Ram Head Trail
from St. John Off The Beaten Track
The National Park website describes the Ram Head Trail
as follows: "Ram Head Trail (1.0 mile, 1 hour) - Trail starts
at the south end of Salt Pond Bay Beach. This rocky, exposed trail
leads to a unique blue cobble beach and then switchbacks up the
hillside to its crest 200 feet above the Caribbean Sea. Magnificent
windswept scenery. DANGER: Watch your footing near the cliff edge."
This walk can be particularly sunny and hot, so bring water and
sun protection. For this reason, the best time to take this hike
is early in the morning when it is still cool, possibly before sunrise.
Visiting Ram Head at sunrise, sunset and full moon can be an impressive
experience. Those choosing to undertake this adventure, however,
should exercise extreme caution. The steep, narrow and slippery
path, which can be tricky enough during the day, is even more perilous
during periods of low light. Bring a flashlight and walk slowly
The trail to Ram Head Point begins at the eastern end of the beach
at Salt Pond Bay. Walk along the small rocks and coral rubble bordering
the eastern shore of the bay.
The West Indian top shell, locally called whelks, can be found
adhered to the rocks near the water line. They are an island delicacy
and are often prepared during carnival.
After about 100 yards, a defined trail begins and leads up through
the cactus forest. It ascends to an elevation of about 100 feet
and then descends to sea level. There are great views along the
whole length of the Ram Head Trail, however a particularly fine
vantage point can be found at the top of this hill.
There are four mature Lignum vitae
trees growing right alongside the trail near the top of the first
hill. This is one of the few places on the island where you will
still find mature Lignum vitae trees.
Blue Cobblestone Beach
The path descends to a blue
cobblestone beach. This beach may be a destination in itself
providing uncrowded swimming conditions and access to excellent
snorkeling just north of the beach.
On to Ram Head Point
The trail to Ram Head begins again at the south end of the beach.
Walk along the coast until you see the path marked by a National
Park information sign.
This section of trail gains elevation through a series of switchbacks
and proceeds up the hill to the saddle area of the peninsula. The
predominant plant species here is the Barrel
or Turk's head cactus.
Attractive black caper trees, identified by their dark bark and
narrow leaves, are also abundant in this area. You will often see
wild goats grazing along the rocky hillside. These goats have degraded
the environment by eating much of the vegetation, resulting in the
erosion of the topsoil in times of rain. Only the hardiest species
of plants yet survive.
At the top of this hill you come to the saddle or low point between
two hills. A fault line cuts across the narrow peninsula here. The
views are dramatic. You can look down the cliffs on the eastern
side and see waves crashing onto the small cobblestone beach between
the cliffs. The view to the west is tranquil and serene, in stark
contrast to the windy and rugged eastern exposure.
The eastern coast of Ram Head Point is totally exposed to the tradewinds.
If you were sailing east from here, your next landfall would be
Africa. The air you will be breathing on this beach is arguably
the cleanest, freshest and most invigorating air in the world.
The trail switches back several times through a cactus environment
and leads to the tip of Ram Head Point.
Geologically, the rock that makes up
this headland is the oldest rock found on St. John. Evidence supporting
this theory was gained when geologists, using diamond tipped drills,
bored into the rock at Ram Head. They drilled down over one half
a mile before breaking through the last of the rock. The new substance
brought up by the drill was examined and shown to be the same material
that makes up the ocean floor, indicating that no other rock was
there before it.
It has been speculated that this remote and inhospitable region
provided a hideout for runaway slaves, called maroons, who lived
here just before the slave rebellion
This was a time of severe drought on St. John. Food could not be
easily grown and was in scarce supply. The biggest problem the maroons
faced was finding fresh water. The underground springs had dried
up along with the freshwater pools of the major guts.
On Ram Head, however, the maroons could provide themselves with
food and water. Water could be found stored in the cactus that proliferated
on the peninsula and the waters around the point provided excellent
fishing. Whelks could be picked along the rocky portions of the
coast, and conch could be harvested on the grassy seabed of Salt
For these reasons Ram Head is thought to have been a stronghold
for the Akwamu tribesman who rebelled in 1733. When the tides of
battle turned against the rebels, a group of warriors committed
suicide here rather than face capture.
St. John Backtime, by Ruth Low and Lito Valls, contains
an account of this mass suicide in the chapter, "Only Enough
to Shoot Themselves". At a court deposition an eight year old
boy named January gave this account of the suicide:
"He declared that the Company's Kanta, Suhm's Autria, Runnel's
Coffie, Horn's Tjamba, Krøyer's Acra and another, Soetman's
Sepuse, and three females, the Company's Bragatu and two others
named Acubo and Bomboe, belonging to he knew not whom, committed
suicide at Ram's Head. They had six guns to kill themselves with;
the last to kill himself broke up five of the guns and shot himself
with the sixth; Kanta the last one, first stabbed him (January)
with a knife to kill him, but he fled and hid in the bush;...G.H.
Nissen, Town Clerk."
(January is a St. John family name, and members of this family
may be descendants of this young man.)
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