Named after a Quaker merchant who shipwrecked in the area in 1696, this park is teeming with pioneer history and the Old Florida feel. To add to the charm and mystery of the park, a famed trapper known as Trapper Nelson, aka The Wildman of the Loxahatchee, thrived here from the 1930s until his unsolved death in 1968. After WWII, he transformed his homestead into one of the area’s first tourist attractions, “Trapper’s Zoo and Jungle Gardens”. His restored camp is available for tours daily via kayak/canoe, boat, or the concession’s tour boat.
In addition, the U.S. Army established a top-secret radar training school here in 1942 but deactivated it in 1944 and deeded it to the state of Florida in 1947. This property as well as Trapper Nelson’s help comprise the park’s 10,500 acres of protected scrub, pine flatwoods, swamp, and of course the Loxahatchee River, Florida’s first National Wild and Scenic River.
Canoeing, kayaking, paddle-boarding, boating, fishing, and bicycling are popular activities here, and all rentals are available at the concession. There is also a ramp for guests bringing their own vessels for a small launch fee. The concession restaurant offers local, sustainable, organic foods, and beer/wine for riverside dining. A beach/swimming area near the concession is available if conditions allow, but there is no lifeguard, so remember to use caution at all times.
Hikers can enjoy several trails ranging from 1 to 9 miles in length, and there are 8 miles of multi-use trails suitable for hikers, cyclists, and equestrians. Guided horseback rides (ponies for children under 6) are available seasonally. The park also offers picnic pavilions, a playground, and a visitor center with interactive displays and a research center for children and adults alike.
Campers can choose from 142 sites within two full-facility campgrounds complete with modern restrooms, showers, and laundry facilities. Sites are roomy and fairly private. Three 30-person primitive group camps and a five-site equestrian campground are also available.