Jonathan Dickinson State Park is a state park located in Martin County, Florida. It contains the site of Fort Zachary Taylor and has facilities to accommodate many different activities including picnics, camping, hiking, biking, fishing, swimming, paddle boating, wildlife viewing, birding, geocaching, and cross-country skiing. The park also features an exhibit on local ecology at the Tropical Rainforest Education Center; nature trails with information about the plants and animals found within the park; and interpretive exhibits describing life at the fort during its final year as a major installation.
Visitors can learn how soldiers lived in tents or barracks, ate food prepared by women using army recipes, went to war, built fortifications, engaged in trade, planted gardens, caught fish, hunted game, made music, and performed other daily routine tasks. A visitor center/gift shop complex offers a panoramic view of the park, the Atlantic Ocean, and St. Joseph’s Sound. The park is open from 8:00 am until sundown year round. Admission is $5 per person for adults 13 years or older and children 12 & under are allowed in at no cost. Children between the ages of 7 -13 must be accompanied by an adult who will be charged an admission fee. Passes good for three days or a week are available; annual passes good at all six parks charging fees are offered at a cost of $75 for out-of-state visitors or $60 for Florida residents.
Amenities include picnic areas, nature trails, playgrounds, bathhouses, campgrounds, cabins, mini golf courses, volleyball courts, horse shoe pits, and miniature soccer fields. The park has four miles (6km) of paved multi-purpose bicycle routes and seven miles (11km) of unpaved bike routes. Six miles (9.7km) of hiking trails and 14 miles (23km) of canoe trail access are provided. Two miles (3.2km) of equestrian trail access are provided. Four miles (6km) of tent sites and five miles (8km) of RV sites are available. One mile (1.6km) of primitive hike-to campsites are available. An eight-mile (13km) boardwalk allows observation of the mangroves without disturbing them. Canoes may be launched into St. Joseph’s Sound via the park causeway. The park has two boat ramps providing access to the ocean.
The park preserves part of the largest contiguous old-growth forest in North America. It provides habitat for rare flowers, diverse forests, endangered bats, threatened birds, and unique invertebrates. Geocaches placed here since April 2016 have included “Fort Zachary Taylor Historic Site”, “Maine East Coast Bird Sanctuary”, “Treetops” and “The Preserve”. Jonathan Dickinson State Park has long been utilized for outdoor education, particularly concerning environmental issues.
Jonathan Dickinson State Park was named after naval officer John W. Jonathan, USN, who commanded the USS Washington during World War II. He later became governor of Pennsylvania and chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh. The park includes his grave site. In May 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9094 creating the first U.S. National Wildlife Refuge. This order turned over management of 157 acres (64ha) to the Navy for use as a training facility. On December 10, 1944, Congress authorized turning over another 1,000 acres (400 ha), including the entire Fort Zachary Taylor area, to the Army Corps of Engineers for use as a national wildlife refuge. That same day, the Secretary of the Interior designated it as such. It became one of the ten original refuges established in 1945. The Navy used the site primarily as a gunnery range until 1963 when they transferred 37 acres (15ha) back to the federal government. These were the last active military installations in the United States. With the end of combat operations in Vietnam, interest in developing recreational resources around the fort declined.
However, in 1993, there was renewed public attention paid to the potential development of the property when officials announced plans to sell 130 acres (52ha). Local citizens teamed together, organized support from state and federal legislators, and saved the land from being developed. In 1994, President Bill Clinton nominated the entire 3,500 acre (14km2) parcel as a unit of the National Park Service’s National Natural Landmark program. Jonathan Dickinson State Park officially opened to the public on June 5, 1996.
- bird watching
- scuba diving
- paddle boating
- wildlife viewing
- cross country skiing
Among the wildlife of the park are:
- gopher tortoises
- eastern indigo snakes
- pileated woodpeckers
- barred owls
- marsh rabbits
- fox squirrels
- garter snakes
Birds seen regularly include:
- owls like barred owls
- red-shoulder hawks
- turkey vultures
- common ravens
- bald eagles
Fish species present include:
- king mackerel
- black sea bass
- Spanish mackerel
- mahi mahi
Trees found here include:
- southern live oak (Quercus virginiana)
- river birch (Betula papyrifera)
- yellow pond lily (Nuphar luteum)
- baldcypress (Taxodium distichum)
- swamp gum (Nyssa biflora)
- water elm (Ulmus americana)
- green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica)
- cucumber tree (Cucurbita pepora)
- flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)
- wax myrtle (Morella cerifera)
- American hickory (Carya ovata)
- loblolly pine (Pinus taeda)
- shortleaf pine (P. palustris)
- northern red oak (Acer negundo)
- shagbark hickory (Carya ovatea)
- sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)
- bald cypress
- swamp gum
- tulip poplar (Liriodendron)
- white oak (Quercus alba)
- black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)
- pin oak (Pterodon patens)
- Carolina hemlock (Conradina caroliniana)
- spring beautyberry (Clausena tridentata)
- arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum)
- yellow buckeye (Amsleria yew)
- and red maple (Maple rubrum).