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Jonathan Dickinson State Park

Jonathan Dickinson State Park is popular with the locals here in Southeast Florida. It's close to two bodies of water -- the Atlantic Ocean and the Loxahatchee River -- so there are watery pleasures to be had. But there are also other treasures that await in Jonathan Dickinson State Park. How about we go and see what they are?

Be on the Lookout For...

Jonathan Dickinson State Park- Loxahatchee RiverFlorida's first federally-designated Wild and Scenic River, the Loxahatchee. If you like canoeing or kayaking it all, it's definitely worth a trip -- who knows what you will come across?

So What Is There To Do?

Jonathan Dickinson State Park has plenty to keep you busy:

  • Swimming
  • Canoeing/Kayaking/Boating
  • Fishing
  • Hiking/Biking
  • Camping
  • Picnics
  • Ranger Programs
  • Tours

Time to Go Swimming!

The most easily accessible swimming area at Jonathan Dickinson is on the Loxahatchee River. No lifeguards are present, though, so it's swim at your own risk.

For those of you wanting to see the Atlantic, you'll have to leave the park grounds and drive on over to Hobe Sound Public Beach. It's not too far away, only about 4 miles or so, with plenty of sand and surf. Don't know that I would suggest biking to the beach though, mainly because of the traffic. Lifeguards are usually (but not always) present on the beach, so swim cautiously.

Where are the Boats?

First, if you have your own canoe or kayak, this is a great place to bring it. The Loxahatchee River is loads of fun to paddle! There is a reason it's designated a wild and scenic river. Gliding down it in a canoe or kayak is one of life's simple pleasures. There are plenty of trees to shield you from the hot Florida sun, and wildlife galore.

If you don't have a canoe or kayak, fear not -- the park's concession rents them out. The phone number for the concession is (561) 746-1466, and it's located in the snack bar / store area. One of the things I like is that they offer a shuttle service, which is really nice. It's a tough trip if you have to paddle up the Loxahatchee and back down again. Costs seem to change, so best bet is to call them for the most

Now I'll admit that it's been a few years since I've floated down the Loxahatchee, but I remember it as a pretty easy trip...with one exception. Don't know if it's still there, but there was a small dam (for lack of a better word) to negotiate. Nope, we didn't need to get out of the canoe to do it, but it was a little tricky balancing our weights so that we cleared the whatever it was, but didn't end up in the river itself. However, there is hope. If there is a way to fall out of a canoe, I'll find it. And since I weathered the whatever it was without getting dunked, you can too.

Okay, for you powerboat junkies -- Jonathan Dickinson rents them (or rather the concession does). Powerboats can only be used on portions of the river though -- you won't be able to see some of the really neat parts of the Loxahatchee. With that being said, there is still plenty of room to roam. Please do watch out for the paddlers though -- running over a canoe or kayak can make for a very bad day for you both.

Yes, there is a boat ramp. It is on the Loxahatchee River, near the River campground, but also leads out to the Intracoastal Waterway and (eventually) the Atlantic.

  • Kayak and Canoe Rental: Canoes are $14 for the first two hours, the $5 an hour after that. Kayaks are $15 for a single, $20 for a double for the first two hours. After that the fees are $6 per hour.

  • Powerboats: Yes, you can rent powerboats at Jonathan Dickinson State Park. The cost is $25 per hour, with a two-hour minimum. You must be at least 21 years old to rent a powerboat. The boats are pretty small -- don't expect to get many people on them -- two would be comfortable, three would be crowded (unless the one or two were children).

Wet a Line, Catch Some Dinner

First off -- you need a Florida saltwater fishing license in the following instances:

  • Non-Florida resident
  • Florida resident, if not fishing from land, bridge or pier (in other words, in a boat of any kind)

You can wet your line in the river, or you can venture out in a boat to the Intracoastal. Either way -- know the rules! You can catch all you like, but you can only keep what is legal. What you can keep varies by species, size and time of year. Click for current rules and regulations for saltwater limits.

Funny Story: My husband and I went fishing in the Intracoastal for some spotted sea trout in our canoe. Everything was fine until we both hooked a fish at the same time! The boat went to rocking and rolling and over the side we each went. Whoops! Oh well, we had already caught quite a few that day anyway...

Hike It, Bike It

Jonathan Dickinson State Park has four nature trails:

  • Kitching Creek Trail begins in the picnic area parking lot. Follow Kitching Creek for a short meandering walk through the pines and other vegetation.

  • Wilson Creek Trail starts from the picnic area parking lot too. And yes, you will follow along Wilson Creek for your walk.

  • Sand Pine Scrub Trail is actually part of the Florida Trail system -- cool! You can walk along the half mile inside the park, or you could follow the Florida Trail for many, many miles. Start with the first half mile in the park -- there is plenty to enjoy.

  • Hobe Mountain Trail is not quite what it sounds like. Remember, Florida is flat so a large sand dune can be called a mountain! It's actually a boardwalk that leads to an observation tower, where you can see for miles around.

Jonathan Dickinson State Park also has some mountain biking trails -- 9 miles worth! You can take it nice and easy...or you can try a black diamond trail. Whoa! Now obviously you don't want to be on a black diamond trail if you don't have mountain biking experience. But if you are up to the challenge, it's ready and waiting for you!

