So what exactly is a Devil’s Millhopper? It’s Florida’s only Geological State Park. The park is in Gainesville and was established in 1974, 64 acres of Florida’s natural beauty with a massive 120-foot deep 500-foot wide limestone sinkhole.
Sinkholes occur all over the world. One of the ways a sinkhole can be created is when a layer of bedrock is water-soluble, like limestone or dolomite, due to erosion, the ground begins to weaken over time causing caves or fissures. The surface above the cavern(s) collapses, the outcome is a sinkhole in varying sizes. No doubt, they can be very scary, especially if one occurs in your neighborhood or on roadway. Unfortunately, sinkholes are something Floridians have come all to familiar with.
In Devil’s Millhopper the water flows down into the bottom through small streams and then it slowly makes its way into the Florida aquifer through the porous limestone. The area is surrounded by small cascading waterfalls, lush plant life and impressive needle palms, swamp chestnut oaks, pine trees, rock outcroppings and more. It’s like stepping into a miniature rainforest.
A 232-step stairway will lead you down to the observation deck so you are up close and personal to view this colossal wonder. As you walk down the many stairs you will see small plaques identifying the trees and plants. You will also see small animal life, such as lizards and frogs. The temperature is actually very cool when you reach the sinkhole.
After exploring the sinkhole, you can walk the half-mile trail around the rim or roam the many wooded acres and you just might catch a glimpse of a white-tailed deer, bobcat, or one of the many bird varieties.
So how did Devil’s Millhopper get its name? The name originated from the funnel-like shape which is similar in appearance to a hopper used to funnel grain on to a millstone used in a gristmill. Folklore has it, with the finding of bones at the bottom, that the sinkhole fed animals or bodies to the devil.
The visitor center has informative displays and graphics explaining the making of sinkholes like Devil’s Millhopper and the area’s history. Through the years, researchers and scientist have found considerable quantities of fossil shark teeth and remains of extinct land animals in the sinkhole.
There are plenty of picnic tables available to have lunch or a snack. No concession stands here just a couple of drink machines. Dogs are allowed on a leash. This is a great natural gem to visit when you’re in the Gainesville, Florida area.
TIP: Devil’s Millhopper Park is open Wednesday through Sunday 9-5 pm. A small entrance fee is required.
Location: 4732 Millhopper Rd, Gainesville, FL 32653