Summertime at CREW

By Allison Vincent

Scarlet Hibiscus at CREW Bird Rookery Swamp trail

What should I expect on the CREW Trails this summer?

Water! You may have heard us say this before, but I’ll say it again here, CREW is ALL about water!

As rainwater accumulates on the ground, absorbing and leaching through the ground surface down through the porous limestone rock and into the aquifer, it replenishes the groundwater and restores the aquifer. 

Lakes around CREW Flint Pen Strand trails

We won’t see that water again until we either turn on the faucet, or visit the trails after the water table rises above the surface. That’s also the point when we describe the trails as, “inundated with water” and you should prepare for a wet walk. 

“It’s always amazing how that point of saturation seems to break the ground surface overnight in CREW, as the aquifer literally fills up and overflows on the trails.”

CREW Trust executive director Brenda Brooks

Saturation happens at different times throughout CREW because it is such a large watershed with 60,000 acres of land. After that stage, we start to see the next step in the cycle of water through the CREW lands, called sheetflow. 

Sandhill Cranes grazing around CREW Flint Pen Strand marshes

You may want to take a moment this summer when you’re out on the CREW trails to celebrate the rainy season because wet trails mean fresh drinking water, flood protection and numerous other benefits for humans and wildlife that frequent this corridor of Florida. 

Reclaimed water is the second phase of our drinking water extracted from underground aquifers (Bonita Springs Utilities)

CREW Trails

CREW Marsh trails: 

American Bluehearts at the CREW Marsh trails

On the northern side of the CREW Marsh watershed, you’ll find the CREW Marsh trails. These trails will remain dry, for the most part, the longest of any trail system, as most of the sheetflow from the CREW Marsh will slowly trickle southwest. However, smaller seasonal marshes along the ecotones of the trail will fill up around the same time as the CREW Marsh and flow over the trails. Once the water level is above the ground surface, expect to consistently get your feet to ankles wet on these trails. The Red trail that hugs the CREW Marsh will fill up first, along with the Green trail as they both border the largest accumulation of water, our 5,000-acre sawgrass marsh. 

CREW Cypress Dome trails:

Nesting Swallow-tailed Kite at CREW Cypress Dome trails

Areas of the Green trail near the cypress dome and almost all of the Wild Coffee trail will become increasingly inundated with water as the water table rises. If you hike the Wild Coffee trail and portions of the White trail, expect to get wet up to your waist at its highest and wettest point. Other sections of the White trail will pool water and increase the likelihood of getting your feet wet. The crossover from CREW Cypress Dome trail to Caracara Prairie Preserve trails will require you to ford across a small canal. This area can fill to waist height, so be prepared to get very wet. Caracara Prairie Preserve includes one elongated marsh crossing and several areas of the trails become inundated with water. 

CREW Flint Pen Strand trails:

Barred Owl at CREW Flint Pen Strand trails

Take a walk along the bumpy berm of the Red trail, left behind by the canal excavation constructed to direct water through the early farmlands once present in CREW Flint Pen Strand. Trails bordering the Kehl Canal, headwaters for the Imperial River which runs to the Gulf of Mexico, are a great place to watch water levels rise as we get more into our rainy season. Check out the Yellow trails north and south along with the Red trail to get a view of the Kehl Canal. Or hike east on the Orange and Purple trails, where you can see some of the impact of the hydrologic restoration (link to previous article) designed to restore and slow the sheet flow over the surface of the land, giving it more time to soak in and replenish the aquifer. All of these trails will eventually be underwater, especially in the marshes surrounding the lakes. 

CREW Bird Rookery Swamp trail:

CREW Trust volunteers walking around a gator tail at CREW Bird Rookery Swamp trail

The trails here were constructed on a historic railroad tram, which continues to provide a raised trail above the surrounding swamp. The low dips will fill with water and require crossing.

Geocaching at CREW

by Allison Vincent, CREW Trust Communications Director

Geocache Day April 24, 2021 at CREW Marsh Trails, 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. Register here for this event as space is limited.

Geocaching is an any day, anytime­­ adventure that can take you to amazing and beautiful places or even just to a place in your town that you’ve never been before! That’s the introductory hook of the “What is Geocaching?” video on the Geocaching website,, that captures the excitement and universal enjoyment of Geocaching adventures. The caches at CREW fit neatly into the “amazing and beautiful places” category with 122 active caches!

What is Geocaching you might ask! Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunt using GPS-enabled devices to locate your geocache. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. These containers vary greatly in size and appearance. In the field you will see everything from large, metal cases, a fake stump with a hidden compartment, to a coconut with a film canister sized hole drilled out. First thing you need to do is get a general idea of the cache’s size from the cache page then narrow down your search with the location point. When you arrive at your coordinates, put down your GPS device and look around for the cache. Think to yourself, if I were to hide a cache, where would I put it?

