When it comes to camping in Florida, we can honestly say Jonathan Dickinson State Park was not on our RV radar. It sure is now.
This 11,500 acre park is near Jupiter on the eastern shoreline and when we visited it in early March it was to be an overnight-only stop on the way to the Keys. We pulled in at night after dark – the friendly ranger told us he'd gladly wait for our late arrival as he wanted to be sure we were in our spot before putting down the gate at the front entrance – staying in the Pine Grove Campground at the park's eastern end.
So it wasn't until the next morning that we got a chance to look around and see that Jonathan Dickinson State Park was a pretty special place. Immediately, we wished we had brought our bicycles – there is a wonderful mountain bike trail – and our eBikes for the paved bike trails and road to the lower, or River Campground near the Loxahatchee River.
That's right. Jonathan Dickinson State Park has two campgrounds. ANd both campgrounds have electricity, water and sewer hookups at each RV site.
Here's our video from the RV Lifestyle Channel on Youtube of our visit to Jonathan Dickinson State Park:
Jonathan Dickinson State Park and the Wildman of the Loxahatchee River
The Loxahatchee River, Florida's first federally designated “Wild and Scenic River,” winds its way through the park under a canopy of cypress trees. It is a great place to kayak, canoe, or fish. Rentals are available form the Jonathan Dickinson State Park concession store near the Pine Grove Campground as is a boat tour that will take you to Trapper Nelson homestead.
Talk about characters.
Vince Nelson, also known as the Tarzan of the Loxahatchee River, sometimes the wildman of the Loxahatchee, was a hermit who lived deep in the wilds along the river in what is now Jonathan Dickinson State Park from the 1930’s to 1960s.
He was a very colorful character who turned his homestead along the river into a makeshift zoo.
He died of a gunshot wound in the cabin in 1968. It was ruled a suicide, but some claimed it was murder and a local legend says his spirit still haunts his camp.
At any rate, he was such a colorful character that his cabin and outbuildings are part of an official tour at Jonathan Dickinson State Park… one we heartily recommend you take.
How Jonathan Dickinson State Park got its name
Jonathan Dickinson State Park is named for Quaker merchant Jonathan Dickinson, who was shipwrecked off the Atlantic coast in the area of Hobe Sound and Jupiter in 1696. Dickinson wrote a detailed journal of the difficult journey he made with his family and other survivors as they made their way along the coast north to St. Augustine. He described encounters with Native Americans and Spanish settlers.
They were not pleasant.
He and his party were held captive by Jobe (“Hoe-bay” later Hobe) Indians for several days, and then was allowed to travel by small boat and on foot the 230 miles up the coast to St. Augustine. They were subjected to harassment and physical abuse at almost every step of the journey. Five members of the party died from exposure and starvation on the way.
Once they reached the Spanish authorities in Saint Augustine the surviving members of the party were treated well and sent on by canoe to Charleston, SC where they were able to find passage to their original destination, Philadelphia.
After many hardships, Jonathan Dickinson finally reached Philadelphia. He prospered there and twice served as Mayor of Philadelphia, from 1712-1713 and 1717-1719
Jonathan Dickinson State Park has the highest “mountain” in South Florida
Jonathan Dickinson State Park also boasts the tallest “mountain” south of Lake Okeechobee – Mt. Hope, an 87-foot high sand dune that is “climbed” via a boardwalk that works its way up to an overlook that offers a view of the intercoastal waterway and the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the sand pine scrub, pine flatwoods, mangroves, and river swamps to the west.
We had Bo with us and he was allowed on the boardwalk to Mt. Hobe as well as all the roads and trails, as long as we had him on a leash. There are lots of alligators out there in the scrub brush and ponds, as well as rattlesnakes and water moccasins. So Jonathan Dickinson State Park is not a place you want to let your dog running around unattended.
Jonathan Dickinson State Park has 112 Rv or tent campsites – 50 of those in the River Campground (the most popular), the other in the Pine Grove Campground to the east. The two loops are a few miles apart so those who camp on the Pine Grove Campground loop may want to drive or bike to the river.
Camping dees are $26 per night, plus tax, plus a non-refundable $6.70 reservation fee
Jonathan Dickison State Park is a perfect weekend getaway. Two nights and three days will give you plenty of time to leisurely explore and the park.
Once you stay, you'll be back. Like us.
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