Jonathan Dickinson State Park is a 10,500-acre park that is located in Hobe Sound, Florida approximately 30 minutes north of West Palm Beach. The park is the largest state park in Southeastern Florida and named for a Quaker merchant who became shipwrecked in 1696 and subsequently were captured by the Jobe (Hoe-Bay) Indians.
In 1942 the land occupied by the park known as Camp Murphy which was US Army radar training facility. Home to the Southern Signal Corps School during World War II, the base consisted of almost 1,000 buildings that housed 854 officers and 5,752 enlisted men. Before being decommissioned in 1944, the camp featured a number of buildings including a movie theater, church and bowling alley. In 1950 the US Government transferred the site to the State of Florida for a State Park.
The 17 square mile site that is now home to Jonathan Dickinson State Park has a number of different ecosystems. The park consists of sixteen (16) individual natural communities with the five major communities being The Scrub, Wet Prairie, Wet Flatwoods, Tidal Swamp and Floodplain Swamp. The western side of the park intersects with the Loxahatchee River which was designates as a “National Wild & Scenic River”.
Today the park features include two campgrounds plus twelve rental cabins, miles of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding, swimming and water activities, guided tours, playgrounds, picnic areas and an education center.
Recreation and Activities
There are a number of different options for recreation and activities at Jonathan Dickinson State Park. Equipment rentals as well as drinks & snacks can be purchased at the concession store.
Jonathan Dickinson State Park has extensive biking options on both paved and off-road trails. There are a number of multi-use trails including a two-mile paved trail that trains along Park Drive from the picnic area to the river area along with the 8.7-mile Ocean-to-Lake trail which is accessible through other trail systems. There is also the 8-mile Eagles View multi-use trail located north of the equestrian area.
What sets Jonathan Dickinson apart for bicycling is the Camp Murphy Off Road Bicycle Trail. which features there separate trails for beginners / novice riders, intermediate riders and expert / advanced riders.
It should be noted that helmets are required at all times when bike riding within the park.
The Green trail is for beginners & novice riders and features the Tortoise (0.76 miles) & the Hare (0.70 miles) while the Blue trail is for intermediate riders. The Blue trails features are as follows:
- Gator Hole
- Fire Ring
- Prickly Pear
- Eight Tenths
- Middle Ridge
- Big Burn
- Root Loop
The Half-Pipe is recommended only for the most advanced riders.
Nature Trails / Hiking
Jonathan Dickinson state Park has a number of designated hiking trails that are as follows:
- Kitching Creek Nature Trail (1.5 miles)
- Wilson Creek Nature Trail (0.5 miles)
- River Trail (0.75 miles)
- Ocean-to-Lake (9.4 miles)
- White Loop Trail (4.9 miles)
- Green Loop Trail (7.5 miles)
- Hobe Mountain Trail (boardwalk trail to the Hobe Mountain Observation Tower)
There are also several multi-use trails including the 8.7 mile Ocean-to-Lake trail and the 8-mile Eagles View trail system. The following map shows the Florida Trail System in Jonathan Dickinson state Park.
Jonathan Dickinson State Park offers a number of recreational water activities that will keep everyone in the family busy not only for the day, but for the entire weekend.
Canoe, Kayak and Paddle Boarding
With it’s location along the serene Loxahatchee River, the park is the perfect spot for paddle water sports including canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding. Visitors can bring their our equipment (and utilize the boat ramp to launch) or rent directly from the concession store.
Rental costs for the paddle water sports equipment is as follows:
- Canoe (2 hours): $28.00
- Single kayak (2 hours): $23.00
- Double kayak (2 hours): $33.00
- Paddle Board (1 hour): $25.00
Jonathan Dickinson has a grassy swimming beach area where visitors can swim in the waters of the Loxahatchee River. There are no lifeguards present so caution is recommended. The swimming area is adjacent to the Loxahatchee picnic pavilion.
The park has a number of 16 foot Carolina Skiff motorboats that are offered for rent. These boats are equipped with an outboard motor and are fairly easy to operate on the water. Boat operators must be 21 years of age or older.
Motorboats cost $55.00 for a two hour rental with a$25.00 per hour charge for additional time.
Visitors are permitted to fish in Loxahatchee River as well as in Kitching Creek and the ponds & lakes within the park. Species include snook, snapper and bass as there are mixtures of freshwater, brackish and saltwater angling in this area.
Fishing must fall within the state regulations and a fishing license may be required.
Guided Boat Tours and Charters
There are multiple guided boat tours offered at Jonathan Dickinson State Park.
Wilderness Guided River Boat Tour (Trapper Nelson Tour)
Visitors will enjoy a 1.0 hour “River Eco” tour up the Loxahatchee River with an optional visit to Trapper Nelson’s homestead (additional half hour). Trapper Nelson, also know as the “Wildman of the Loxahatchee”, was one of the original locals coming to the area in the 1930’s.
Tours depart at 9:00 AM, 11:00 AM, 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM (tide permitting) and costs are as follows:
- Adults: $23.00 (River only), $27.00 (Trapper Nelson’s)
- Child (3 to 12): $12.50 (River only), $14.50 (Trapper Nelson’s)
- Children under 3: Free
In addition to the River Eco and the Trapper Nelson tours, the park offers a salt water guided boat tour and special event group charters by request.
There are eight miles of multi-use trails at the park that starts at the Eagles View area. Additionally, there is a five-site equestrian campground that is located off Park Drive. Horses must be tethered overnight or confined in portable pens and proof of negative Coggins is required.
Starting at Thanksgiving and running until Easter, Jonathan Dickinson offers guided horseback rides ($35.00), handheld pony rides ($15.00) and guided wagon rides ($12.50).
Picnicking & Pavilions
Jonathan Dickinson features four picnic pavilions along with dozens of picnic tables and grills near the Loxahatchee River. Three of the pavilions can be reserved for a fee and costs are as follows:
- Loxahatchee Pavilion (up to 60 people): $60.00 plus tax
- Wilson Creek Pavilion (up to 60 people): $60.00 plus tax
- Kitching Creek Pavilion (up to 150 people): $100.00 plus tax
The Elsa Kimbell Education & Visitors Center is located in the River Area of the park and is home to a number of exhibits, classrooms and a research laboratory. Visitors learn about the parks ecosystems and can watch a video entitled, “A Balancing Act: Recreation and Preservation at Jonathan Dickinson State Park”.
In addition to the exhibits and experiences, visitors will enjoy a scavenger hunt where they will seek to find 32 different items that are spread out in the building.
The visitors center is open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and offers family programs & activities every Saturday at 10:00 AM.