Many individuals, families and friends start Geocaching because they like to get out in nature and experience places they would never have seen before with a purpose in mind. Geocaching brings that extra layer of motivation that gets all ages out the door exploring. Often Geocaching includes solving puzzles, searching for clues and answering riddles that challenge you to see your environment in a new way. When you go Geocaching get ready to challenge yourself in a mental exercise, in addition to a physical one! It’s literally active problem solving! Geocaching also lends itself to seeing a place like a local, often embracing insider knowledge of an unknown area. So, get out there, visit new spots like a local and discover incredible places like the CREW trails through fresh eyes!  

Q & A with Pete Corradino AKA JunglePete of Everglades Day Safari

What originally got you into Geocaching?

In 2004, I was working as an environmental educator for the Vermont Institute of Natural Science. I had befriended a man on one of my programs who was an avid hiker and was looking to go on a 4-mile excursion to a half-frozen waterfall. He needed someone to accompany him for safety reasons and so I volunteered. During the 2-mile trek up to the falls he revealed his primary purpose for the hike, but I was sworn to secrecy. I was a bit concerned he was going to push me over the falls, but he turned out to be an active geocacher in the early years of the sport. Here we were, only four years after Geocaching was invented, creating one of only a few thousand geocaches hidden around the world! It’s named “between a rock and a hard place” and was placed in 2001 – just a year after geocaching started and it’s still active! While the idea of finding a hidden container in the woods and logbook to write of your adventure was intriguing, the most important thing to me was that it brought me to this place – Lye Brook Falls and I have this story to retell. It set me off on thousands of adventures in the US, Canada and Ecuador, everyone with their own story!

Do you have any advice for new Geocachers?

Go to events! You’ll meet interesting, weird, goofy, fun, adventurous people and that leads to crazy new adventures too. I’ve met some of my best friends through geocaching including Milla and Dick (Nolehawks) who are like surrogate grandparents to my kids. I would also say enjoy “the numbers”, the statistics that you accumulate over time, but appreciate the experience (good and bad) that comes from finding these hidden treasures.

Tell us your best geocaching story.

During Hurricane Irma we evacuated to Pikeville, Tennessee where my family lives. They brought us out to Fall Creek Falls State Park which has spectacular waterfalls and scenic views along a mountain ridge. There are a few caches in the park, but Piney Creek Falls was my favorite and probably the most dangerous one I have found. I had to cross a swinging bridge that traversed a small chasm. From there my 7-year-old son and I descended to the river, made our way across cold, wet rocks and then removed our socks and shoes so we could make it the rest of the way across the river. Once we had our socks and shoes back on, we climbed 20 feet up a cliff landing where my son sat with my camera taking pictures of me as I climbed another 20 feet straight up above the river to find a cache that was tucked into a rock ledge. It was quite the adrenaline rush and fortunately my son didn’t have to record me plummeting to my death on my birthday while retrieving a cache.

What type of gear works best?

I use my iPad and iPhone which is limited by cell service and battery life. I bring backup charging bricks to keep them charged for long excursions. Tweezers are good to retrieve paper logs that get stuck in the container and replacement paper and plastic baggies are helpful to maintain caches that need some love. 

What makes the CREW trails a great place for geocaches?

The poison ivy! The green briars! The rattlesnakes! I absolutely love the CREW Marsh trails, the CREW Cypress Dome trails and the CREW Bird Rookery Swamp trails. We have had so much fun placing over 400 caches over the last 13 years. We can’t wait to put caches out on the CREW Flint Pen Trails! The thing that I love about these trails is I can hike for miles in solitude and each location has its own unique beauty. I love the dew-covered spider webs in the morning, the Zebra Longwings roosting before sunrise, the cypress dome at sunset. I could go on and on but the great thing about the caches of CREW is that it’s an introduction for many people to one of the least known and most beautiful places in Southwest Florida. Once people have visited and found a few caches they want to keep going and explore every nook and cranny including the Wild Coffee Trail, the Pop Ash Trail and even the service roads! I’ve seen bears, painted buntings, armadillos and so much more on those service roads and yes rattlesnakes and poison ivy. 

Why should I come to Geocache Day at CREW?

Attending events is a great way to meet new people who share the same interest in geocaching. It brings together people that might not ordinarily meet and most importantly it brings everyone together to explore! This might be the first time that someone visits the CREW trails, or they may have been out to every event we’ve done since 2009. Either way we are all in good company! 

