Visiting Florida's state parks and beyond in our Roadtrek. This is how we saw it all. Hopefully, the posts will give you some useful information. Questions and comments are welcome.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Daytrip to Florida's Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park

Located on the northwest corner of Gainesville, this park's main attraction is a very old conical shaped sinkhole about 117 feet deep and 500 feet across at the top.  Just inside the entrance is a shaded area with picnic tables to enjoy a picnic lunch during your visit.  There is also a visitor center with interpretive displays, and you can arrange a tour with a ranger.  Currently the center is under reconstruction, so we didn't get to see it this trip.

Why Devil's Millhopper? The shape lends to the name.

A path leads past the center to the sinkhole and a half mile nature trail, a loop that follows the rim of the chasm.

Just before the staircase to the bottom of the sinkhole is an outlook.  The growth of the foliage has pretty much covered up a good view of the bottom.  So, the only way, and best way, to see the bottom is to descend the staircase. 

All 232 steps.  Fortunately, there are a few landings so one can stop and rest and observe the lush surroundings. 

As you begin to descend you notice one of about 12 springs, fed by rainfall, that feed the sinkhole.  This is the only spring above ground.  The remainder seep from the walls of the sinkhole as the rainwater seeps through limestone layers and encounters a layer of clay. The clay layer forces the water to seep along the limestone layer and finally come out the wall. 


A fascinating root system along the way.

More of the staircase.  Just fascinated with the staircase.

Getting close to the bottom.


Slopes of the sinkhole provide a cut-a-way view of central Florida's geological past. Each layer of sediment contains a record of the events and animals that ocurred during a particular period.  The shells of marine animals found in the lower layers represent a time when this area was covered by the sea.  The bones and teeth of land animals found in the upper more recent layers tell of a period after the sea level dropped.

The bottom.  A lot of algae.  Probably due to the still water and the hot, sunny weather.  The changing water level allows for some tree growth in the sinkhole. Fossilized bones and teeth from early life forms have been found at the bottom of the sink.

Where the surface spring meets the bottom.

At the bottom there is a short boardwalk and stairs to another overlook.

Another spring outlet into the sinkhole.

Yet, another.  Most are well hidden by foliage.  A game to find them.


Oh, by the way...there are 232 steps back up to the top.  Enjoy the climb.

Back at the top take the half mile nature trail through three communities: the sand hill, the hammock and the swamp.

The bridge crosses a small ravine cut by the only surface spring.

The trail is an easy hike, well marked, with informative signage, and occasionally a bench to rest and enjoy the surroundings.

An Eastern Fence lizard.  In the bright sunlight it casts a blue tint and the sides and belly are brighter blue. The park is home for many reptiles, birds and mammals.

There are several "unblazed" paths to the outside of the trail with signage to stay on the main trail.  On the inside of the trail is the chasm with appropriate signage.  Obey and enjoy the day.

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