Are you up for the Trapper Nelson Challenge at Jupiter Outdoor Center?
Anyone adventurous enough to take the Trapper Nelson Challenge is following – make that paddling – in the path of one of Jupiter’s most famous and mysterious residents.
Your six-mile voyage on the Loxahatchee River to the Jupiter Inlet relives the weekly trip for supplies taken by the Legend of the Loxahatchee in the early 1930s. You’ll nose through ribbon-like channels, some just six feet wide. Snook, deer, great blue herons and ‘gators are regular visitors.
“The adventure is from the source to the sea. Paddlers will go through the source – the Loxahatchee River – and view cypress swamps, alligators and otters. Then they will get to the sea – the Atlantic Ocean – after paddling through coastal estuaries with mangroves and manatees,” said Jupiter Outdoor Center owner Rick Clegg.
You’ll pass orchids, cypress knees and Spanish Moss as you paddle to and from the swamp-surrounded homestead Trapper set up when he was just 23. Skinning ‘gators, selling furs, trapping animals, running a zoo and growing citrus kept the blue-eyed New Jersey native busy for 35 years.
So did entertaining Hollywood celebrities and the local gentry from Jupiter Island and Palm Beach.
They marveled at Trapper’s Tarzan-like physique. They brought their friends to gawk at how Trapper hunted wildlife. They went home and told their friends how Trapper cooked his bounty on an outdoor fire to survive.
“I can still see Trapper at the boathouse where they sold bait. After all that rowing, he’d polish off a box of Hershey bars and wash it all down with a quart of milk,” remembers Jupiter pioneer Roy Rood.
The dream lived by Trapper – his real name was Vince Natuliewicz — ended in July, 1968.
A friend found the body of the Legend of Loxahatchee outdoors in a picnic pavilion. There was a shotgun wound in his left chest. Trapper was 59.
What happened, and who did it, remains a Jupiter mystery.
There’s three options to take theTrapper Nelson Challenge. Adventurers leave Riverbend Park around 9 a.m. Tour guides, which are not required, are $60 per hour. Please make your reservations at least 48 hours ahead of your adventure. Getting out of your kayaks or canoes in some spots may be needed.
The three adventures are:
- TRAPPER NELSON CHALLENGE – The one-way trip takes about six hours. Paddlers are welcome to explore Trapper’s, but should stay near the dock if gate is locked.
COST: From pick up point back to Riverbend Park is $20 per person plus full day equipment rental fee. The minimum tour is two persons. Maximum is four. Details to follow.
- TRAPPER NELSON CHALLENGE LUX – Paddlers make their way to Trapper’s. Miss Julie, a 28-foot water taxi, will take them down the wild and scenic Loxahatchee River to the Inlet Village at the Jupiter Lighthouse plus full day equipment and rental fee. From there, paddlers can Uber back to Riverbend Park.
COST: $40 per person plus full day equipment rental fee. The minimum tour is four persons and maximum is six. This tour will be available in 2020.
- ULTIMATE TRAPPER NELSON CHALLENGE – About 14 miles long, this daylong trip is only for experienced paddlers. After leaving Riverbend Park, paddlers stop at Trapper’s. The final part of the adventure is paddling on the Loxahatchee River to the Jupiter Inlet. Plan on paddling at least eight hours.
COST: Includes all day canoe or kayak rental fee plus Uber back to Riverbend Park to reserved parking space outside of gate at Riverbend Park. The gate closes at sunset.
For more information, go to Jupiter Outdoor Center or call 561-747-0063.
Those who complete the Trapper Nelson Challenge get a free “I Survived The Trapper Nelson Challenge” T-Shirt.
Their name will be posted as an honorary member of the Jupiter Outdoor Center’s Hall of Fame.
Those taking any of the Trapper Nelson challenges should be in good to above physical condition.
Paddlers should have previous kayaking/canoeing experience.
Trips will not be taken when there is an east or southeast wind stronger than 15 miles per hour.
The trips will be timed so that the last one-third is with an outgoing tide.
There is no public land access to Trapper Nelson property.
Want to learn more about Trapper Nelson? Read James D. Snyder’s book, Life and Death on The Loxahatchee: The Story of Trapper Nelson. The book is available on Amazon and at local bookstores.