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Discover the Natural and Historical Treasures

Jonathan Dickinson State Park

Nestled in the heart of Southeast Florida, Jonathan Dickinson State Park stands as a testament to the region's natural splendor and historical significance. As the largest state park in Southeast Florida, it spans over 10,500 acres, offering visitors a diverse tapestry of ecosystems and experiences that capture the essence of Florida’s natural heritage.

Jonathan Dickinson State Park is a sanctuary where sixteen distinct natural communities, including rare coastal sand hills, serene upland lakes, and dense scrub forests, converge to create a vibrant ecological mosaic. The park's landscapes range from the sweeping views of the Atlantic Coastal Ridge to the tranquil waters of the Loxahatchee River, Florida’s first federally designated Wild and Scenic River. This river serves as a pivotal natural artery, winding through the park and providing vital habitats for a plethora of wildlife.

Historically, the park has served multiple roles, from a secretive World War II training camp to the humble abode of the legendary "Wildman of the Loxahatchee," Trapper Nelson. The park’s namesake, Jonathan Dickinson, was a Quaker merchant who shipwrecked nearby in 1696, and his harrowing tale of survival and interaction with the native tribes is a cornerstone of the park’s rich narrative.

Today, Jonathan Dickinson State Park is more than just a natural retreat; it is a dynamic venue for adventure and discovery. Visitors can paddle down the Loxahatchee’s serene path, hike extensive trails that offer both easy walks and challenging treks, and cycle through habitats that range from pine flatwoods to coastal scrubs. Each trail and path provides unique insights into the natural and cultural stories of the area.

For those interested in the park's historical and ecological aspects, the Elsa Kimbell Environmental Education and Research Center offers comprehensive exhibits and programs that delve into the park’s ecosystems and history. Here, guests of all ages can engage in educational programs that highlight the importance of conservation and the roles they can play in preserving natural landscapes.

Jonathan Dickinson State Park is not just a hub for ecological and recreational activities but also a living classroom and a vital sanctuary for wildlife. It reflects the ongoing efforts to preserve Florida's wild spaces and offers a gateway to understanding and appreciating the intricate beauty of the natural world. As the park continues to evolve, it remains a steadfast protector of the biodiversity within its boundaries and a beloved destination for those seeking to connect with nature. Whether you're drawn by the call of the wild, the paddle's splash, or the tales of days gone by, Jonathan Dickinson State Park offers an enriching escape into the wild heart of Florida.

Upcoming Events

  • October 19, 2024 1:00 PM
    Jonathan Dickinson State Park


  • 8 a.m. until sundown
  • 365 days a year


  • $6 per vehicle (2-8 people)
  • $4 single-occupant vehicle
  • $2 for pedestrians, bicyclists, and extra passengers

Boat Ramp

  • $4 plus tax
  • This is in addition to admission

Contact Info


Jonathan Dickinson State Park offers a comprehensive network of hiking trails that meander through its various natural communities. From the gentle Kitching Creek Nature Trail to the challenging Hobe Mountain Trail, hikers can experience a range of environments from river floodplains to sandy pine flatwoods. Each trail offers unique insights into the flora and fauna of the region, with opportunities to observe wildlife in their natural habitats. Whether you're a seasoned hiker or a family looking for a leisurely stroll, the park's trails provide a perfect backdrop for connecting with nature and discovering the scenic beauty of South Florida.


The park features extensive biking trails that cater to all levels of experience, from leisurely paved paths to rigorous off-road challenges. The popular Camp Murphy Off-Road Bicycle Trail System, with loops rated from beginner to expert, attracts mountain bikers from across the state. For those preferring a smoother ride, the paved multi-use trail offers a scenic route through the park’s diverse landscapes. Biking at Jonathan Dickinson not only promises physical exercise but also immersive encounters with the park’s natural beauty, making it a favorite activity for cyclists.


Paddling the Loxahatchee River, Florida's first federally designated Wild and Scenic River, offers a sublime experience of the park’s aquatic landscapes. Canoeists and kayakers can explore the serene, cypress-lined upper stretches or the vibrant mangrove-fringed estuary. The park’s full-service concession provides rentals for canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards, facilitating access to these beautiful waterways. Paddling here is more than just recreation; it’s a journey through a corridor of biodiversity and a chance to see the park from a unique, water-level perspective.

