CREW and You, part 2: WHAT

This is part 2 of a 6-part series on the Who, What, When, Where, Why and Hows of CREW and the CREW Trust.

CREW Marsh Trails observation tower, overlooking the 5,000-acre sawgrass marsh

In our last blog post, we established WHO we are (CREW Trust), and WHO is involved in the CREW Project. Today, let’s explore the whats – WHAT is CREW, and WHAT does the CREW Trust do?


CREW stands for Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed, a 60,000-acre watershed that spans Lee and Collier counties.

The land is preserved for our most important natural resource: water.

What does the watershed do?

During rainy season, if you followed one drop of rain water, it would fall in the northern part of the watershed – the CREW Marsh Trails. From there, it would move slowly over the land and into seasonal marshes or through the 5,000-acre sawgrass marsh that is the heart of the CREW Project.

The sawgrass helps filter the water, which then continues to slowly move either west towards Flint Pen Strand and into the Kehl Canal (then the Imperial River and finally Gulf of Mexico) or south to Bird Rookery Swamp and into the Cocohatchee River and then the Gulf of Mexico.

But we do not want all of that water to leave the watershed. The majority of that water needs to sit on the land, seep through the roots of the plants and the sandy soil, then through the limestone and into our aquifer.

We rely on our aquifer to provide us with all of the water we use in SWFL – from cooking and drinking to taking showers and flushing toilets. We do not have glacier melt or springs or reservoirs and rely solely on the aquifer. Large green spaces are need for aquifer recharging, and that is the main function of the Corkscrew Regional Ecocystem Watershed (CREW).

Because the land is preserved for water, it is also a home for wildlife, including some critical and endangered plant and animal species. The ecosystems include seasonal marshes, pine flatwoods, oak hammocks, popash sloughs, cypress domes, cypress swamps, hydric pine and more. Animals that can be found throughout CREW include Florida black bears, Florida panthers, coral snakes, alligators, grasshopper sparrows, roseate spoonbills, swallow-tailed kites, bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, bobcats, lubber grasshoppers, zebra longwing butterflies and so many more. Due to the many ecosystems within CREW and the variety of wildlife that live within the 60,000-acre border, the second function of CREW is as a home for Southwest Florida flora and fauna.

What does the CREW Trust do?

The CREW Land & Water Trust is a private, non-profit conservation organization dedicated to the preservation and stewardship of the water resources and natural communities in and around the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW).

We do this through assisting with funding and land acquisition within the 60,000-acre CREW project border.

As part of our commitment to the preservation and stewardship of CREW, we provide environmental education programs for students of all ages on the four CREW Project trails (CREW Marsh Trails, Cypress Dome Trails, Flint Pen Strand Trails and Bird Rookery Swamp Trails).

We believe that, if we teach people about the watershed and the wildlife within its borders, we can help make connections that will ensure that future generations will continue to care not just about preserving CREW but care about preserving more watersheds nationally and globally.

A View of Bird Rookery Swamp- May 2, 2015

Below are first hand observations from our volunteer Dick Brewer. Who does weekly visits to Bird Rookery Swamp and very week sends us incredible stories of the magical 12 mile loop. If you would like to see more of his observations visit:

barred owl
By Dick Brewer

“Water levels are down more, even after the recent rains. Consequently, gator and wading bird numbers are down too. 

One Roseate Spoonbill spent most of the day at Ida’s Pond, so visitors coming in had a spoonbill, Banded Water Snake, gators, Anhingas, Red-bellied Turtle, Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, and Great Egrets to greet them.

The “hot spot” for the day was past marker 2 where the barbed wire fence ends and a service road splits to the left. There’s a depressionnat the junction of the main tram and the service road where a River Otter spent time catching and eating Crayfish that were left. A young
Barred Owl was in a cypress overhead, and while I was talking with four women who were enjoying the otter and owl, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo called from behind us. Later, hikers and bikers all commented about the otter and owl, so it was a great day for everyone.

The tram between markers 6 and 3 hasn’t been mowed recently, so the higher grasses are attracting lots of butterfly species, especially skippers”.

By Dick Brewer

Bird Rookery Swamp observations
Saturday, May 2 ~ 7:15 am-1:30 pm

Anhinga – 11
Great Blue Heron – 2
Great Egret – 6
Snowy Egret – 4
Little Blue Heron – 3
Tri-colored Heron – 1
Black-crowned Night Heron – 3
White Ibis – 1
Roseate Spoonbill – 1
Wood Stork – 8
Black Vulture – 44
Turkey Vulture – 18
Red-shouldered Hawk – 11
Common Ground Dove – 6
Yellow-billed Cuckoo – 1
Barred Owl – 1
Belted Kingfisher – 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker – 15
Downy Woodpecker – 2
Pileated Woodpecker – 4
Great-crested Flycatcher – 6
Blue Jay – 2
American Crow – 1
Tufted Titmouse – 7
Carolina Wren – 11
White-eyed Vireo – 14
Northern Cardinal – 23
Common Grackle – 6

Palamedes Swallowtail – 5
Tiger Swallowtail – 1
Zebra Longwing – 2
Ruddy Daggerwing – 7
White Peacock – 58
Red Admiral – 1
Viceroy – 2
Queen – 1
Monarch – 1
Great Southern White – 12
Tropical Checker – 6
Whirlabout – 1
Twin-spotted Skipper – 1
Delaware Skipper – 1

Raccoon – 1
River Otter – 1
White-tailed Deer – 1
Alligator – 84
Brown Anole – 12
Red-bellied Turtle – 7
Banded Water Snake – 1
Pig Frog – 3
Green Treefrog – 5
Cuban Treefrog – 2
Great Blue Skimmer – 1
Needham’s Skimmer – 2
Eastern Pondhawk – 85
Gar – 28

 By Dick Brewer

Great Blue Skimmer
By Dick Brewer

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