Ever since I went to the Hogtown Medieval Faire for the first time, I’ve wondered about old Hogtown. I’ve seen the signs for Hogtown Creek: poor thing, encased in concrete culverts and shunted beneath lanes and lanes of traffic. But it wasn’t until I went looking for the Loblolly Woods that I stumbled across a Hogtown Creek that was very, very different than what I’ve ever seen from my car.
The original settlement of Hogtown was a Seminole village, recorded as having 14 inhabitants in 1824. By 1830, homesteading settlers moved in, surrounding the trading post. During the Second Seminole War, a small fort was built to protect the settlement. By 1854, the population center shifted four miles west to Gainesville, designated the county seat. As you walk through these woods on the broad Hogtown Creek Greenway, imagine the horses and wagons of settlers following this shady route. It’s a dense glade of river bluff forest that in no way resembles the Gainesville you see along University Avenue or 34th Street. Needle palms rustle in the breeze beneath grand old live oaks and tall slash pines.
Length: 1 mile round-trip
Trailhead: 29.654950, -82.371836
Land Manager: City of Gainesville
The Hogtown Creek Greenway starts at the kiosk in front of the former environmental center. Walk a few paces along the broad path for one of the entrances to Loblolly Woods, which surrounds the greenway path.
From I-75 at Newberry Road, drive east, passing the Oaks Mall. When you reach SW 34th Street (SR 121), where the road name changes to University Ave, turn left on SW 34th St. Turn right almost immediately at the small green sign for “Loblolly Woods,” across from NW 5th Ave. There are only a few spaces for parking.
Your first view of Hogtown Creek is near a fence, where a side trail leads down to a live oak fallen across the creek. The clear tannic creek ripples across its sand bottom. An observation platform is on the other side of the trail, where with a pair of binoculars you might be able to spy red-winged blackbirds hanging out in the willow marsh.
The Greenway continues across a set of boardwalks broad enough for a school bus to cross, carrying you over marshes connecting the open willow marsh and the creek floodplain. A chorus of a thousand songbirds rises from the distant marsh.
As you walk along the broad path (ducking bicycles zipping past), note the creek’s floodplain off to the right. It’s broad and sandy, spilling well up above its normal shoreline. On the edges of the trail, you’ll see woodlands phlox in bloom in spring and poison ivy creeping along the bases of trees. Look for a little owl sculpture hidden in the brush on the right as the Greenway ends at NW 8th Street, across the street from the school complex. Backtrack along the Greenway for a 1 mile walk.