Friday, March 22, 2013

The Wild Man of the Loxahatchee

Have you ever dreamed of owning a small cabin on a remote river? Away from the hurly burly of everyday life? Somewhere in a beautiful but difficult to reach location? Well, so did Vincent Natulkiewicz. And he acheived his dream. On the upper Northwest Fork of the Loxahatchee River just south of Stuart, Florida in what is now Jonathan Dickinson State Park.

When we were in Stuart last week visiting Jim and Judy, Jim suggested we take the boat tour up the Loxahatchee River to Vincent "Trapper" Nelson's old property, which is now an interpretive site telling the story of a man who choose to live the simple life of a hermit. Or so it would appear at first glance.

Trapper Nelson, also known as the Wild Man of the Loxahatchee was actually what I would call a serial entrepreneur. Here is his story as told on one of the interpretive panels in the park:
You can enlarge pictures by left-clicking on them.

Trapper Nelson's camp, zoo and jungle garden are an amazing testimony to man's ability to create something from a few rudimentary tools - everything was created without the use of electricity using materials he found in the area. Including this amazing water tower:
His zoo featured local animals - raccoon, bear and of course alligator, etc and the cabin where folks stayed was very basic, featuring several bunk beds in one room, but it did include indoor plumbing for a bathoom. Lighting was via a gas lamp. In order to give authenticity to the jungle garden Trapper John added a few exotic plants to those that grew locally including this Sausage Gourd:
 And pineapple trees:
This bloom will turn into a pineapple
Trapper also kept track of hurricanes that hit the area:
The stars indicate the severity of the hurricane. The 1949 one had wind speeds of 160 mph. In 1964 there were 2, one-star hurricanes.

Visitors paid Trapper Nelson to visit the site, stay over night and rent row boats. There were a few rules:
Trapper Nelson saved his revenue in his own version of a bank:

Trapper only "banked" some of his income. He was very interested in preserving his lifestyle and preventing development of the land along the Loxahatchee River and purchased large tracts of it as it became available. After his death in 1968 his family sold the property to a developer but fortunately the Florida State Park Service was able to acquire it in a land swap and created the Jonathan Dickinsom State Park.

This is an overview of the park - and thus Trapper Nelson's land holdings that I took from Hobe Mountain:
In the distance you can see Jupiter, Florida.

Some "Wild Man of the Loxahatchee"!!

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the post. I am researching Trapper Nelson. He was quite a character. Your pictures help me visualize his cabin and also his lifestyle.


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