Hidden on a back street within walking distance of downtown Sopchoppy, Myron B. Hodge City Park offers quiet campsites along the dark placid waters of the Sopchoppy River, and a nature trail where you can linger along the Sopchoppy River amid the sweet spring scent of Florida azalea.
With porch swings and picnic tables, the campsites are a delight, and at $15 a night, they’re certainly a bargain. And for hikers, a nature trail and boardwalk showcases the beauty of the river.
Length: 0.3 mile
Lat-Long: 30.051383, -84.499444
Fees / Permits: none
Bug factor: Low
In addition to this gentle 0.3 mile walk, the park has an oval walking track used by folks to exercise. The remainder of the park is passive recreation. Kids can play on the colorful new playground equipment, and adults can toss horseshoes or play shuffleboard. A gazebo overlooks the river, as does a large picnic pavilion set well back under the pines. Close to the park’s entrance, two historic structures have been moved onto the property – the area’s original schoolhouse and a cabin which is under restoration by the fine folks who head up the annual Sopchoppy Worm Grunting Festival.
From downtown Sopchoppy (off US 319), follow the main street through town past the IGA to the Sopchoppy United Methodist Church on the left. Turn left at the next street, Camellia. Turn left again on Dickson St. Turn right on Park Ave and follow it 0.8 mile to the park entrance on the left.
Starting in the middle of the campground as a boardwalk, the nature trail leads you across a shallow river cove where you can see the bottom clearly through the dark, tannic waters. Yellow tips of lizard-tail rise from leafy green cores. The sweet fragrance of Florida azalea washes over you as you stroll along the boardwalk, watching for alligators in the water and herons in the trees.
The boardwalk jogs to the left and deposits you on a river bluff. Follow the trail into the bluff forest, where azalea color the understory and southern magnolias provide deep shade. Along the cool forest floor, netted chain and bracken fern find a foothold. The trail ends at a point where an oak extends well out over the water, tempting a climb. A tributary enters, canal like, into the river at this point. Leaves drift beneath the arch of oak as ripples spread across the water.
Turn around and take your time on the return trip. If you arrive just before sunset, as I did, you’ll be greeted with the play of sun, cloud, and sky across the surface of the river. Look to your left for a large cypress with a prominent knothole providing a raccoon’s den. A waterway snakes beneath the underbrush, inviting kayakers to explore the tangled passage. The folks I met along the boardwalk pointed out that tides can affect the river here, so don’t be surprised to see the water reverse flow. The round-trip is only 0.3 mile.