The Sopchoppy River
The Sopchoppy River is a beautiful little stream nestled largely in the Appalachicola National Forest just west of Crawfordville, Florida. It is a challenging river. At low water levels it is impossible to navigate. At high water levels the obstructions can make it implausible due to the numerous obstructions. Run at medium water levels, it can be done if the canoeist is willing to pull the boat over, under, around, and through the deadfalls and strainers.
The trip begins at the bridge on Forest Road 329. There is a steep carry to the put-in, and loading the canoe from the bank will present the opportunity to get wet slipping on the bank. The river is like a creek, being very narrow and twisting. Deadfalls are encountered within the first few minutes of canoeing, and this will set the stage for much of the rest of the paddle. It is recommended that canoes be loaded as lightly as practical because there will be obstructions.
The river runs through high banks. The Florida Trail skirts the west bank. The banks are through a mixed forest of hardwoods and some very large cypress trees. Ferns cover the banks. Campsites along the first stretch are scarce, but the hardy camper can find something minimally suitable. Sandbars are not plentiful along the stretch from FR 329 to the Oak Park Bridge, which is five river miles below the put-in. Do not expect to travel more than about one mile each hour. The confluence of Monkey Creek adds a little width and depth to the river, but it is still a creek. But the scenery is gorgeous.
After five miles the Oak Park Bridge is reached. It will be another five miles before the Mt. Beeser Bridge appears. The river gets somewhat wider and deeper, but it still presents numerous deadfalls which can be more difficult due to the deeper river. Campsites become more available, both on the banks and on some sandbars. The banks remain high and fern-draped, and some are limestone. The scenery continues to be outstanding. The pace will still be slow, but somewhat speedier than on the first section. The left banks leaves the national forest before reaching the Mt. Beeser and houses are seen on the banks. Shortly thereafter, houses will be on both sides of the river, but the scenery is still exceptionally pretty.
After the Mt. Beeser Bridge is found, the river has become considerably larger and the deadfalls are less frequent. The large cypress trees continue to be seen. Even though there is some development, wildlife is still seen. The duck population is large, and other birds play in the trees and in the river. Alligators may be spotted. The pace will increase on this section.
The nest bridge is on SR 375, and again is five miles below the Mt. Beeser Bridge. The river is out of the forest by this time, but it is still a nice trip. The paddling is not particularly challenging on this stretch, and the scenery is still great. The average paddler can probably canoe this part in a little over two hours. After reaching this bridge, it is four miles to the city park at Sopchoppy. The river is fairly large and is suitable for motorboats. The views are stilll good, and the park offers a safe place to leave vehicles and has toilet facilities. The ramp is an excellent take-out spot. Expect a crowd of people at the park
The Sopchoppy can be a good experience, but it will prove a tiring trip. It is fine for an overnighter, but it might be preferable to do the stretches as day trips to avoid the difficulty of dragging loaded canoes over logs and across shallow bottoms. It is one of the prettier rivers in the area.