Devil’s Millhopper gets its unique name from its funnel-like shape. During
the 1880’s, farmers used to grind grain in gristmills. On the top of the mill
was a funnel-shaped container called a “hopper” that held the grain as it was
fed into the grinder. Because fossilized bones and teeth from early life forms
have been found at the bottom of the sink, legend has it that the millhopper was
used to feed bodies to the devil. Hence, Devil’s Millhopper.
The Devil’s Millhopper is a 120-foot sinkhole that formed when the roof of an underground cave collapsed. It is now a National Natural Landmark and it’s evil sounding name comes from the reported finding of fossilized bones and teeth at the bottom of the hole. Visitors can walk around the 1.5 mile rim nature trail or descend the 236 boardwalk steps into the Millhopper. Students should observe how the change in elevation affects the type of plants that grow there. There is an outdoor open-air Visitor’s Center with a few exhibits and an audio/visual presentation.
Sinkholes and caves are similar to springs in some ways, for they are all “holes in the ground.” A sinkhole can be shallow–less than a meter (a few feet) deep—or it can be very deep. More sinkholes occur in Florid than any other state.
The Young Naturalist’s Guide to Florida; page 35
Three basic communities exist in this 63 acre park: The sand hill, the hammock, and the swamp. Pine trees grow in the highest area with the most sunlight and where the soil is dry and sandy. Because the widely spaced trees allow sunlight to reach the forest floor, there is a thick cover of grasses and flowering plants here. Broad leafed trees are found in the moist area of the hammock while gum and willow trees grow in the small swamp area of the park.
Besides the Millhopper itself, you will find many animals within the park including: a variety of frogs, lizards, snakes, birds and small mammals. The Gopher tortoise can also be found here and is listed as a species of concern.
We toured just as the park opened and had the entire Millhopper boardwalk to ourselves!
4732 Millhopper Road
Have you toured the Devil’s Millhopper? Please share your experiences in the comments or by linking your blog post below.