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Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park is a hidden treasure in Florida

Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park is one of the hidden gems in Florida. While it may not be as popular as some other parks, this park has so much to offer for those who want to explore the natural beauty of Florida. It has stunning nature and a rich history that'll leave you breathless.

The park was created by natural forces such as water erosion and wind movement to form the existing sinkhole. Devil's Millhopper constitutes an excellent place for people of all ages to explore Florida's natural history. This article will explore all the essential things you need to know about this hidden treasure in Florida. Keep reading to discover more interesting things about this naturally-formed structure.

An Overview on Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park

Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park is found in a secluded area in Gainesville, Florida, and has been around for over 100 years. It was designated as a National Natural Landmark by the United States Department of the Interior on October 15, 1973. The park contains many different types of ecosystems and has plenty to offer for visitors. Several hiking trails take you through different vegetation types, including pine Flatwoods, limestone outcrops, oak hammocks, and wet prairies.

The park is an approximately 120 feet deep, bowl-shaped cavity covering over 70 acres of land, boasting sinkholes, streams, and forests. This naturally-formed structure has attracted researchers worldwide to discover more about Florida's history since the hole's base possesses lots of shells, shark teeth, and other ancient species' remains.

There are three different ecological environments (sandhill, hammock, and swamp areas) in Devil’s Millhopper park based on exposure to the sun, water, and fire. The regular fires and sandy soil in the sandhill environment support the existence of pine trees, the predominant vegetation in this park. The hammocks have moist soil that supports the presence of broadleaf trees and low vegetation. The swamp environment supports fauna and flora that are usually adapted to year-round wet conditions in the park.

A Brief History

Devil’s Millhopper State Park is a geological wonder located in the northwest part of Florida. It was created by water from an underground river carving out the limestone rock over the years. The park was originally called “Devil’s Punchbowl” but was renamed to its current name, Devil’s Millhopper, in the 1960s for safety reasons.

But why such an antagonistic name? The park is called the devil’s mill hopper because of the sink’s shape, which resembles the funnel-like shape found at the base of a farm grain hopper. On the other hand, the sink is filled with shells, shark teeth, and dead animals (just like the grains in the grain hopper); that’s why it was dubbed the devil’s bailiwick.

The park was previously owned and used as a research site by the University of Florida, specifically the science department. Its rich ecosystem made it a valuable resource for science students. Unfortunately, the students started using the park to hold parties and socialize, resulting in problems with junk and erosion due to foot traffic.

In the 1970s, Devil’s Millhopper was purchased by the Florida state government. In the same 1970s, the state government completed an observation deck, a boardwalk, and a set of over 230 wooden steps to facilitate easy access to the bowl without further erosion. However, in September 2017, the popular Hurricane Irma damaged the boardwalk, leading to the restriction of public visits. Afterward, the damaged boardwalk was replaced with a set of 132 steps reaching the higher end of the sinkhole. So in June 2019, the path to the Millhopper sinkhole was reestablished for public visits.

Green ferns at Devils Millhopper in Gainesville Florida

Interesting Things to do At Devil’s Millhopper State Park

The Devil's Millhopper State Park is a one-of-a-kind attraction that you should not miss. Regardless of your enthusiasms, there are plenty of things to do in the area around Devil's Millhopper State Park and beyond. Some of the activities are free or low-cost, while others require a little more spending money. Regardless, they're all worth your time. Some of the most common fun activities to enjoy at this park include but aren't limited to:

  • Wildlife viewing
  • Historic site visit
  • Picnicking
  • Stair climbing
  • Guided terrain walks with a park ranger
  • Shark teeth and other fossils viewing at the visitor center

The park has an abundance of lush wildlife and scenic views that’ll undoubtedly please any nature lover. On the other hand, the picnicking spots are abundant. The closest camping area is the Travelers Campground, with ample tent and RV sites available. The campgrounds have running water, electricity, a swimming pool, a general store, laundry facilities, Wi-Fi, restroom facilities, and ample parking. All amenities are accessible, and pets are allowed in the park. The Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park is open from 9 A.M to 5 P.M from Wednesday to Sunday.

Bottom Line

Devil's Millhopper State Park is home to a sinkhole that plunges 120 feet into the depths of the earth. There is plenty of fun and educative activities for visitors to enjoy at this natural wonder. If you're looking for an interesting thing to do in Gainesville, Florida, look no further than Devil's Millhopper State Park.

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