Jamaica In-Depth: The Black River

Located on the South-West of the wondrous Caribbean island of Jamaica, stretching through the parish of St Elizabeth, is the Black River. As the second largest river on Jamaica, the Black River offers very different sights to the white sands, clear warm waters and palm trees of the famed beaches and makes for an immersive and completely unique experience.

The Black River, Jamaica.

33 miles long, the Black River can only be navigated for 24 miles by boat. Despite its name the river water is not actually black, but in fact very clear. The dark colour found in places comes from the thick layers of vegetation on the river bed that have built up over the years. The river is a mixture of deep water, wetlands, marshes and swamps, and at points there are tiny limestone islands with plant life springing from them. The river is also home to an abundance of wildlife. Crabs, fish, frogs and an estimated population of over 100 species of birds flock to this site, including Osprey, Egrets, Herons, Flamingos, West Indian Whistling Ducks and Caribbean Coots. It is also an interesting fact that elusive, rare manatees – sea creatures that are rumoured to have been the origin of the mythical mermaid – are commonly found in the area where the river eventually meets the sea.

The Black River, Jamaica.

Despite the wealth of reasons, perhaps the biggest draw for travellers visiting the mangrove tree lined Black River is the crocodiles. The depths here house the Jamaican crocodile, which is in actuality the endangered species of American crocodile. An estimated 300 reside here, happily roaming the water and often sunning themselves on the various platforms leading into the river. The American crocodile is believed to be the most docile type of crocodilian but they are still fierce, prehistoric-like predators and it is awe-invoking to get so close to them. It is also amazing in itself to witness them free, in nature and in their own habitat, as they should be.

A Jamaican Crocodile smiling for the camera, The Black River, Jamaica.

On the mouth of the river sits the lesser-known town of Black River, which was officially established in the 17th century and is one of Jamaica’s oldest towns. The town is the capital of the parish of St Elizabeth, and was historically a busy sea port. It was also the first town in Jamaica to be lit by electricity. The town has reminders of a dark and saddening past that is not spoken of much. The Farquharson Wharf, which was formally known as Town Wharf, was where African and Caribbean people were auctioned off as slaves. The town also houses a monument in memory of the Zong Massacre, in which 132 African people being traded as slaves were thrown overboard due to a water shortage that occurred on the ship Zong on its route to Black River.

The Black River, Jamaica.

The Black River is a stunning place that adventure-seekers, wildlife lovers and those looking for some real Jamaican culture will adore. Let me know in the comment section if this article has inspired you to visit, or what you thought if you already went. If you enjoyed reading this article, don’t forget to drop a like and subscribe if you want more content like this delivered straight to your inbox.

A Jamaican Crocodile on the move, The Black River, Jamaica.
A boat on the Black River, Jamaica.
A Jamaican Crocodile, The Black River, Jamaica.

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