Geocache Stats!

The very first Geocaching Event was held at CREW on 5/9/2009
12 Events have been held (4 at the CREW Marsh trails, 6 at the CREW Cypress Dome trails, 2 at the CREW Bird Rookery Swamp trail) and one was cancelled due to COVID.

As of Saturday 4/24/21 there will have been
        290 Traditional Caches
        59 Mystery Caches
        21 Letterbox Caches
        12 Event Caches
        10 Multi Caches
        7 Wherigo Caches
        1 Earthcache

As of Saturday 4/24/21 there will be 122 active geocache
       CREW Cypress Dome Trails – 36
       CREW Marsh Trails – 41
        CREW Bird Rookery Swamp Trails – 45

The Event on Saturday will be the 400th cache!

Thanks to the following geocachers who have placed caches over the years at CREW:

Blue Diamonds – Roger Terrel
FLPirate – Roger Primus
JunglePete – Pete Corradino
Junglito – Theo Corradino
Ecuadorable – MaLe Corradino
Lehigh Mafia – Rob & Staci Johnson
Matkat* – Gary Mangan
Nolehawks – Milla and Dick Voellinger
Pilot searcher – Brian Wylie
rbmotmot – Tim Hall
sandbetweenmytoes – Kris Slagle
Team Crime Scene – Kenny Jenkins
The Wench – Jean Primus

All CREW Trails Closed Effective April 4th

April 3, 2020

As part of ongoing efforts to help prevent the potential spread of COVID-19 and protect public safety, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) will temporarily close the all CREW trails, effective at 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 4, 2020.

Closure includes Bird Rookery Swamp, Flint Pen Strand, Cypress Dome and CREW Marsh trails.

The District follows the lead of local governments that have issued Safer at Home orders in their communities and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Florida Department of Health.

Read the official post from South Florida Water Management District blog:

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.

Tails on Trails: Five tips for hiking with your dog

Piper and Charlotte hiking the Cypress Dome Trails complete with a pack for carrying their hiking supplies.

We love seeing tails wagging out on our trails. The wide paths of the CREW Marsh Trails and Cypress Dome Trails are perfect for exploring with your pooch.

Before you head out for a hike, check out a few of our recommendations to help make your hike a success for you and an enjoyable experience for your pet.

Safety First

For your dog’s safety, he/she must be leashed. We also recommend making sure they walk in the center of the trail. Why?

Fire Ants.

No one wants to accidentally step into a fire ant mound, and the since the ants nest in disturbed areas with a lot of sunshine, the edges of the trail are their preferred nesting spots. Once one ant bites, it releases a pheromone that tells all of the other ants to swarm. It’s difficult enough to brush the furious ants from your own boots/socks/pants so just imagine the impossible task of quickly removing them from your pet’s fur.

Staying in the middle of the trail also helps minimize the chances that your curious pup will encounter any reptilian friends that are sunning on the sides of the trail. And a leashed pet also lets other trail users know that you, the owner, are respectful of everyone out there, including the wildlife.

If you are concerned about mosquitos, please do not use mosquito spray designed for humans. DEET is toxic for dogs and can make them very sick. Instead, opt for a mosquito spray designed for dogs or an at-home mix of essential oils.

We also recommend packing a pet first aid kit in your backpack before heading out for a hike. It should include things like a cold pack, gauze, bandages, tweezers, antiseptic and insect sting relief pads. If you do have a medical emergency on the trails, call 911.

And, after your hike, do a post-hike pet check at the car. We recommend checking your dog’s paws for any debris or wiping their paws with a wet cloth.


You aren’t the only one who will get thirsty hiking the trails. Just imagine hiking a mile in a fur coat – that is how hot your pooch is going to get in our glorious sunshine and high humidity and he/she cannot sweat to cool themselves off. Pack water for both yourself AND your pooch and bring along a collapsible water bowl to make drinking easy for your pet.

Worried about carrying everything? Consider purchasing a pack for your dog. There are a lot of options on the market and a good-fitting pack can help your dog share in carrying your supplies.

Also, if you are packing a snack to keep your energy up, pack a snack for your pup as well. Hiking is hard work and everyone, including your dog, needs a break in a shady spot with a tasty snack.

Misty enjoys a rest break in the shade at the Cypress Dome Trails.

Pack out what you bring in – even poop

Ahhhhh, the pet waste debate. Ask any frequent hiker at our trails and they’ll tell you all to often the scat they are identifying so eagerly isn’t from bobcats or panthers – it’s from dogs.

