Spanning over 60,000 acres, the CREW project identifies the boundaries of the largest watershed in Southwest Florida.
CREW is short for Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed, and over 54,000 acres of this biome are protected land.
Several agencies are involved its management, including the CREW Land and Water Trust, the Audubon Society, and the South Florida Water Management District.
The project focuses on providing a habitat for a multitude of native species, recharge of the aquifer, filtering impurities, and flood control.
Built and maintained by CREW Land and Water Trust, the CREW Marsh Trails are located on the northwestern tip of the watershed, on the edge of this large, ecologically important wetland system.
Natural habitats showcased along the trails include pine flatwoods, oak and palm hammocks, and marsh.
Two viewing platforms, boardwalks, a covered pavilion, and a primitive campsite add to the public enjoyment of this picturesque hiking destination.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 3.1 mile loop
Trailhead: 26.491833, -81.533974
Address: 4600 Corkscrew Rd, Immokalee, FL 34142
Fees: Free, donations accepted
Restrooms: Portable restroom at trailhead
Land manager: South Florida Water Management District
Open one hour before sunrise and one hour after sunset.
Dogs are allowed on a leash. Expect wet feet for you and your dog.
Primitive camping along the trail is free, but you must reserve your campsite online in advance.
From Interstate 75 in Fort Myers, head east on SR 82 for 20 miles, then turn right onto Corkscrew Rd. In 1.5 miles, the trailhead parking area will be on the left side of the road.
Starting at the trailhead, head through a gap in the chain link fence, passing a few kiosks displaying information and maps.
Initially marked by posts topped with all three trail colors, follow a wide green path southeastward for 0.2 mile to a viewing platform at the edge of a depression marsh.
This round, grass filled pond is seasonally flooded, and the observation deck provides a panoramic outlook over the pine-bordered expanse.
From this viewpoint, turn right to begin the red loop trail.
Red blazes indicate the route around the north edge of the pond, leading through a pine flatwoods habitat characterized by slash pines and dense clusters of saw palmettos.
Buttery yellow black-eyed Susans and coreopsis line the trail along with Florida pennyroyal and orange milkworts.
At 0.8 mile, the path intersects one of a few blue side trails leading back to the entrance.
If the path has been wet so far, the red trail will most likely be underwater ahead as it skirts an edge of the marsh.
Reaching the junction of green, red, and yellow trails in another 0.8 mile, an observation tower provides outstanding views of the expansive wetlands to the south.
A bench situated on top of the tower offers a scenic spot to rest next to a small electronic kiosk that provides audio commentaries.
Head westward, following the green and yellow blazed trail across a boardwalk over wetlands covered with red maples.
The boardwalk provides benches, and a covered spot to take momentary shelter from sun or rain.
In 0.2 mile, stay to the left to follow green blazes into a thick palm hammock. Biodiversity shines in this sheltered jungle-like habitat.
Various shade-loving fauna cover the forest floor and cling to tree bases, including velvet and shiny-leaved wild coffee, shoestring ferns, and strap ferns.
A system of well-placed boardwalks navigate the swampier sections of this terrain.
The hammock slowly transitions to pine flatwoods as the pathway meanders towards an intersection with the yellow trail alongside a large pavilion known as Suzanne’s Platform.
Continue along this route for 0.3 mile to a post marked with all three colors and an exit sign.
Turn left, following the tri-colored markers for another 0.3 mile before returning to the trailhead.
More trails in the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed
On this 4.4 mile loop, experience an impressive array of habitats in Florida panther habitat – from sandy flatwoods to flooded cypress swamps – in the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed.
Weaving beneath a canopy knit by old-growth cypress trees in a majestic swamp forest, the boardwalk at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is one of Florida’s best hikes
Rich with wildlife, CREW Bird Rookery Swamp near Naples provides up to 12 miles of hiking/biking in Big Cypress habitats on tramways through a primordial swamp
A virtual walk in the woods on the CREW Marsh Trails
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Along a mile of interconnected footpaths at LaBelle Nature Park, walk a gentle half-mile loop with views of the Caloosahatchee River from a lush hammock
Providing a rare peek into unspoiled upland and floodplain habitats along the Caloosahatchee River, Caloosahatchee Regional Park evokes the wilderness in which the Calusa lived
Tropical gardens from the 1920s grow lavishly around the historic winter homes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers