you only have enough time on St. John to hike one trail, then
the Cinnamon Bay Self-Guiding Trail is the trail for you. Also,
because the trail is relatively short, flat and shady, it’s
a perfect choice for those who would like to experience a taste
of the St. John interior, but who might be put off by the prospect
of a long hike on the often hilly and rugged terrain characteristic
of the St. John forest. As an added bonus, the Virgin Islands
National Park has placed a series of wonderfully informative
signs along the trail covering everything from history and culture
to nature and environmental concerns.
The one half mile Cinnamon Bay Self-Guiding Trail begins on
the North Shore Road about ten yards east of the Cinnamon Bay
Campground entrance on the opposite side of road and will lead
you through the remains of an old sugar mill and bay rum factory.
From there the trail circles through the surrounding forest and
emerges back at the North Shore Road where you can observe the
remains of the old estate house.
The twelve columns that at one time supported the factory storage
room are plainly visible from the road. This stone structure
was used for the storage of crude brown sugar called muscavado,
molasses, barrels of rum, and crushed and dried sugarcane stalks
called bagasse, which were used for fuel and fertilizer.
Cinnamon Bay Sugar Factory
of the storage room are the remains of the horsemill and the
boiling house. The sugarcane crushing apparatus was in the center
of the horsemill and from there the cane juice flowed down the
trough and into the boiling room.
On the west side of the boiling room were the boiling trays
where the cane juice was boiled down, transferred from copper
pot to copper pot, and gradually thickened into sugar. The fires
were stoked from the outside of the building. The large chimney
Bay Rum Still
On the southwest corner of the sugar factory is the well-preserved
bay rum distillery.The Danish West India Plantation Company acquired Cinnamon
Bay at the turn of the twentieth century. In 1903, they began
growing fruit and bay rum trees for the production of the bay
leaf oil, used in the popular cologne and lotion known as St.
John Bay Rum. Fruit cultivation did not turn out to be economically
rewarding because of the difficulty in transporting the fruit
to the European market. The fruits would often spoil before they
could be sold. Bay rum oil, on the other hand, showed some promise.
It did not deteriorate rapidly and had the potential to be a
profitable commodity. The success of this venture at Cinnamon
Bay motivated other landowners on St. John to begin bay rum production.
Harvesting bay rum leaves was a labor-intensive process. Workers,
who were often young children, had to climb the trees and carefully
strip off the leaves. All the leaves could not be picked off
the tree at one time, and neither could the leaves be picked
more than twice a year to avoid damage to the tree. The leaves
were put into large sacks and brought to the distillery. The
harvesters were paid eight cents for a 65-pound bag of leaves.
about bay rum.)
The Forest Trail
From the bay rum distillery, the trail leads into the tropical
forest and a magnificent stand of bay rum trees.
Cinnamon Bay Cemetery
NPS Sign on Trail
Old Danish Cemetery
A short spur trail to the left leads to an old Danish cemetery.
Anna Margarethe Berner Hjardemaal, the wife of a former owner
of the estate, is buried here in an above ground tomb. Her husband,
Nicolai Severin Hjardemaal, a Dane, became the owner of Cinnamon
Bay in 1834.
The plantation was then called the America Hill Plantation.
Hjardemaal's wife was born in St. Croix on November 7, 1785 and
died at the age of fifty-one on November 27, 1836, just two years
after she and her husband acquired the estate.
Cemetery on Cinnamon Bay Trail
on the plantation were not afforded such an elaborate interment.
They were buried at the beach at Cinnamon Bay. The erosion of
the shoreline and heavy ground seas has caused the remains of
some the deceased to wash out into the bay. Divers have reported
finding skulls and other bones under rocks and coral around the
western portion of the beach and at the next beach to the west,
Little Cinnamon Bay.
Mammee Apple Tree
Apple Trees Mammea americana, commonly known
as Mammee, mammee apple, Mamey, mamey
apple, San Domingo apricot or South
American apricot, is an evergreen tree of the family
Clusiacee, whose fruit is edible. The species is a close
relative of the mangosteen (from Wikipedia,
the free encyclopedia).
In his book, Me and my Beloved Virgin, Guy Benjamin describes
the mammee apple:
red globules covered with brown skin over golden yellow flesh
with large seed. Very sweet o the taste, it makes
a delicious preserve for tarts.”
Dead Mammee Apple Tree
Cinnamon Bay Waterworks
After about a quarter mile, the trail crosses the gut. In this
area you may notice several extremely large dead trees, some
still standing and others which have already fallen. These trees
were mammee apple trees. As late as the early 1980s these magnificent
trees lined the Cinnamon Bay portion of the North Shore Road
and grew in abundance in the forest near the gut. The die-off
may have been caused by a depletion of the underground water
table in the 1980s when an unusual amount of water was taken
from the wells.
Tree Cacao Tree, Theobroma cacao
A short distance after crossing the gut, the trail leads back
in the opposite direction. The gut will now be on your right.
Here is a small stand of cocoa trees, which grow a seedpod from
which chocolate is derived. The cacao
tree, Theobroma cacao,
is a native of the Americas. The brown pods that protrude from
the trunk and branches of the tree contain the seeds from which
chocolate is made. The Cacao trees found growing alongside the
Cinnamon Bay Loop Trail may be the only ones on the island.
along the trail, you will pass several large mango trees, which are hundreds of years old. These and
other fruit trees were usually left standing when
fields were cleared first for sugarcane production
and later for cattle grazing and charcoal manufacture,
and thus are some of the largest trees found on the
island. On this side of the gut, look for the many guavaberry trees,
which can be identified by their smooth, shiny bark
that looks much like the bay rum tree, but with smaller
The trail leads back to the estate house area of the plantation,
and here you will find an excellent specimen of the distinctive
calabash tree. The fruit of this tree, although not edible, is
used to make bowls, purses and other handy items.
The estate house is directly west of the sugar factory. In the
early 1900s, it was demolished by a hurricane. The house was
rebuilt with the walls and roof made out of galvanized steel.
The caretaker of the property lived here until the summer of
A cookhouse and oven are
located west of the estate house. The oven was heated by burning
coals or wood until the bricks became extremely hot. Then the
ashes and remaining coals were swept out and the food was put
in to bake.