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.

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

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

To see, or not see, a panther

Recently I led a group of new volunteers on a training session at the Cypress Dome Trails. My goal was to discuss our volunteer handbook and things to know as a new volunteer as well as engage in conversation so we could get to know each other.

I also wanted them to hike the Wild Coffee Trail, the section of the white trail that few people actually traverse. Why?

Most of the year it is wet. Very wet. And when it isn’t wet, it’s muddy. Not fun muddy, but suck-your-shoe-off-and-taunt-you muddy.

While we were hiking the easier part (after marker 10), I asked our volunteers, “What is the coolest wildlife sighting you’ve had?”

For almost everyone, the answer came very quickly and varied from mammals to reptiles to birds. I have two: a Great Horned Owl that flew very close to my husband and I while we were hiking and completely surprised us, and the Pink Lady’s Slipper, a member of the orchid family that surprised us all by growing one summer in my grandmother’s garden at our cabin in Northern Michigan.

The most common answer, not surprisingly, was the Florida Panther.

A few in our midst had a story to tell about their panther sighting, and for the rest of us, we all expressed how seeing one was definitely on our bucket list.

I myself have yet to see one in real life. I did recently find tracks, right by our mailbox, and they were spectacular.


I sent the photos of the tracks to a volunteer who monitors game cameras near our office, and he emailed a photo taken the evening before I found the tracks of this handsome male panther.

On the short drive home that evening, I was thinking about my excitement and the possibility of seeing my first (living) panther. Surely I would see one soon since I saw the tracks and we have the panther on game camera.

It seems inevitable. Move to SWFL, and you are bound to see panthers. There are signs all over warning of panther crossings (and, no, panthers are not black – please help spread the word).

I’ve heard everything from locals who have waited their whole lives to see a panther to tourists who simply turned a corner in their car and saw one dart across the road.

One of my very wise volunteers often tells people on her guided walks that she has never seen a panther, even with the countless hours she spends outdoors volunteering with several local nonprofits. Her view is that, when the time is right, she will see a panther. She uses the word “honor,” as in, the panther will honor her patience with its presence.

And maybe that is how we should look at at all of our coolest wildlife sightings. Whatever we see, when we see it, it’s an honor.


-Anne Reed







You’re invited to our first annual Family Fun Day!

As part of our commitment to teaching people of all ages about our mission to protect the watershed and wildlife of the 60,000 acre CREW Project, the CREW Land & Water Trust will host its first annual Family Fun Day on Saturday, April 8 from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Cypress Dome Trails, located just 15 minutes east of I-75 at 3980 Corkscrew Road, Immokalee FL 34142.

So, what exactly is going on, and why?

We are passionate about helping families connect with nature. So many students come to the trails on school field trips, and our hope is that they will return with their families. At the same time, we know from leading walks that many people need a guiding hand to help them reach the comfort level they need to walk the trails with family and friends.

On Saturday, when families arrive, children will receive a Nature Passport and travel to 10 different stations. They’ll measure their wingspan to see if they can reach as wide as an eagle, they’ll check out a camping demonstration in our primitive and private camping site, they’ll learn about the birds that might see on the CREW Trails and head out on a guided walk with one of our volunteer naturalists. On the walk, families will learn about the flora and fauna around them and hopefully become more comfortable on the trails and more interested in the ecosystems around them.

This event is free for members and $5 per family for non-members. You can register on eventbrite or at the event. Please wear appropriate footwear for sandy trails and bring water and snacks.

We hope to see you Saturday!

Hit the trails for National Walking Day

National Walking Day is the first Wednesday in April, and the CREW trails are a great place to get out and walk, no matter what your fitness level may be. Check out our suggestions for a few spots to celebrate with some fresh air and sunshine.

CREW Marsh Trails 

Location: 4600 Corkscrew Road (CR 850), Immokalee, FL 34142. Approximately 20 minutes east of I-75.

Cost: Free; donations accepted

Difficulty: Easy

Wear: Closed toed shoes and socks

Bring: Water, snacks, binoculars and cameras

Take a stroll on wide, hard-packed, mowed trails to the observation tower, where you can view the 6000 acre sawgrass marsh that helps clean the water that flows south and replenishes our aquifer. On the way to the tower, you will travel through pine flatwoods and an oak hammock. You may see butterflies, dragonflies, swallow tailed kites, red shouldered hawks, palm warblers, gopher tortoises and wildflowers in bloom. Approximate distance: 1.4 miles to the tower and back to the parking lot.

