Sopchoppy

In another 9 miles from the Mack Landing turnoff, you will cross the Sopchoppy River and enter the charming town of Sopchoppy on Rose Street (CR 22).  If you watched any of the Andy Griffith shows, Mayberry will come to mind as white picket fences frame your drive into town and the Black Lab reluctantly gives up his  tation in the middle of the street.  As the locals say, “Sopchoppy and easy living go together.”

Over 100 years ago Sopchoppy was a bustling railroad town, with a depot built in 1893. The City of Sopchoppy was incorporated in 1905.  Shops and restaurants in the small historic district date from the early 1900s.  In 1906 the Carrabelle, Tallahassee, and Georgia Railroad (which was later reincorporated as the Georgia, Florida, and Alabama) ran through town.  The old depot is still standing.  Sopchoppy is now a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.  Kayaking, hiking, swimming, fishing, hunting, and birdwatching are just a few of the activities that are enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.  Outfitters in town offer bike and kayak rentals and a B&B is planned.  There are many musicians and two recording studios in the area as well.

Sopchoppy is also known as the Worm Gruntin’ capital of the world, and locals still practice the art of coaxing earthworms from the ground to sell as bait.  They go into the woods at dawn, drive a hardwood stob into the ground, and rhythmically rub the top of the exposed wood with a heavy piece of iron, such as a leaf spring from an old tractor.  The friction sends vibrations into the ground and apparently irritates the earthworms, causing them to rise to the surface where they are collected in bait cans.  Each year in early April the town celebrates its
tradition of Worm Gruntin’ with a daylong festival, coronation of the Worm Grunters’ Queen, and the Worm Grunters’ Ball held outdoors in the evening.

Like many Florida place names of Native American origin, the original meaning of “Sopchoppy” is not known for certain.  Its most popular interpretation is “dark water river,” but some believe it comes from Creek words meaning “long” and “twisted” (although not terribly long, the Sopchoppy River is definitely both twisted and dark). Others think it’s a corruption of another Creek word for “Red Oak.”  The best view of, and access to, the Sopchoppy River is at Myron B. Hodge City Park.  Turn right on Yellow Jacket Avenue and after a few blocks turn right again.  From Park Avenue turn left to the park.

Side Trip: Myron B. Hodge City Park

Description:  35-acre park located on the banks of the pristine Sopchoppy River.  The park serves as the location for Sopchoppy’s annual July 4th celebration with live music, food, and fireworks.

Activities:  Boating, kayaking, swimming, birdwatching, wildlife viewing, fishing.

Facilities:  Camping, restrooms, hot showers, nature trails, boat ramp, fishing dock, boardwalk, gazebo, children’s playground, and picnic pavilions.  The park grounds also house the historic Ed Whaley log home and Curtis Mill School.

Minimum time to allow:  30 minutes.
Contact:  P: 850-962-4611, 850-962-3873.

Side Trip:  Historic Sopchoppy High School and Gymnasium

Take Yellow Jacket Street from the center of town to reach the High School.  A plaque describes the history and architecture of this site, constructed in 1939 in native limestone by Works Progress Administration (WPA) labor.  It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The auditorium is also the site of live productions, such as “South Pacific,” “Oklahoma,” and “My Fair Lady,” by the Wakulla Community Theatre, and the Sopchoppy Opry, which presents monthly concerts of country, gospel, and bluegrass music in the Grand Ole Opry tradition.  Proceeds are donated to the school’s restoration fund.  Call 850-962-2151 or 962-7373 for more information.

To continue on the Byway, return to Rose Avenue (CR 22) and go back the way you came.  Take the left fork when you reach the river on CR 22.  In just over a mile turn left on Curtis Mill Road (CR 299).  When completed, the GF&A Bike Trail will follow this Byway route from town.  The route enters the Apalachicola National Forest in a few miles.  Follow signs to Wood Lake, a facility of the Apalachicola National Forest, which has a boat launch and fishing.

In 6.2 miles you will reach the intersection with Sopchoppy Highway (US 319).  Turn right (south) for .2 of a mile and turn left into the entrance of this beautiful state park.