Palatka mud pit and ATV park features not-so-clean fun for the family
Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 4:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 4:06 p.m.
PALATKA -- Don't make the 45-minute drive to the Hog Waller Mud Bog pit and ATV park in Putnam County if you're looking for good, clean fun.
Fun, yes. Clean, no.
Hog Waller, about 10 minutes outside Palatka, is all about the filth.
It's a place where pickup trucks and SUVs, perched ridiculously high atop massive knobby tires, tear through sprawling mud pits as spectators cheer the spectacle and wonder which of the drivers will make it across and which ones will bog down in waist-deep muck.
And it's a place where ultimate success is measured in the thickness of the mud that cakes your vehicle or your clothing.
“It's just a good time,” said big truck owner Troy Wynn, 27, as he looked down from his modified Ford F-250 pickup, which measures almost 12 feet from the bottom of the door frame to the ground.
Wynn was among an estimated 5,000 people who descended on Hog Waller for the Super Bog event last Saturday.
Hog Waller offers an array of amusements for paying guests. Visitors can run their own vehicles through the pits, or they can watch highly modified trucks compete in special-event races across a center section of the pit. Most don't make it and have to be dragged out by a giant tractor.
No matter. It's the attempt that's important to these “mudders.”
Hog Waller was opened on timber land owned by the Alford family in 2007.
“We saw a need for a better place for people to ride ATVs and hold truck mud bog races,” said Kaye Alford, co–owner of the park with her two brothers, Skeet and Bryan Alford.
In addition to involvement in the timber business, the Alfords operate Rodman Plantation, a hunting preserve often rented out as a place for weddings and other events.
The Alfords continue to make improvements to the park, which now includes a visitor bath house with private hot water showers — a welcome sight after a day of mud slinging.
A 350-acre park expansion is planned, according to park Operations and Marketing Manager Charlie Matthews.
“We're under a microscope; we comply with all the St. Johns River Water Management wetlands and county regulations,” for land use and improvements, Matthews said.
On weekends from September through May, “mudders” run their trucks in the pit, spewing mud with a tremendous roar of their engines, while spectators shout encouragement from behind fences around the pit. Some visitors circle the area on ATVs or golf carts.
The real crowd pleasers are the giant mud bog trucks.
Justin Crews, 23, of Callahan, sat on his highly modified Ford Ranger waiting to get out in the mud again.
“I've got a 750-horsepower engine, and when I use nitrous oxide it adds about 300 horsepower. I can't participate in the mud bog competitions because I could skim right over the path,” Crews said.
“I also run at a mud bog in Okeechobee. I've got about $15,000 in this truck; it's my hobby,” said Crews, a warehouse manager.
For special events, like the Pepsi 2000 Bounty Hole Challenge held last Saturday, a path the length of a football field and 20 feet wide is marked off in the center of the mud pit. Then modified trucks with giant tractor-style tires attempt to cross.
“The winner gets a $1,000 bounty, 1,000 ounces of Pepsi products and the entry fee pool of about $180 for this race,” Matthews said.
The 18 qualifiers took a shot at crossing with mud flying, engines snarling and the crowd screaming.
“Few make it. It gets deeper and soupier as you go. A truck named Steamboat made it all the way across a while back,” said Matthews.
The winner of this Pepsi 2000 Challenge was Mike Moody, 45, of Macclenny, driving a two-and-a-half ton U.S. Army truck flying an American Flag in the bed.
Moody made it a little more than halfway across.
“The truck actually belongs to my 21-year-old son, Maverick,” Moody said. “We rebuilt it together. It's to keep him off the streets.
“There's really no trick to driving it in the mud bog,” he said.