We had a wonderful weekend at Jonathan Dickinson State Park. At 11,500 acres of wilderness, it is the largest state park in South East Florida. There are two campgrounds: Pine Grove and the River Campground. Pine Grove is the larger one just inside the park entrance. Recently renovated, it is very open, with little privacy, trees, or shade. It is mostly “big” campers and motorhomes. Situated right next to the 4 lane divided US-1 highway, we knew we needed to be further away so we chose the River Campground.
4 miles inside the park is the River Campground, featuring smaller sites, lots of trees and landscape. The two bathrooms were recently renovated and clean; they even had laundry facilities. The campsites have water and electric hookups. There are a mix of tents, Class “B” vans, and other small trailers. Our Casita was right at home. The 2 newly built bathhouses were nice, clean, and have paved sidewalks connecting to the various parts of the campground loop. With no wifi, we made due with 1 bar of cellular service. It was enough to check messages, post to Facebook, and download a Kindle book, but not enough to browse the internet. This was the only negative.
We brought our “Clam” screened shelter again. Being in South Florida, at the tail end of summer, we predicted that the park would be a mosquito-fest but we were wrong. There were gnats and “no-see-ums” but not a single mosquito. Nothing a little bug repellent couldn’t handle. It was too hot to sit inside the Clam, so the following day we packed it up.
Bike Paths and Geo-caches:
A 3.5 mile paved path meandered halfway across the park. It was perfect for a family bike ride. The boys were excited to try out a hobby called “geo caching” where a GPS or smartphone app is used to navigate to secret “caches” hidden all over the world. We explored 3 sites, but only found one “cache”. In the photo Jack is holding the container that had a note and log sheet inside plus a trinket. We didn’t have a trinket to exchange, so we put it back.
The park had many mountain bike trails and a concession stand grilling and selling food. We didn’t try them out, but will next time. There is also a “mountain” with a look-out tower that we still need to explore.
The Loxahatchee River:
Swimming wasn’t allowed due to the fact that alligators have been attacking people all over Southern Florida in the past few years. We didn’t need any convincing. However there were other water activities. The store had rental kayaks, paddle boards, canoes, powerboats, and large tour boats as options to explore the river. Just over 3 miles upriver is the hidden camp of “Trapper Nelson” made famous during the 1930’s and 40’s. We wisely decided that it was too far to paddle and since the price for 2 canoes was the same as a powerboat, I took command of a Carolina Skiff and headed up river.
45 minutes later we found the site and explored. We’ll keep the history of Trapper Nelson out of this article as to not spoil the fun of discovering it. Upon our return to the river store, the food stand was open for business. They offered pretty good food and a surprisingly large selection of cold beers.
The park also had the Kimbell Nature Center which offered interactive classes and activities for kids, but we missed the show times. That was okay because the most excitement occurred in the parking lot. Zachary spotted a baby Gopher Tortoise (which are a threatened species) behind a truck tire in the parking lot. We saved him from potentially being squished and placed him in the nearby grass. We’re so happy we saved the little fella.
We then returned to the campsite and grilled bacon wrapped Jalapeño Poppers from the local Publix grocery store. Once the bacon was crispy and the cream cheese bubbled, it was best snack ever! We made a note to make some on the next trip.
We really enjoyed the park and will definitely return in the future.