Gainesville, FL collegians feel the heat in the Devil’s Millhopper!

IMG_20151108_093626992Despite its name, the Devil’s Millhopper is not a means of eternal damnation, but rather a geological state park located in a giant sinkhole in Gainesville, Florida. The park provides a unique combination of ecological environments, with several streams running into the 120 foot deep sinkhole containing a mini-rain forest. CFACT collegians at the University of Florida in Gainesville considered this to be the perfect spot to explore nature and study its preservation.

The root of the site’s evil sounding name comes from folklore. Explorers and curious onlookers would find multiple animal bones at the bottom of the sink hole, giving rise to the myth that animals would make their way down and ultimately meet the devil. The top, well, apparently looks like a millhopper. IMG_20151108_100027336

Academics have studied the area since the 1880’s. In addition to bones, fossilized shark teeth, marine shells and the ancient remains of extinct land mammals have all been discovered in the bottom of the sinkhole.

“It’s crazy how a little variation in geography can create an almost entirely new ecosystem,” collegian Thomas Pearman said. “Who would’ve thought there was a mini rain forest a few minutes from my house!”

IMG_20151108_114830196_HDRSteep limestone slopes make up the walls of the sinkhole, and the streams that run down it disappear into deep crevices in the ground. While only 500 feet across, the park makes up for its size in variation and lushness. Frogs, lizards, birds, snakes and small mammals are common. Bobcats and grey foxes have even been noted to explore the area as well.

“It’s really important to take time to explore the beautiful country we all live in,” student Jerrit Gorman chimed in. “This is one of the reasons why the issues we focus on are so important. We need to protect people and preserve nature in the process.”