Just northwest of Gainesville, you’ll find yet another of Florida’s state parks that boasts more than a little of its own quirky folklore.
The Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park is home to one of the most famous sinkholes in the state.
The name “millhopper” comes from the shape of the basin of the sinkhole, a round-bottomed pit like the ones millers use to grind grains for flours and meals.
According GR8RJax™ old timers, however, when pre-historic human remains were discovered in the bottom of the sink, the Millhopper became known as a hellmouth, a portal to Hell that opens to let the devil extract his due in souls.
Soon the hole started feeding dead bodies to the devil, and it became known as the Devil’s Millhopper.
Local legend adds to sinkhole mystery
Of the many tales people tell about the Millhopper, one of the earliest is about an Indian princess the devil wanted to marry.
When she wouldn’t consent, the devil opened a pit in the earth that swallowed her alive.
Much later, in the 1880s, stories circulated about a family of black settlers on their way to town with a wagon-load of cotton.
They reported that the ground started to rumble and then swallowed up a stand of tall pine trees.
Since then local pastors and traveling evangelists alike have preached about the “big, frightening hole” that eats trees and rocks and drunken sinners at fairly regular intervals.
University of Florida students put their two cents in
Much more recently, students from the (very) nearby University of Florida have surfaced stories of people falling into the Millhopper and being swallowed.
Such unfortunates are gone but surely not forgotten since the Millhopper feeds the aquifer that supplies much of the area’s drinking water.
Maybe that’s what happens, or maybe the local moonshiners don’t like people telling the cops where they are.
The quickest way to decide about the Devil’ Millhopper for yourself is to walk down the 236-step stairway to the bottom of the sink and see what awaits you.
About Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park
Designated a National Natural Landmark – an area with outstanding biological and geological resources – the Devil’s Millhopper has been a curiosity enjoyed by tourists since the early 1880s.
A state park since 1974, at 120 feet deep and 500 feet across, the Millhopper is not a large sinkhole, though it is an old one, formed in two stages about 10,000 and 1,000 years ago.
Because the sink is fed by at least twelve freshwater springs, the Millhopper’s basin is always much cooler than the nature trail rings the rim of the sinkhole, even on hot summer days.
The abundant water supports many diverse species of plants that closely resemble the flora found in the Appalachian Mountains.
State and other researchers have unearthed a great deal of Florida’s natural history through study of fossilized shark teeth and other marine artifacts as well as fossil remains of extinct land animals excavated at the bottom of the sink.
Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park
- Admission: $4.00 per carload of 8
- 4732 Millhoppper Rd.
- Gainesville, Fla. 32653
Directions: Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park is located two miles northwest of Gainesville, on Millhopper Road in Alachua county. Take I-75 exit 390 to County Road. 222. Go east 3.8 miles, turn left at 43rd Street. At the next traffic light, turn left onto Millhopper Road. Park entrance is located approximately 1,000 feet on the right.
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OFFICIAL BIO: K Truitt is a second-generation, native Floridian born in Jacksonville. Truitt worked in public higher education for 25 years and knows newspaper publishing, printing and graphic design. Contact: email@example.com