If you'd rather just take a leisurely pedal down some paved roads, Jonathan Dickinson has those for you as well -- two miles of them.

Campground Tales

Jonathan Dickinson is a popular campground. You don't always need a reservation, but it would be wise to have one anyway. There are 135 campsites in total.

Here's something unusual about Jonathan Dickinson -- this is one of the few Florida State Parks that allows pets! Yes, there are three pet campgrounds available! (A pet-free campground is also available.) So bring your four-legged friend with you. Of the 135 sites in the park, 90 are pet-friendly.

All the campsites have water and electricity - yay! Some have regular electricity, some have 50-amp capability. In any case, they are all the same price -- $22 per night. So, whether you have an RV or tent, you can find a spot here.

There is a bathhouses (with hot water!) in each of the four campgrounds. Along with electricity and water, the sites include a picnic table and grill.

There is a dump station available for RVs.

Like I said before, I recommended that you make a reservation for camping at Jonathan Dickinson State Park, and the reservation can be made up to 11 months in advance. To make or change a reservation call Reserve America at 1-800-326-3521 or visit them online. Don't call the park - Florida State parks no longer handle the reservation booking themselves.

Some of the nicest spots (albeit a little more crowded) are the sites neat the Loxahatchee River. They are located in the River campground (appropriately named, I think). One of the reasons they are nicer is because you are more in the heart of the park -- the other three campgrounds are near the park entrance. However, the River campground is pet-free.

There are also 12 cabins at Jonathan Dickinson, but they cannot be reserved by Reserve America. You have to go through the park's concession to rent them. The concession's phone number is (561) 746-1466. The cabins all sleep 4 people, and rental fees are $85 per night for all cabins but two, which are $95 per night. Cooking utensils are provided, but linens (sheets, towels, pillows, blankets) are not (bring your own). The cabins do have air conditioning and a small kitchen. Oh, and an outside picnic table and fire ring too.

Picnics - Ya Gotta Eat!

There is a lunch/snack bar at Jonathan Dickinson, as well as a small grocery store with limited items. Especially when it's busy (Thanksgiving through about Easter), I wouldn't count on being able to get what you need from the grocery store. There are also some drink vending machines available -- again, if it's busy the machines can be empty. So unless you plan just a short day trip, bring what you want to eat and drink.

Picnic tables are scattered throughout the grounds, as are grills.

There are four pavilions in Jonathan Dickinson, and three can be reserved for the day. Two of the pavilions, the Loxahatchee and Wilson Creek go for $60.00 plus tax and has10 tables. The bigger Kitching Creek pavilion, with 20 tables, is $100.00 plus tax. The fourth pavilion is first-come-first-served. If you want to reserve a pavilion, call the ranger station at 772-546-2771.

Ranger Programs

Jonathan Dickinson State Park has one regular ranger program. It's a ranger-led walk that takes place at 9:00 AM on Sunday mornings. It's held year-round, but you would be wise to bring along some insect repellant. You might not need it in the winter, but don't take the chance. In the summer, be prepared for wet/muddy patches on the trails.


Jonathan Dickinson has the following tours available. Please contact the park for current rates:

  • Wilderness boat tour on the Loxahatchee River, to Trapper Nelson's cabin. It's a 2-hour tour up the river, visit the cabin and come on back down the river, and the motor boat holds 44 people. The tours depart the dock at 9:00 AM, 11:00 AM, 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM. The cost is $14.50 per adult, $9.50 for children 6 to 12, and children under 6 are free.
  • You can also book a guided canoe/kayak tour. It's 4 hours and costs $40 per person. Reservations are required.
  • If you have some money burning a hole in your pocket, charter your own tour (boat and captain). It's big bucks, at $200 per hour with a two hour minimum. You will also have to pay an extra 20% of the total as a captain fee.

Want more information or make a reservation? Contact the park concession at (561) 746-1466.

A Notice About Water, Weather and Insects

As always when in natural Florida, be aware of the strong sun, plentiful insects and possible rainshowers. Make sure to bring sunblock, sunglasses and at least have some insect repellent available. A hat is also suggested -- it is so very easy to get a sunburn on your scalp, full head of hair or not. Oh, and don't forget some sort of lip balm.

Time and Place

Jonathan Dickinson State Park is open year-round from 8 AM to sunset. The entrance and other fees are as follows:

  • Entrance Fees
    • $3.00 per single-occupant vehicle.
    • $4.00 per carload.
    • Motorcyclist - $3.00.
    • Pedestrian/bicyclist - $1.00
  • Camping Fees - $22 per night, full service campground.
  • Pavilion Rental - the small pavilions rent for $60 per day, the large pavilion is $100 per day. Taxes are extra.

Jonathan Dickinson State Park is on US 1, also known as Federal Highway. The official park address is 16450 S.E. Federal Highway, Hobe Sound, Florida 33455. The phone number is (772) 546-2771.

To make camping reservations, please call Reserve America at 1-800-326-3521 -- they handle all the reservations.

Florida Pieces-Parts

Jonathan Dickinson State Park is in Hobe Sound, in Southeast Florida. The closest city is Stuart. The closest airport is Palm Beach International.

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