Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park: Florida’s Miniature Rainforest

Date Visited: 1/12/2020

Okay, we all know I’m a little overweight, out of shape, over 50 and have an ongoing battle with heart-disease and diabetes, so I almost talked myself out of visiting this state park because I knew there were a number of stairs I’d have to ascend after descending to see the sink and the miniature rainforest which is the crown jewel of this little state park.

Fortunately, I put on my big-girl pants and mustered the courage to get past my AM-I-GOING-TO-HAVE-A-HEART-ATTACK-DOING-THIS anxiety and rose to the challenge, because this was a neat little place to visit.

The Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) constructed the limestone entrance to the park as well as the stairway that leads to a platform overlooking the bottom of the sink in the 1930s. There are 132 steps to descend to the platform and yes, going down is optional, but coming back out is mandatory!

The sink itself is 500′ wide at the top and narrow to 100′ wide at the bottom. The depth is 120′ and as you descend you can feel the slight change in temperature as the changes within this microclimate become apparent. The walls/slope of the sink are covered in ferns and lush vegetation, which are fed by the small streams that trickle down and disappear through cracks and crevices in the Limestone.

The park was designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1976. Through research of the area, we have learned much about Florida’s natural history. Finds within the park include fossilized shark teeth and other marine shells, as well as the fossilized remains of extinct land animals.

Curious about how the park received such a strangely creepy name I found this information on the Park’s website:

Oral history, or history passed down through spoken stories, has given us many legends about the origin of the name “Devil’s Millhopper.” One tells how early visitors who found bones and fossils at the bottom of the sinkhole believed that animals and beasts went down to the bottom to meet the devil. According to another story, the devil kidnapped a Native American woman and then created the sinkhole to trap her rescuers.

In truth, the sinkhole formed when the limestone underneath it collapsed. However, these stories show us how the Millhopper has captured visitors’ imagination for a long time.

As for other things to do at the park, there are interpretive displays that explain the processes which resulted in the collapse of the limestone ceiling of the underground aquafer that formed this sink and others like it. There is also a half mile loop trail that takes you around the rim of the sink.

A trip to the park isn’t a full-days excursion, but it is well worth the trip outside of downtown Gainesville to see it. If you check the website (see below) there are often other activities, such as yoga classes and guided tours of which you can participate.

UPDATE: Recently access into the sink has been limited to guided tours according to a message from the park ranger on the front page of the website. If you want to descend into the sink, check the website before traveling to the park to see when access is available.

Next week we head to a little-known park to see one of Florida’s Champion Trees and what I think might be the largest living Live Oak in Florida.

Until then….

Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park 
4732 Millhopper Rd. 
Gainesville, FL  32653

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