By Chip Deutsch
Corkscrew Swamp is a water wonderworld that I enjoy exploring. Wading deep into the swamp, my friends and I reached a spacious area of open water surrounded by ancient bald cypress, giants whose limbs hung heavy with bromeliads and resurrection ferns. Gazing up at this natural cathedral, a hush came over our small group and we stood motionless and silent, taking in the unique sounds, smells, and sights of our strange and wonderful surroundings. I was in awe of the life forms around me, not only the towering cypress but also the larger-than-life cow-horn orchid, whose blooms burst like a ray of sunshine piercing the cool shade. Also breathtaking: the gawky wood storks who raise their young in treetop colonies, the long brown leaves of leather ferns, and the bright green fire flag waving silently in the shallows. I felt transported to another world, to a primeval wilderness—and, in fact, that was true.
Turning my attention downward, the beauty of numerous small wonders was revealed, such as dainty freshwater clams in the peaty bottom, mosquitofish darting through the tannic waters, and carnivorous bladderworts with floating traps readied for minute prey. Tracks of deer and raccoon betrayed their nocturnal presence. I discovered delicate orchids clinging to the tree bark, green tree frogs ensconced under fronds, a bizarrely-shaped conehead katydid, strangler fig berries, and Marsh Pink—what a gorgeous flower! I could go on and on, fixed in one spot forever, and never get bored!
But the true essence of this special place was its slowly flowing water—the clear tea-colored liquid -mirrors the images of overhanging ferns and trees, nourishing them, and sheltering the fish and insects and myriad other wonderful creatures. Water . . . the life-giving force of the swamp, the blood of Corkscrew. Water . . . that simple substance upon which all life depends.