Jonathan Dickinson State Park is a historic site located in Martin County between Hobe Sound and Tequesta, and is the largest state park in southeast Florida. The park includes the Elsa Kimbell Environmental Education and Research Center and a variety of natural habitats. The Loxahatchee River, which runs through the park, was the first river in Florida designated as a National Wild and Scenic River.
The park is named after Jonathan Dickinson, a Quaker merchant who was shipwrecked in 1696, with his family and others, on the Florida coast near the present-day park. He wrote a journal describing their encounters with local tribes, and their journey up the coast to St. Augustine.
The Wildman of the Loxahatchee:
A man known as Trapper Nelson homesteaded on the banks of the Loxahatchee River after coming to the area in the 1930s, living off the land, trapping and selling furs. After he died in 1968, the state acquired his land and deeded it to the park. Ranger-guided tours of Trapper Nelson’s 1930s pioneer homestead are now available year-round.
The Army Days:
In 1942 the United States Army established Camp Murphy, a top-secret radar training school, in the area that is now the park. The camp included over 1,000 buildings, and housed more than 6,000 officers and soldiers. The camp was deactivated in 1944, after only two years of operation. Most of the camp buildings were torn down, but some of the building foundations remain. The property was transferred to the State of Florida in 1947 and opened as a state park in 1950.
Visitors can enjoy paved and off-road biking, equestrian, and hiking trails. Boating, canoeing, paddleboarding, and kayaking along the river are also great ways to see the park. The park offers full camping facilities, even with equestrian camping accommodations, and visitors enjoy fishing, picnicking, geo-seeking, and wildlife viewing. It also has the Elsa Kimbell Environmental Education and Research Center, with exhibits about the park’s natural and cultural history. Ranger-guided tours of the 1930s pioneer homestead of Trapper Nelson are available year-round.