Leaving your pet waste behind isn’t just a nuisance for other hikers who may step in it – it’s also dangerous for wildlife. Dog waste can contain harmful bacteria which can affect wildlife or end up in our water. And, if your dog happens to ingest feces that was left by other dogs on the trail, they can get sick with diseases such as Parvo or parasites including tapeworms.

Take dog waste bags with you and pick up after your pet. You’ll also need to transport that waste to a garbage can, so plan accordingly. Because the CREW trail systems are primitive, they do not have trash cans and all guests are expected to follow the Leave No Trace principles.

Good behavior goes a long way

There are multiple user groups at each trail system, including horses and bikers at the Cypress Dome Trails and birders and photographers at all trails.

If your dog needs to work on their manners, meaning, if they bark a lot and may distrub birders, you may want to head to the trails during off-peak times. Birders and wildlife photographers usually hit the trails very early in the morning so, if you want to avoid any angry glares or shushing noises, head out later in the morning. If your pet doesn’t like crowds, check to see when programs are being offered at the trails and avoid hiking during programming times. And, if you are unsure if hiking is right for your pet, try short walks around the neighborhood and note how they react to other dogs and people. They’ll likely react to people, wildlife and other dogs on the trails the same way so, if they need more time to work with you on manners, take that time before heading out to hike.

And owners, good behavior on your part is key. When you see other hikers, step to the side and guide your dog so they do not venture close to other hikers, who may be leary of dogs or uncomfortable around them. When we all get along on the trails, everyone benefits.

Harriet shows off her excellent hiking skills and good behavior while staying safely in the middle of the trails at the Cypress Dome Trails. Good girl, Harriet, those are some gold-star hiking skills.

Know before you go

Before heading out to the trails, check out the trail maps and descriptions, user groups and trail conditions on our website. Once you arrive at the trails, note your GPS location in case of emergency and take note of any wildlife warning signs.

We suggest taking photos of the snakes that you may encounter on the trails, which are on a poster at the kiosks. We have several venomous snakes that your curious pup may encounter along the sides of the trails or off the trails (but we certainly hope they do not venture off the trail).

It’s also important to note the route you plan to take on a map and make sure that the distance you plan to cover fits the fitness level of yourself and your dog. Short hikes are a great way to start enjoying the trails and slowly build up both your endurance and your dog’s.

Special thanks to Harriet, Misty, Charlotte and Piper for bringing their humans out for a hike! Harriet’s owner, Cheryl, won a private Tails on Trails hike at our 2019 CREW Concert & Silent Eco-Auction.

2019 Concert Countdown: Can’t Miss Auction Items

Each year our Silent Eco-Auction features unique eco-experiences and items. This year’s auction boasts 37 items including one really big, tremendous, gorgeous work of art that has to be seen to be appreciated.

Auction Item 37: Swallow-tailed kite table

Donated by Dick Anderson and Lucas Century

To call this item unique is an understatement.

The collaboration is astounding. Dick Anderson has contributed unique art in the past and his shark surfboard, tiki dude, and driftwood great blue heron have been hugely popular auction items.

This year, he found driftwood to make a table base, then salvaged a glass-table top. Then artist Lucas Century stepped in.

Luc, a Sanibel-island resident and world-renowned artist behind the etching of the names on the Vietnam War Memorial Wall in Washington DC, used a sandblasting technique to etch the image of a swallow-tailed kite into the reclaimed glass table top.

The result is a one-of-a-kind art piece that has attracted the interest of birders and collectors of Luc’s pieces.

Auction 8: Eastern Screech Owl Box and Auction Item 9: Eastern Bluebird Box

Donated by Brian Beckner/Native Birdboxes

Brian Beckner’s handcrafted birdboxes are so wildly popular they go quickly as buy-it-now items after the auction opens. Why? The craftmanship is supberb and Beckner pays attention to details, including making the box resistant to predators but also easy to clean when the chicks have fledged. His boxes are used at golf courses across SWFL and in many residential neighborhoods.

Auction Item 10: Swamp Buggy Ride for 10 at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

Donated by Ed Carlson, CREW Trust Trustee

This item usually receives the highest bids each year. It’s a unique opportunity to tour Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and hear the stories behind the sanctuary. Ed Carlson helped install the original boardwalk at the sanctuary and is the former executive director. He is a current trustee for the CREW Trust and generously donates this experience each year to our silent eco-auction.

Auction Item 17: Birthday hike for 12 at the CREW Marsh Trails

Donated by the CREW Trust

Deer in party hats aren’t really part of this package, but you are certainly welcome to wear celebratory headgear when you and 11 friends hit the Marsh trails for a birthday hike led by a member of the CREW Staff or a CREW Trust volunteer naturalist. Included is a gift certificate for 12 delicious cupcakes from Cherie’s Sweet Treats, a 2018 and 2019 CREW Concert food vendor. This item was popular at last year’s auciton and we’re excited to see its return!