Wildlife Viewing

Jonathan Dickinson State Park is a sanctuary for a myriad of wildlife species, making it a prime spot for wildlife viewing. The park is home to over 150 bird species, making it a birdwatcher's paradise, especially during migration seasons. Alongside birds, visitors may encounter deer, raccoons, foxes, and even manatees in the river. The park’s diverse ecosystems provide habitats for endangered species like the Florida scrub-jay and gopher tortoises, offering visitors a chance to appreciate the importance of conservation efforts within the park.

Prescribed Burns

Prescribed burns are a vital management tool used at Jonathan Dickinson State Park to maintain the health of fire-dependent ecosystems. These controlled burns help to reduce underbrush, prevent catastrophic wildfires, and promote the growth of native plant species that rely on fire cycles to thrive. For many wildlife species, these burns enhance their habitats, promoting biodiversity. Educational programs at the park often focus on the role and benefits of fire in ecosystem management, helping visitors understand and appreciate this important conservation practice.

Hobe Mountain Observation Tower

Although currently closed for restoration, the Hobe Mountain Observation Tower remains one of the park’s most iconic features. Standing atop the highest natural point in South Florida, the tower offers unmatched panoramic views of the park and its surroundings. When reopened, it will continue to provide visitors with opportunities to see across the Atlantic Coastal Ridge and deep into the heart of the park’s varied landscapes. The restoration project aims to enhance the visitor experience by improving safety and accessibility while preserving the tower’s historical significance.

Trapper Nelson Homestead

Dive into the intriguing history of Trapper Nelson, the legendary figure known as the 'Wildman of the Loxahatchee.' Once a reclusive trapper and fur trader, Nelson transformed his homestead into one of the area’s first tourist attractions, Trapper’s Zoo and Jungle Gardens. Today, visitors can explore his restored 1930s pioneer homestead, accessible only by boat, where they can learn about his unique, self-sufficient lifestyle and mysterious demise. This historic site offers a rare glimpse into a man who lived off the land, becoming a local legend and an integral part of the park's cultural heritage.

Kimbell Education Center

The Elsa Kimbell Environmental Education and Research Center at Jonathan Dickinson State Park serves as a hub for educational and research activities. With a focus on the park’s natural and cultural history, the center offers programs, workshops, and exhibits that engage visitors of all ages. From interactive displays to ranger-led programs, the center provides valuable insights into the ecological processes and historical narratives of the park, enriching visitors' experiences and fostering a deeper connection with the environment.

Self-Guided Activities and Geocache

Jonathan Dickinson State Park encourages exploration and discovery through a variety of self-guided activities. One of the most engaging is geocaching, an outdoor treasure-hunting game that uses GPS-enabled devices to locate hidden containers, or "caches," within the park. This activity combines adventure with a touch of technology, making it a favorite among families and tech enthusiasts alike. Alongside geocaching, the park offers a self-guided audio tour that allow visitors to learn at their own pace as they drive through the park and delve deeper into the park’s rich offerings. 

Who was Jonathan Dickinson?

Shipwrecks, survival, and a story of triumph

Three miles to east of Jonathan Dickinson State Park, on September 23, 1696, the British barkentine Reformationfoundered off Jupiter Island. The 24 survivors included a party of Quakers bound from Jamaica to Pennsylvania. Leader of the Quakers was Jonathan Dickinson who described the trials of the group in his book, God's Protecting Providence (Jonathan Dickinson's Journal), the first account of Indians on the southeast coast. Attacked by Indians and driven northward, the party arrived at Saint Augustine in November 1696.

Jonathan Dickinson Fun Facts!

  • Jonathan Dickinson was born in 1663 in Jamaica. He Became a merchant like his father selling goods to the people of Port Royal.
  • The earthquake of 1692, which nearly destroyed Port Royal, caused the Dickinson family great financial losses.
  • In 1696 Jonathan Dickinson left Jamaica with the intention of settling with his family in Philadelphia.
  • Dickinson and his family, which included his wife, Mary, their six-month-old son, Jonathan, and his ten slaves, took passage on the barkentine Reformation and sailed for St Augustine.
  • On September 24 a storm, which may have been a hurricane, drove the ship onto a reef and then onto shore on Jupiter Island, Florida, a little ways north of Jupiter Inlet near present-day Hobe Sound.
  • Within a few hours they were discovered by the local Jobe Indians, and taken captive to what is now Dubois Park. On September 28 the party was allowed to leave the Jobe village, heading north to Saint Augustine.
  • After the shipwreck and reaching St Augustine, Jonathan Dickinson finally reached Philadelphia. He prospered there and served as Mayor of Philadelphia for 2 terms.

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