JONATHAN DICKINSON STATE PARK
Located just south of Stuart, this park teems with wildlife in 13 natural communities, including sand pine scrub, pine flatwoods, mangroves, and river swamps. The Loxahatchee River, Florida's first federally designated Wild and Scenic River, runs through the park. Ranger-guided tours of the 1930s pioneer homestead of Trapper Nelson are available year-round. Visitors can enjoy paved and off-road biking, equestrian, and hiking trails. Boating, canoeing, and kayaking along the river are also great ways to see the park. Anglers can catch freshwater fish along the riverbank or from a boat. The park offers two full-facility campgrounds and a youth/group primitive campground. Visitors can arrange boat tours of the river and rent canoes, kayaks, and motorboats by calling (561) 746-1466. Located 12 miles south of Stuart on U.S. 1.
Many species of wildlife may be observed at Jonathan Dickinson State Park, including deer, raccoons, foxes, otters, bobcats, and more. Alligators are commonly seen, as are turtles along the river. Threatened and endangered species include Florida scrub-jays, gopher tortoises, manatees, and Eastern indigo snakes. Over 140 species of birds have been identified here, making Jonathan Dickinson a premier birding destination.
The Loxahatchee River, named a National Wild and Scenic River in 1985, winds its way through the park, passing under a canopy of centuries-old cypress trees. The river has a timeless beauty all its own, "possessing remarkable ecological and recreational values which are unique in the United States."
Legends are nothing new to the east coast of Florida. In 1696, a Quaker merchant named Jonathan Dickinson shipwrecked off the coast in the area of Hobe Sound. Dickinson, his family and other survivors, made an arduous journey along the coast to St. Augustine. His journal, describing encounters with Native Americans and Spanish settlers, gives valuable information about life in early Florida.
The 25-passenger Loxahatchee Queen II takes visitors up the Loxahatchee River to the pioneer homesite of Trapper Nelson. Nelson came to the area in the 1930s and lived off the land by trapping and selling furs. He quickly became famous as the "Wildman of the Loxahatchee." After his death in 1968, the state acquired his land, preserving his home and grounds for future generations to enjoy.
During World War II, the United States Army operated a top-secret radar training school here, named Camp Murphy. The technology of radar was in its infancy, and the men that were trained here were sent out around the world. Over 1,000 school and support buildings, speedily constructed and heavily camouflaged, became home to over 6,000 soldiers and officers. Yet after only two years of operation, in November of 1944 Camp Murphy was deactivated.
Following the deactivation, the property was transferred on June 9, 1947, from the U.S. government to the State of Florida for a new state park. Jonathan Dickinson State Park was opened to the public in 1950.
Full Hookup Sitesyes
Twelve rental cabins are available, near the Loxahatchee. There are three different styles of cabins, and all come complete except for bed and bath linens. Call the concession at 561-746-1466 for information and reservations.
Two family campgrounds are to be found at Jonathan Dickinson State Park. Pine Grove Campground, with 90 sites, is located near the ranger station in the east part of the park. The River Campground is about four miles from the park entrance, near the Loxahatchee River. It has 45 sites. Both campgrounds have large, tiled bathhouses with hot-water showers, and sites with water, electric, table and grill. There is a dump station in each campground.
Two backpack camps are available on segments of the Florida Trail. One is nine miles out along the trail, and the other is 12 miles out. A pitcher pump is located near each camp; WATER MUST BE TREATED. Overnight trips to these sites must begin by certain specified times of the day; call the ranger station at 772-546-2771 for information and reservations.
The park has three youth group sites, for up to 30 persons each. Each site is equipped with tables and a fire circle, and a composting toilet. There is no water in this area; the closest potable water is about a mile away at the picnic area.
The River Store is located in the picnic area, and has limited camping and grocery items, drinks, snacks, and souvenirs. The store is where canoes, kayaks, and motorboats may be rented. Tickets for the tour boat are purchased there, and check-in and check-out for the cabins is also handled at the store.
The Elsa Kimbell Environmental Education and Research Center is a great place to begin a trip to the park. Visitors can 'tour' the natural and cultural resources of the park with interactive and informational displays. The classrooms and research laboratory provide children and adults an opportunity to learn and discover more about the variety of natural communities in the park, including the Loxahatchee River. For more information about our current programs, please visit the Friends of Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Inc. website or call the Kimbell Center at 561-745-5551. The Kimbell Center is open daily from 9:00 a.m. til 5:00 p.m.
A beautiful sandy swimming beach is available on the shores of the Loxahatchee River. No lifeguards are present, so please exercise due caution. It is adjacent to the reservable Loxahatchee picnic pavilion, and a new, modern bathhouse with outdoor shower. Please call for current swimming conditions.
A newly rebuilt boat launch ramp is available on the Loxahatchee River. The Loxahatchee eventually leads to the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean. Please observe the "idle speed" limit on the river within the park.
The 44-passenger Loxahatchee Queen II takes visitors on a two-hour tour of the river, with a stop at the restored camp of Trapper Nelson, the "Wildman of the Loxahatchee." At the site, park staff lead visitors around the grounds and buildings of a true Florida original, who made his living off the land as a trapper and fur trader. Once fame caught up with Trapper however, he evolved himself and his home into one of the area's first tourist attractions, "Trapper's Zoo and Jungle Gardens." Trapper's unsolved death in 1968 gives a fitting sense of mystery to the site. Trapper's is open Wednesday through Sunday, and is accessible only by private canoe or boat or by the concession's tour boat. Call the park concession at 561-746-1466 for information on times and prices for the Loxahatchee Queen II.
The Loxahatchee is famous throughout the state for canoeing and kayaking. The upper river winds its way under a canopy of centuries-old cypress trees, giving a real back-in-time experience. On the lower section, the river becomes a mangrove-lined estuary, with ample bird life along its shores. In 1985, the Loxahatchee was designated as Florida's first "National Wild & Scenic River." The park concession offers rental canoes, kayaks, and motorboats. Please observe the "idle speed" limit on the river within the park.
The park's Visitor Services Provider offers canoe and kayak rentals. Please call (561) 746-1466 for current rates and rental information.
Fishing in the Loxahatchee River varies from freshwater fishing in the upper river to saltwater angling as you approach the picnic area and boat ramp. There can be some overlap of species; it is possible to catch snook and snapper far upriver near Trapper?s, and largemouth bass as far down as the mouth of Kitching Creek. Be sure you have the appropriate license (or licenses) for the area and species you are fishing. Check with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for more information. Freshwater fishing is also available in several of the ponds and lakes, mainly in the eastern and southeastern areas of the park.