Thursday, July 8, 2010

Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park - Gainesville, Florida

Florida's landscape has changed dramatically since the days of the War Between the States. The coastlines have been developed, the natural woods cleared and even the mighty Everglades altered by drainage and the sugar industry.

But in places, it is still possible to catch glimpses of the remarkable and mysterious landscape that greeted those of the 19th century. One of these places is on the outskirts of the growing metropolitan area of Gainesville. Called the Devil's Millhopper, it is a remarkable natural feature that has astounded Floridians and visitors since the days when it was first noted by the state's early pioneers.

A massive sinkhole that is fully 120 feet deep and over 500 feet wide, the Devil's Millhopper is a National Geological Landmark. Known by the time of the Civil War, it was considered a remarkable natural attraction. Small springs and streams feed into the sink, forming waterfalls and cascades that run down from all sides. The bottom shelters a natural rain forest, virtually unaltered since the 1800s.

The sink takes its unusual name from the fact that early explorers of its depths found an array of fossils that included many bones of prehistoric animals. In those days before television and radio, people enjoyed telling stories by the fire and the legend grew that the earth at the bottom of the sink concealed a spot where wild animals were dragged down to the Devil. Because the shape of the sinkhole itself reminded early settlers of the hopper on a gristmill, they called it the Devil's Millhopper.

To learn more about this remarkable natural feature that has survived into Florida's modern age, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/devilsmillhopper.