Our first expedition on the East Coast is at the Loxahatchee River - Lake Worth Creek Aquatic Preserve - an
inland freshwater river that feeds directly into the Atlantic Ocean. The aquatic preserve is a small but dynamic
estuary located in northern Palm Beach and southern Martin counties, known for its fishing, boating and prime
residential development. The Loxahatchee River consists of three forks: north, northwest, and southwest. These
three freshwater tributaries drain into the Loxahatchee River Estuary, then east to the Indian River Lagoon
and the Atlantic Ocean. The Loxahatchee River's northwest fork was named a National Wild and Scenic River in
1985. The river's timeless beauty is enchanting as it winds its way through the Jonathan Dickinson State Park,
passing under a canopy of old cypress trees.
Richard E. Roberts, park biologist, tells us about the importance of public education and the beauty of the
Richard E. Roberts:
I think it's always been a good way to get the public involved in the river, get out on the river, provide them
tours, provide them access to go down the river, to chit-chat with them and talk with them about some of the
things that are going on. And that's the whole effort. We can put people in a boat and get a lot accomplished. As
we go up the river, we can talk about the different changes that are going on and just see them. It's a very
effective way to educate the public, politicians, just everybody about what’s going on.
Loxahatchee River #33
Photo: Clyde Butcher
Water quality means life to the estuary, effecting its health and its plant and animal species. Agricultural and
residential development have modified most of the Loxahatchee River drainage basin area and caused freshwater
Richard E Roberts:
We are situated in such a neat area because of the climate here. You have both temperate species that come down
from the north and then you have also this tropical vegetation coming up from the south. You have off the inlet
side you have your salt water plants and animals coming in here and vice versa you have fresh water coming out.
It makes this great blend of diversity in the basin which is kinda really neat as far as the river system is
concerned. In the northwest fork was this canopy effect of the cypress and the hardwoods. Most phenomenal thing
about this river and its uniqueness is the fact that it's still here.
Visitors to the Jonathan Dickinson State Park visit several archaeological and cultural sites, including the
early 1900s outpost of Trapper Nelson, known as the "Wild Man of the Loxahatchee". Other activities include
commercial boating, canoeing, kayaking, fishing and nature watching.
Richard E Roberts:
It's a concern of the Park Service how many people go down the river, what kind of experience that they have.
If you particularly what to go down the river early in the morning to experience the wildlife, the close quiet
conversation, I think there should be that time and place for that river experience. There also is the time and
experience for you to go out and enjoy a group of people, and chit-chat and have fun as well. And just the
quietness of being out there in the wilderness being able to kinda collect your thoughts, a spiritual awakening
can happen and really enjoying that experience.