By Ruby Lynn Holden, North Palm Beach Village Historian
Today we’ll learn a bit about this wonderful South Florida park of 11,500 acres, Jonathan Dickinson State Park.
Prior to being established as a state park in 1950, the land served as top-secret U.S. Army Camp Murphy from 1942 to 1944, a radar training school. Author Eliot Kleinberg, in his May 12, 2011 column, mentions the Camp newspaper, the Camp Murphy Messenger; ten issues from 1943 have been digitally archived on HistoricPalmBeach.com for anyone to peruse.
The park is named for Quaker merchant Jonathan Dickinson, a passenger with his wife and infant son on the Reformation sailing from Jamaica in the fall of 1696. The ship was driven ashore on Jupiter Island where the survivors were alternately aided and abused by Ais Indians for several weeks. The party eventually made their way to St. Augustine, losing five of their number along the way to exposure during a freeze.
Recreational activities abound at the park, from bike paths to boating, horse trails,
wildlife viewing and the Elsa Kimbell Environmental Education and Research Center. The land and the Loxahatchee River comprise thirteen ecological communities including sand scrub, bald cypress swamps and red mangrove estuaries. A large picnic area on the banks of the Loxahatchee provides four pavilions and barbecue grills for family and group picnics. An observation tower provides outstanding views of the forest, the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean. Jonathan Dickinson State Park has something for everyone who enjoys the outdoors.