation in some areas.
–  There are no places that require a water crossing, no large trees down, and no places where the mud is too deep the get through.  
–  Accomplished cyclists with wider tires on their bike should be able to do the whole trail without stopping or dismounting if they choose to do so.  
–  As usual, there are many alligators sunning themselves on the trail.  Note from staff: always keep a safe distance from wildlife; to read more on ethically viewing wildlife, visit
–  The wildlife viewing seems much better than in the past both in terms of quantity and quality.
–  Between mile 8 and 9.5 there are some deeper mud/water holes on the trail that are hard to see in the vegetation so please use caution.
–  Anyone planning to turn around should go counter-clockwise, as the most difficult trail sections start about a mile to the left of the fork.
Don’t forget you can sign up for our free weekly guided walks at Bird Rookery Swamp, offered each Wednesday at 9 a.m. through the end of March! Sign up on And we look forward to seeing you on the trails!
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