Loxahatchee River - Paddling Florida's First Wild and Scenic River
The Loxahatchee River is the first designated National Wild and Scenic River in Florida (the other is the Wekiva River in Central Florida) and one of the most natural rides in Florida - unlike many other waterways, it has remained mostly unchanged. The 8.5 mile Designated Paddling Trail runs from Palm Beach County's Riverbend Park to Jonathan Dickinson State Park. (Detailed map, photos and more description below.)
The full 8.5 mile ride can take 5-7 seven hours in low water due to many pullovers; the outfitter provides a shuttle. A shorter ride is between Riverbend Park and Masten Dam (2.5 miles roundtrip). The most scenic part of the paddling trail is the 4 miles through cypress between Riverbend Park and Trapper Nelson's Cabin. This portion of the river can be twisty and narrow, with downed trees. Paddle over Lainhart and Masten Dams for a whitewater type ride, or if too shallow pull your kayak or canoe over the ramps next to the dams. Past Trapper John's Cabin, the river widens into a mangrove estuary and the tidal influence starts. At Jonathan Dickinson State Park, the river is wide and tidal.
The Loxahatchee River runs through Jonathan Dickinson State Park, south of Stuart, Florida. The park has a Visitor Center, concession and restaurant, camping, hiking, biking and equestrian trails, picnicking, fishing, boating, kayaking and canoeing. Boat tours of the river, equestrian tours and a farm wagon ride are available. The 11,500 acre park encompasses 13 natural communities. Wildlife includes alligators and turtles on the river, otter, raccoon, deer and more, and over 150 species of birds. Admission fee, boat ramp fee additional.
Palm Beach County Riverbend Park in Jupiter, Florida, park features 10 miles of hiking/biking trails, 7 miles of equestrian trails and 5 miles of canoeing/kayaking trails, and picnic facilities. An outfitter at the park rents both kayaks/canoes and bicycles. Those with their own kayak or canoe can launch at Picnic Island. The park has a long history spanning 5,000 years from the native Indian Archaic period to the Seminole and the of European settlers in the 1800's - visit the Cracker Farmstead and sawmill, and the Seminole Village and chickees. An adjacent area is Loxahatchee River Battlefield Park, site of the Powell's Battle and Jesup's Battle, skirmishes between the Seminole Indians and the U.S. Military in 1838.
Trapper Nelson's Cabin (about 4 miles from Riverbend Park) is a good stop-off point for picnicking and to visit the historical site. Known as the "Wild Man of the Loxahatchee," Nelson was a fur trader in the 1930's who went on to build a zoo and botanical garden. The State took over the site after his death in 1968 and incorporated it into Jonathan Dickinson State Park. Ranger-led tours are available year-round.
More information on paddling at Loxahatchee River (opens in a new window):
- Florida Office of Greenways and Trails - Loxahatchee
River Paddling Trail (pdf)
Paddling in Florida - Kayak, Canoe
Support and AdvocacyFriends of the Loxahatchee River