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Visiting The Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park, Gainesville, Florida
If you have never experienced the Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park, Gainesville, Florida, then I would certainly recommend going.
It is a great place to visit for families, groups, couples and individuals of any age, although it does mean walking up and down some steep steps if you wish to go down into the sinkhole, which may not be suitable for some people.
The Devil’s Millhopper is a limestone sinkhole, essentially an enormous cavern that has eroded and collapsed, leaving a deep, bowl-shaped cavity.
The geological feature has a depth of 120 feet. There are 12 springs flowing down the walls of the sinkhole, some of them forming mini waterfalls.
Because of its depth and shade, the base of the Devil’s Millhopper remains relatively cool, no matter how hot or dry it is up at ground level.
The combination of water and sheltered conditions means that the vegetation in the Millhopper is always lush, resembling a miniature rain forest.
The Devil’s Millhopper has been a North Florida landmark for over a hundred years and curious people have been visiting it since the 1880s. In the mid 1970s wooden steps and boardwalks were constructed, making it easier to descend into and ascend from the sinkhole by foot.
Fascinating remains of Florida’s natural history have been found in the Devils Millhopper, including ancient sea shells, and the fossilized remains of shark’s teeth and extinct land animals.
The sinkhole got its name because its appearance was thought to resemble the hopper of a mill and the bones in the base were thought to be from animals going down to visit the devil.
How Sinkholes are Formed
Sinks are essentially collapsed underground caverns.
Florida rests on a foundation of limestone, which is hard, but susceptible to weak acid which dissolves it over time.
Rain water mixed with dead vegetation can form a weak acid as it soaks into the earth. The limestone underneath can be dissolved gradually. Initially small cavities form, but eventually these can join to form one huge cavern.
The ceiling of the cavern can eventually collapse, if and when it becomes too thin to support the weight of the earth above it, forming a sink.
Directions and opening times
There is a pay station on the way in.
Fees at the time of writing are $2 per pedestrian or bicycle, and $4 per vehicle.
The money is important revenue for the park and helps with the upkeep and running of this beautiful public place.
There is a visitor center between the parking lot and the entrance to the sinkhole where you can find out more about the geology and history of the Devil’s Millhopper through interpretive displays.
The visitor center also has restrooms for use of visitors to the park.
A picnicking area is nearby and there is also scenic nature trail that curls through the pine forest that makes up most of the Devil’s MillhopperState Park, which I would certainly recommend if you fancy a stroll.
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