There’s a gigantic, funnel-shaped hole in the ground just two miles northwest of Gainesville, Florida. This natural wonder measures an astonishing 500 feet across, 120 feet deep, and a circumference of almost a half-mile! This is the Devil’s Millhopper, a limestone sinkhole that has yielded fossilized shark teeth, seashells, and extinct land animals.
The Devil’s Millhopper is one of only two geological state parks in Florida. Prior to that lofty designation, it was described in a number of colorful ways. As the name suggests, there are many weird, old stories about this sinkhole. Native Americans, explorers, and settlers have all held their own, unsettling beliefs about the hole.
The current name comes from the shape of the sinkhole, reminiscent to early pioneers of a hopper on a gristmill. A hopper is a kind of cone that feeds grain into a grinder, rather like the coffee grinder at your local coffee shop. Due to the bones found at the bottom, it was imagined that hole was a “hopper” used to feed animals to the devil’s grinder. We now know it’s just an ancient limestone sinkhole but the name stuck.
The Devil’s Millhopper is a National Natural Landmark with a trail around the rim and a 232-step stairway down to the bottom. Small streams trickle down the sinkhole’s steep sides and 12 springs at its bottom. The water forms a pool of varying size at the bottom of the hole, depending on rainfall, before disappearing through crevices into the aquifer below.
The shade and constant moisture create a rainforest microclimate in the sinkhole, even during dry summers. The variety of foliage and wildlife found here are unlike any other in Florida.
Visitors to the Devil’s Millhopper can enjoy the hiking trails, picnic areas, and a 50-foot observation tower. While you’re unlikely to find any fossils at the site today, there are many on display at the visitors’ center. Researchers have learned a great deal about Florida’s natural history by studying these fossils.
Ranger-led walks are available every Saturday at 10 am. The Devils Millhopper has been attracting the curious since the 1880’s and remains a great way to spend an afternoon.
Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park
4732 Millhopper Road Gainesville, FL
Be sure to visit www.floridastateparks.org for directions and more information.
North Florida Lodging
Hampton Lake Bed & Breakfast is less than 30 minutes drive from Devil’s Millhopper and a wide variety of other North Florida attractions. Think of us whenever you’re in the area and are looking for lodging on the shores of a natural, spring-fed cypress lake. Book your stay at Hampton Lake Bed & Breakfast today!