Thursday, September 08, 2011

Jonathan Dickenson State Park

Vero Beach, Florida

We decided to take a drive south yesterday and do a little exploring. 

The seas are still too rough to do any beach or kayak diving.  Note the sign at a local beach warning of rip currents, jelly fish and bad conditions.

Wabasso Beach

  This is a popular beach for surfers when the conditions are right.  We overheard a guy telling someone how he had been surfing there  since the 70’s.  He called himself an “old hippie surfer.”  He was quite a character and we would have loved to have talked to him, but he was off to go surfing.

The rip currents have been really bad all week.  Do you know how to get out of a rip current?  Anytime you swim in the ocean, you need to know about rip current.


Rip currents can pull you out to sea if you don’t know how to get out of them.  We have been caught in a few rip currents in our lives and they are not fun.  Your first reaction is to fight them and swim hard towards shore.  What you should do is swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the rip current.  At that point you can then swim in to shore. 

We had been wanting to visit Jonathan Dickenson State Park.  It is in Hobe Sound, Florida on the Atlantic coast of Florida.   It is about 60 miles south of where we are staying in Vero Beach.    When you get to this area, the water starts getting so much clearer and prettier.  It’s one of our favorite areas of Florida.  It’s clear because the Gulf Stream comes closer to the coast than in any other area of the state.

The following picture was taken at Coral Cove Beach park.  See how pretty the water is.

Coral cove Beach, Stuart Florida

In 2004 and 2005, Florida had a bulls-eye on it for hurricanes.  In the 30 years we had lived in Florida, we had never seen anything like it.  So many hurricanes and tropical storms struck Florida those two years that we lost track. They would enter one part of the state, travel through and exit the other side of the state, causing tremendous damage all the way.  When one storm would be gone, another was on the way. 


Jonathan Dickenson State Park was heavily damaged by these storms and the damage is still visible today.  Most of the large oak trees in the park were killed and all that is left is the dead stumps.  It’s sad to see all the damage.  Note how they all lean?

dead trees Jonathan Dickenson State Park

There are hiking trails, equestrian and paved and off road bike trails in the park.  The paved trail runs along the road bed of the Old Dixie Highway for 2 miles.  There is a 9 mile network of bike trails for the beginners through advanced  and expert. 

bike trail Jonathan Dickenson State Park

bike trail


This is copied from the website and is a good description of the park.

The are  13 natural communities, including sand pine scrub, pine flatwoods, mangroves, and river swamps. The Loxahatchee River, Florida's first federally designated Wild and Scenic River, runs through the park. Ranger-guided tours of the 1930s pioneer homestead of Trapper Nelson are available year-round. Visitors can enjoy paved and off-road biking, equestrian, and hiking trails. Boating, canoeing, and kayaking along the river are also great ways to see the park. Anglers can fish along the riverbank or from a boat. The nature and history of the park comes to life through exhibits and displays in the Elsa Kimbell Environmental Education and Research Center. Visitors can arrange boat tours of the river and rent canoes, kayaks, and motorboats.

It  was too hot to do any hiking, but we could see that this would be a wonderful park to explore when it’s cooler.  There has to be a ton of wildlife. 

There are two campgrounds.  The first one we visited was the River Campground.  These sites had electric and water,  and were wooded with lots of privacy.  It was close to the river, but we didn’t see any sites where you could actually see the river.  We found a few sites that we could fit into.

Site 100 – 50 amp


site 102 – 50 amp


site 114 – 50 amp


We drove around the park.  Here are some photos of the river showing the boats, kayaks and canoes available to rent.

Jonathan Dickenson State Park boat and canoes for rent on river

Jonathan Dickenson State Park boat and canoe rentals

This is the Loxahatchee River.  It’s quite a “twisty” river in spots and Al and I got lost on it once, many years ago.  We were in a small motor boat and we actually weren’t sure where we were a few times.  It wasn’t my favorite trip!  That was in the days before we had a gps.  If we go back out on this river, I will take my hand held Geo-caching GPS!

The boat launch.

Jonathan Dickenson State Park kayak, boat launch

We talked to a girl the other day that said she had a truck bed filled of Palmetto Berries that she was trying to sell.  She had been out in the heat all week-end picking these berries which are used for cancer drugs and for Saw Palmetto (used to help prostrate problems).   We had either never noticed those berries, or  didn’t remember them, but yesterday we found some Palmetto berries.  Palmetto bushes are thick in Florida and grow like weeds.

These are the bushes.  They look like palms.  You can see the orange berries.  Palmetto bushes are thick in the habitat at Jonathan Dickenson.

Palmatto berries

Palmetto berries


There are cabins and another separate campground called the Pine Grove Campground.  I don’t know where they came up with that name.  There were very few trees!   I believe this campground was built right before the 2004 hurricane season, so that may have been the reason for the lack of trees.

In Florida, in the winter months (when this campground is the busiest) lack of shade can be a good thing.  We found that out last winter when it was so darn cold.  The sun felt pretty good to warm up the motor home.

Here are a few pictures of this campground.  The sites are gravel, with huge patios.  The sites are all very large and far away from the next site.  There is no privacy though due to the lack of trees or vegetation.  All of the sites would be easy to get into and big rig friendly. The roads are paved.  The best thing is that they  all have sewer connections!  

The campground is pretty empty right now.


No problem getting a big rig in here.

full hook up campground Jonathan Dickenson State Park

full hook up campground Jonathan Dickenson State Park

So depending on what kind of campsite you like, you will find it here.  We plan on coming back during the winter months…..if we can get a site.  They are $26 a night, plus taxes.  This is a very busy place in the winter!

There is an observation tower in the park that sits on the highest natural point in south Florida.  You drive up a hill first and then it looks like you go up a walk-way to the tower.  The weather was getting bad, so we didn’t get to look at it except by car.  It looks like you would have a wonderful view of the park.  Note all the dead trees.

observation tower Jonathan Dickenson State Park

After we left the state park, we headed to the coast towards the beaches of Jupiter, Florida.  Tiger Woods has a few acres right on the beach on Jupiter Island.  It’s a beautiful area with lots of rich people.  Many of the estates had a “service entrance”.  

We got caught in a terrible rain storm on the way back which didn’t allow us many photos.


This is what the GPS looked like driving on the coast down highway A1a.


We decided to head home and kept running in and out of the rain. It got pretty ugly at times, but we made it home safely.


  1. Terrific photos! Love the one of Coral Beach Park.

  2. Those sites are really huge and look level which is such a good thing. I like level. Watching the weather this morning, it doesn't look like you're done with the rain yet. Hoping most of these storms don't hit Florida. I loved the statement that all surfers had to wear a leash.

  3. Loved the photos and what a great description of the parks... The damage caused by hurricanes at our beaches and parks are unbelievable... It takes years for it to repair itselves...
    Have fun & Travel safe

  4. Yup, the first campground type sites are our cup of tea. That sure is a wonderful park to explore!

    Karen and Steve
    (Our Blog) RVing: Small House... BIG Backyard

  5. Sounds like you guys had a great day exploring the area!! Nice pictures and great tour of Jonathan Dickenson SP.

  6. what a great day you had touring around! the photos!!!

  7. Looks like you had a nice day of exploring. I think I would like the rougher sites better than the open flat place, but as you said, in winter the sun is nice.

  8. Thanks for the great pictures of the park. We were wondering what it looked like. We have friends hosting there this winter....if you are there, say HI to Coleen & Jimmy for us! Susan & Sam.


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