Auction Item 23: Passion for Painting at CREW Experience

Donated by CREW Trustee Kim Ruiz

If you love the serenity of nature and the CREW trails and want to let some of that emotion flow out onto canvas, this the perfect plein air painting package for you! The winning bidder and three guests will join Kim Ruiz for up to 4 hours at the CREW Marsh Trail campsite to create a painting that is uniquely theirs. This experience includes instruction and art supplies.

You can view the rest of our Silent Eco-Auction items on our auction preview page.

To bid on any of the auction items, purchase a ticket to our concert on Saturday, February 16. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the gate. The silent auction opens at 5:30 p.m. and ends at 8:15 p.m., with payment and item pick-up beginning at 8:30 p.m. All proceeds of the 2019 CREW Concert Under the Stars will go towards the Dr. David R. Cooper Eduation Fund.


Join us for our pop-up SSS: Prescribed Fire

THIS EVENT WAS CANCELLED due to humidity levels dropping too low for a permit to be issued.

Conditions are right, and the permits are issued!

On Thursday, January 10, join Joeseph Bozzo and Thaddeus Penfield, SFWMD land managers for the CREW Project, along with CREW Trust staff, for an informative working Strolling Science Seminar on the use of prescribed fire as a land management tool.

You will learn about the role of fire in Florida’s natural landscape and how fire is used within the watershed. Participants will also observe a prescribed burn in-progress.

CLOTHING: Participants must wear long pants, closed-toe shoes or boots (and socks) and 100% cotton shirts (no polyester). Leather work gloves are recommended as well. Please bring water with you (plenty of water).

Tickets are limited to 15 participants. Member tickets are $15; non-member tickets are $20.

To register, visit our eventbrite page.

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

Register today for our weekly guided walks at the Marsh Trails

It’s the almost November, which means cooler temperatures, blooming wildflowers and time to register for our weekly guided walks!

Volunteer naturalist and spider enthusiast Janet Bunch returns for her second season leading our Marsh Trail interpretive hikes. Her walk takes guests through pine flatwoods and oak hammocks to the observation tower overlooking the 5,000-acre sawgrass marsh before traversing the short boardwalk and heading back to the trailhead.

Guests will learn about the plants and animals that call the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed their home and engage in lively, scholarly conversations with Janet and other CREW Trust Volunteers.

The walks are free but registration is required. Please visit our eventbrite page to register. Guided walks are held each Tuesday from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. November-March, excluding Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

You saw a panther! Now what?

I received a text yesterday from a neighbor who had a photo from another neighbor of a possible panther in our neighborhood.

Now, I’ve known since I moved here that my neighborhood, which borders on the CREW Project, had possible panther activity. It’s the reason I purchased a game camera at last year’s silent eco-auction, and I take note of panther sightings posted on our neighborhood Facebook page Seeing a Florida panther in the wild is on my wildlife bucket list, so I would much rather prefer to see one a the CREW Marsh Trails than in my backyard but – any panther sighting would make my heart race with sheer joy.

Why? Besides the fact that panthers are one of our two big cat species, they are also endangered – and seeing them and reporting them is an important part of citizen science.

A Florida panther within the CREW Project. Photo by game camera monitored by volunteer Tom Mortenson.

From MyFWC.Com:

  • Florida panthers (Puma concolor coryi) are an Endangered Species.
  • Counting panthers is difficult because they are solitary, elusive and wide-ranging animals rarely observed in the wild. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) panther biologists estimate there are 120-230 adults and yearlings in Florida.
  • Reporting your observations can help FWC biologists address panther conservation needs by identifying the areas used by these large cats.

I learned last year during a hike that many people don’t know that, if you see a panther, you should report it online to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. So, if you do see a panther – first up, congratulations, and second, here are the steps to report this rare sighting.

  1. Snap a photo if you can of either the panther or its tracks.
  2. Using Google maps or your compass on your phone, take note of the latitude and longitude of the the sighting. You can drop a pin on your location on the Google Maps app to mark where you saw the panther and check that pin later for your GPS coordinates.
  3. Go to to report the sighting.
  4. Enter the latitude and longitude on the form or drag the red pin onto the map on the web page to mark the location.
  5. Enter the date of the sighting along with your information and any notes.
  6. Upload a photo if you have one.
  7. Submit your sighting.

And, if you happened to spot the panther at one of the CREW Trail Systems, let us know! We’d love to share your panther story.

Anne Reed

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