Sopchoppy River: dark and mysterious waters deliver wild scenery
Most of the Sopchoppy River is protected by the Apalachicola National Forest, so you can leave civilization behind.
SKILL LEVEL: Above FH 13: advanced beginners to intermediate / strenuous. Below FR 329: beginners to advanced beginners.
SCENERY: Wild, with no development. Narrow canyons 10-15 feet high.
LOCATION: Near Sopchoppy, Florida.
ONLINE GAUGE: Yes, check it out here. Be careful if the water is high.
The water of the Sopchoppy River is inky black, but the cypress knees and other views along the way make this a memorable river. Much of the paddling route features a narrow canyon that is 10-15 feet high. Moss-covered walls in some sections provide great visuals. The Florida Trail parallels some of the upper section of the river before crossing over and going its own way.
The river does have plenty of twists and turns in its route. In fact, on the Forest Service website, they referred to the "tortuous meandering" of the river, but we rather like that about it. This is a great river to paddle and get away from the crowds.
While we don't have a lot of experience with the Sopchoppy, it is one of those rivers where the water level is important. The Forest Service recommends a water level between 10 and 14 feet. If the water level is too high, the river could become treacherous. If the water level is too low, you may be dragging your kayak and hitting more obstacles. Our only trip on the uppermost section of the river was at a water level of just over 9 feet, and, other than slower current, we don't think that lower level caused any major difficulties. We suggest trying to make your first trip here when the water is on the lower end of the scale because lower is generally safer.
The 8.1-mile trip from FH 13 to FR 329 is only for paddlers with some rever miles under their belts and who are ready for a strenuous outing. Regardless of the water level, you should expect pullovers and limbo logs. You should carry a good set of loppers and a saw to help you make your way down the river. The water is loaded with cypress knees, which makes it challenging and potentially frustrating even for experienced paddlers. You should make sure that you have at least 7-8 hours of daylight for this trip. We found that the first three miles were the worst, and that things got a lot clearer the further downstream we went.
Between FR 329 and Mt. Beaser Rd, there are significantly fewer obstacles to dodge, but there are still some things that can trip you up if you aren't paying attention. After Mt. Beaser Rd, the river widens, the current fades, and tides can be somewhat of a factor. The miles in this last section seem a little longer, and some houses are visible.
We don't have this on our map, but you could also head all the way downstream on the Sopchoppy until you reach the Ochlockonee River, where you could paddle upstream to Ochlockonee State Park. This isn't recommended for the go-with-the-flow crowd.
River Miles reflect the approximate distances from the previous launch site.
LAUNCH SITE MAP (See next section for clickable directions)
This is my favorite kayak paddle. I like carrying a spare.
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LAUNCH SITE DETAILS & DIRECTIONS
Forest Highway (FH) 13
Launch: Southwest corner of bridge. Easy 100-foot carry over guardrail and down rough, dirt trail. Easy entry.
Parking: Roadside parking. Isolated.
Forest Road (FR) 329
Launch: 50-foot carry down steep, dirt bank. Relatively easy entry, depending on water level.
Parking: Large dirt parking area 400 feet down the road and limited nearby parking. Isolated.