Isn’t it fascinating that dead center of the beautiful island of Jamaica stands a mountain range from which you can get a fantastic view of sections of the parishes of Clarendon, St. Ann, St. Mary and St. Catherine? Well, right in the center of that peak you will find the marker confirming this fact.
That is the Bullhead Mountain which is situated in Clarendon, the third largest parish in Jamaica.
This important landmark is also the source of Jamaica’s longest river — the Rio Minho — which runs from the range and empties out at Portland Point, after running a distance of 92 km ( 57.7 miles) providing life sustaining water to irrigate the Clarendon plains for thousands of farmers.
The range, which consists of 220.6 hectares (545 acres), is controlled by the Forestry Department and peaks at 547 metres (3,600 feet) above sea level. Most of the area is covered in pine and bamboo trees, which provide excellent shade, but several species of ferns grow wild and provide a soft cushion all along the hiking trails.
While this area is unknown to most Jamaicans, the people of Clarendon have for years been using it as a major outdoor centre, especially during the Easter holidays when they trek there in droves to enjoy the wonderful scenery or simply hang out.
The first time I heard about Bullhead Mountain I thought I heard it had a beautiful waterfall, and being very addicted to water I quickly encouraged friends to accompany me on a hike there. We got ourselves a guide from nearby Thompson Town and asked him up front if he knew where the waterfall was; and although he replied in the negative, he assured us that he could find it. Well, we spent an entire day from about 10:00 am to around 4:00 pm hiking and dying to cool off but alas, there was no waterfall to be found.
I subsequently heard about the local folklore that indicated that there is a mysterious waterfall hidden somewhere in the range which will one day burst and wipe the entire parish of Clarendon from the face of the Earth! That I had heard many decades ago but have no fear, it’s just a duppy story!
More recently though, I went on another trek to that mountain with my regular group, Fun and Thrills. This was a properly organised outing overseen by environmentalist Nicole Brown — who arranged with members of Northern Rio Minho Forestry Management group, an environmentally active community group — to give us a proper tour.
Naturally, as Bullhead is dead centre of the island, there are several ways to get there. This time we opted to drive from May Pen to Red Hills via Pumpkin to Orange River road. Near the park where we had gathered we met a most pleasant young man, Norris Newman, on his way to the river to get water.
When the guides joined us, my first question to them was, “Are there any waterfalls here?” They assured me there was, but after many hours of walking, when we got there, because we were in the midst of a severe drought, what we saw was a mere trickle.
This was, however, the occasion on which we really got comprehensive information about this mid-island wonderful park. For example, we learnt that the original name of the mountain was Santa Marian, named after an indigenous plant found there. The name was, however, changed by the British to Bullhead, as it is said that the peak looks like a bull’s head when seen from out at sea and it provided an excellent navigation tool for sailors in the olden days.
We also learnt that the famous Maroon warrior Cudjoe hid there for a while after killing his first British aggressor in nearby Colonel’s Ridge which lies to the south of the range. As a result of the great warrior and members of his troops hiding out there for a while, there are many descendants of the Maroons in the area, although we were told that they do not keep up the traditions as do their relatives in places like Scott’s Hall and Accompong.
Nope, we still haven’t seen a good waterfall at Bullhead mountain but it is still a fabulous place to visit and lyme.