Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Florida

Jonathan Dickinson State Park is among the largest state parks in Florida. The ten and a half thousand acres are home to a large variety of wildlife, plants, and Hobe Mountain.

On our visit, we first stopped at the parking lot for the Hobe Mountain Observation Tower. We followed a wooden walkway through the parkland to the top of the mountain.

Heading to Hobe Mountain

Observation tower in the distance

Hobe Mountain is an ancient sand dune and, at 86 feet above sea level, the highest natural point of land south of the Okeechobee. The climb was arduous but we made it and were rewarded with spectacular views of the park, the Intracoastal Waterway, and the Atlantic Ocean beyond.

Looking back from the observation tower on our long, hard road

Parkland with Intracoastal Waterway

Intracoastal with the ocean in the distance

Looking into the park

The children had a variety of reactions.

J unsure what to think

L ebullient

Cousins hanging out

After the mountain trek, we headed to the Elsa Kimbell Environmental Education and Research Center to learn more about the park.

Elsa Kimbell Environmental Education and Research Center


Inside one of the rangers told us a bit of the park's history. It is named after a Quaker merchant who was shipwrecked here in 1696. Jonathan Dickinson and his party befriended the natives who helped them get to St. Augustine where they continued their travels to Pennsylvania. The Indian tribe were called the Jobes (pronounced "Hoe-Bays"). They died out shortly after but Dickinson wrote a travel book with an extensive description of the Jobe tribe.

The Loxahatchee River passes through the park. The name is a combination of Seminole words that mean "Turtle River." It wanders along with many "meanders" in it, which a display explains clearly.

Meander formation (click to enlarge)

Just up the river in the park is the Trapper Nelson Interpretive Site. Nelson came to the area in the 1930s and began living off the land. He became a minor celebrity, attracting many people (including Gary Cooper) to see his zoo of wild animals and his occasional wrestling matches with alligators. We didn't go to his restored homestead but maybe on a future visit we will.

The park is home to a large variety of wild life. Some of them are represented in the center by interpretive signs and life-size statues. One snake lives at the center (though he was hiding in a box) and we saw a couple of skulls.

Alligator skull

Warthog (?) and another skull

The children asked about becoming Junior Park Rangers. The ranger on duty gave them some activities to do (which took far too long to do if you ask me). Once completed they were sworn in.

Working on her ranger status

The swearing in

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