Jamaica State Park is a 772-acre park located on a bend in the West River a half mile from Jamaica village in Vermont. Surrounded by dense forests of pine, red oak and hemlock and gorgeous views of Ball Mountain, the park is popular for campers and day visitors looking to enjoy a relaxing riverside holiday, kayaking, hiking and even white water rafting.
Established in 1969, Jamaica State Park was made up of 19 acres of land purchased by the State of Vermont and 18 acres donated by the Conservation Society of Southern Vermont before it grew into what it is today. The West River forms the centerpiece, and always has. It was used as a major transport route by Native Americans who paddled the West River route between the Connecticut River and Lake Champlain for thousands of years. The area was known for its hunting, fishing, gathering and tool making opportunities. The river is also a major attraction for white water rafting and has even hosted the United States Olympic white water team. Today, visitors descend on the campground with canoes, kayaks and rafters to challenge the annual rapids each September.
Another piece of history in the park is that the West River Railroad operated here between 1881 and 1936, transporting passengers, timber and farming goods between Brattleboro and South Londonderry. Campers can now hike a section of the old railroad bed that leads along the river to Ball Mountain Dam. For those who prefer to just hang out and chill out, the Salmon Hole swimming hole is a great spot for a leisurely swim and suntan. There are also five miles of hiking and biking trails that you can explore at your own pace – including hiking to a scenic waterfall. Families will love the playground, nature center and educational interpretive programs in the summer.
Getting to Jamaica State Park is easy; just follow Depot Street for half a mile east and follow the signs to the entrance of the park. Please note that the weight limit on the Depot Street Bridge leading into the park has a strict weight limit of eight tons. Campers should make sure that their RV or big rigs do not exceed this limit as there are no exceptions. The speed limit within any Vermont State Park is 15 miles per hour, unless shown otherwise. Various parking spots are available within the park, including show season parking near the entrance, and in season parking near the swimming hole. Overnight campers can park in the campground.
Jamaica State Park is home to 41 tent or RV campsites and 18 lean-to campsites with no hookups. There are two restrooms with flush toilets and coin-operated hot showers as well as drinking water stations, a trash and recycling center, and an RV dump station. Limited generator use is allowed outside of quiet hours. There is also an area with free Wi-Fi.
Other facilities within the park include a nature center, picnic area and picnic shelter, children’s playground, as well as a swimming hole. There are also five miles of hiking and biking trails, a volleyball court and horsehoe pits. Firewood and ice can be purchased. The campground is pet-friendly.
Jamaica State Park has a park interpreter that organizes fun activities for the whole family – plus they’re educational too! Join in on these programs during the summer season and learn all about the natural and cultural history of the park. Activities include night hikes, arts and crafts, campfire programs, and amphibian explorations.
There are over five miles of hiking and biking trails in Jamaica State Park. Hike the unblazed West River Trail that leads two miles from the park entrance along the river towards Cobb Brook Bridge. It’s one of the only converted railway beds in the south of Vermont. It’s popular amongst hikers and bikers. Attentively, hike the one-mile blue-blazed Hamilton falls Trail – an old wagon and truck trail - or the two-mile blue-blazed Overlook Trail that leads from the campground to the river.
Picnicking is one of the most popular activities in Jamaica State Park in season. A beautiful picnic area can be found along the West River, near the Salmon Hole for swimming. There is also a picnic shelter and nature center located nearby. For those who wish to get out and explore, why not follow the hiking trails to Hamilton Falls for a lovely picnic beside the waterfall.
In the winter months, the five miles of hiking trails are groomed and turned into ski trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Both campers who are happy to stay in the campground in the off season and day visitors can enjoy the trails around the park. The winter scenery is simply breath-taking! There are no facilities or staff available, but visitors are encouraged to enjoy this quieter time of year.
With a mix of deep slow running water and shallow fast flowing rapids, the West River is a fantastic spot for fishing. Anglers can try their luck fishing for freshwater species such as brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, and smallmouth bass. Please note that you will require a fishing permit to fish in any Vermont State Park.
There is so much history to be discovered within Jamaica State Park. Walk along the old West River Railroad, stop for lunch at the picnic shelter and explore the wildlife and birdlife that have called this part of the world home for thousands of years. Evidence suggests that the Jamaica village area was a center for hunter-gathering, fishing, and tool-making for more than 8,000 years. Today, only traces of Native American settlement remain – in addition to the information you’ll find at the nature center - but you can still use your imagination.