The Devil's Millhopper is a heck of a natural landmark
By Joe Kukura
There is a magnificent and awe-inspiring freak of nature deep in north-central Florida’s pine forests—or, rather, 120 feet below the surface of one of these pine forests. It’s called the Devil’s Millhopper
, though its full name is Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park
. It’s a gigantic, naturally occurring bowl-shaped hole in the ground measuring more than 500 feet across, but with a lush and tiny little rainforest microclimate that somehow stays preserved at the bottom of the hole. You can descend right to the deepest depths of this curious natural landmark thanks to a boardwalk, a set of stairs that takes you into the heart of this magnificent geological phenomenon.
In geological terms, the Devil’s Millhopper is technically a sinkhole—a sudden cratering of the earth’s surface that took place some 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. But the dreary name “sinkhole” does not do justice to this unique microclimate. Thanks to its depths, the Devil’s Millhopper stays significantly cooler than the rest of the Florida terrain surrounding it, and maintains lush moisture even throughout the dryer summer months. The variety of foliage and wildlife that flourishes within the Devil’s Millhopper is unlike any array that you will see in Florida, and this collection of Instagram photos of Devil’s Millhopper
gives you a sense of the unique scenery and natural beauty of the area.
Early Florida homesteaders nicknamed this spot the Devil’s Millhopper because the giant hole in the ground resembled the millhopper device used in the mid-1800s to feed grain into a mill. Bones and teeth would often turn up in the crevice, spooking the homesteaders into calling it the Devil’s Millhopper. In reality, these were simply animal bones and fossils of wildlife critters who’d come in seeking a cool break from the warm Florida climate.
The Devil’s Millhopper is also a living museum of species that roamed Florida thousands of years ago. Fossilized remains, shark teeth and marine shells have all been found at Devil’s Millhopper. You’re unlikely to find any fossils today, as visitors are asked to stay on the boardwalk when descending into the sinkhole area. But there are many recovered fossils on display at the Devil’s Millhopper visitor center, and photographers in particular will enjoy taking wildlife shots at Devil’s Millhopper
There is a certain calm serenity at the bottom of the Devil’s Millhopper, where a misty and lush little pond can be found. Some find this area to be meditative and therapeutic. The pond area at the base of the Devil’s Millhopper is exceptionally quiet, with just the sound of birds and the little waterfall streams trickling down the limestone walls.
The Devil’s Millhopper is surrounded by a state park with a half-mile hiking trail, and it’s a dog-friendly park, too. The hiking trail goes around the sinkhole, and is flat. But your trip into the sinkhole is quite pointedly not flat. Remember that the stairway is 232 steps, so bring comfortable walking shoes and plenty of water for hydration.
Anyone who’s a fan of nature or history will find the Devil’s Millhopper
a memorable, one-of-a-kind natural landmark. When you’re visiting north-central Florida, the Devil’s Millhopper is one heck of an attraction to see.