Cypress Dome Trails

Location: 3980 Corkscrew Road (CR 850), Immokalee, FL 34142. Approximately 15 minutes east of I-75.

Cost: Free; donations accepted

Difficulty: Medium

Wear: Closed toed shoes and socks

Bring: Water, snacks, binoculars and cameras

Start on the yellow loop from the parking lot and follow it around to the green loop. You’ll walk through pine flatwoods, cypress domes and you can stop to rest on a small bench overlooking one of our seasonal marshes. The end of the green loop takes you past Jim’s Pavilion, a great spot to sit and enjoy a snack or lunch. You may see butterflies, red shouldered hawks, wildflowers, warblers, woodpeckers, yellow rat snakes and box turtles. Approximate distance: 2.4 miles; if the distance is too much, use one of the two blue short cut trails.

Bird Rookery Swamp Trail

Location: 1295 Shady Hollow Blvd., Naples, FL 34120

Cost: Free; donations accepted

Difficulty: Hard

Wear: Closed toed shoes and socks

Bring: Water, snacks, binoculars and cameras

Become a “Looper” and hike the entire loop at Bird Rookery Swamp! You’ll walk on wide, grassy raised trams and share the trail with wildlife, including alligators, otters, banded water snakes, red bellied turtles, barred owls, roseate spoonbills, egrets and more. Approximate distance: 13 miles; if the distance is too much, head back to the parking lot before you begin to feel tired. The loop may take six or more hours; it is very important to bring food and water with you and to check your energy levels often to determine if you can make the full loop or not. as there are no shortcut trails.


August 11th Wet Walk at CREW- Can you handle it?

Never been in a Florida swamp? Well this is your chance. Sign up today to join Jessi Drummond, our Environmental Education Specialist, on a wet walk through CREW’s Cypress Dome Trails on August 11th at 9am. To preregister for this hike click here.

wet popash slough 2013 square

On this hike enjoy the White Loop at the CREW Cypress Dome Trails and experience a magical, and beautiful place. This 3+ mile hike takes you deep into the woods on a narrow trail where barred owls perch and old, curvy palm trees reach for the sun. With no boardwalks, this trail lets you get your feet wet as you slog through the popash slough and then up into some of the most gorgeous pine flatwoods at CREW.

Bring plenty of water to drink, sun protection (sunscreen, hat, glasses), bug spray or long sleeves, camera/binoculars if you like, and be prepared to get wet (and muddy) up to your knees or even thighs, depending on how much rain we get this summer.

We’ll wrap up by noon. Feel free to bring a picnic lunch to eat at the pavilion or benches in the parking area afterwards.

To register click here.  CREW Members are current members of the CREW Land & Water Trust. General Public/Non-members may join CREW (and become eligible to take advantage of the member discount for this workshop) by going to and clicking on the DONATE button or by calling 239-657-2253.


A View of the Cypress Dome Trails- Wonderful Wildflowers


CYRESS DOME TRAILS (green and yellow trails, most of white trail)
Thursday, January 7 ~ 6:55 am – 11:15 am

“There is still lots of mud and some submerged spots on the white trail (I didn’t even try the wild coffee trail), and a few similar spots at the north end of the yellow trail.  The bird list is a blooms0107little better than normal for the Cypress Dome, but the best part was finding lots of native wildflowers in bloom. The four in the photo are Butterflyweed, Sabatia, Black-eyed Susan, and Glades Lobelia.
The large number of Turkey Vultures came in a steady stream that lasted almost 10 minutes before all had passed overhead.
A quick stop in the Imperial Marsh parking lot on the way back netted a huge flock of White Pelicans plus over two dozen storks and some miscellaneous herons and egrets”.

Great Blue Heron – 3
Great Egret – 2
Little Blue Heron – 1
Green Heron – 2
White Ibis – 7
Black Vulture – 7
Turkey Vulture – 324
Red-shouldered Hawk – 8
Cooper’s Hawk – 2
Sand Hill Crane – 2
Mourning Dove – 7
Red-bellied Woodpecker – 17
Downy Woodpecker – 1
Pileated Woodpecker – 8
Blue Jay – 5
American Crow – 1
House Wren – 5
American Robin – 21
Gray Catbird – 9
Northern Mockingbird – 1
Palm Warbler – 18
Pine Warbler – 4
Yellow-rumped Warbler – 17
Common Yellowthroat – 2
Northern Cardinal – 1

White Peacock – 2
Barred Yellow – 2
Gulf Fritillary – 1

Florida Cricket Frog (calling) – 8
Gray Squirrel – 3

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