Mixsonian Larry

Sinkholes, Caves and the Devil’s Millhopper
A trip to hell and back

Devil's Millhopper

In March of 1968 I was in the 10th grade when word spread at school about a boy and girl from our high school who went into Warren’s Cave where they fell and were both seriously hurt.  Warren’s cave is the longest dry cave in Florida with over four miles of mapped passages.  This is amazing considering that in most of Florida, if you dig more than 20 feet you hit water reflected by the joke “What do you call a basement in Florida?",  “A indoor swimming pool.”  Warren’s Cave is not like the better known Linville Caverns in North Carolina that I had been in when our family was on vacation.  While Linville Caverns had walkways, stairs, guardrails and lighting, Warren’s Cave is in its natural, undeveloped state, dark, with narrow passages and deep dangerous pits.  

The entrance to Warren’s Cave is in a sink hole, another common feature of the area around Gainesville.  Sinkholes are formed when underground water eats away at the limestone base that was deposited in the Quaternary period several millions of years ago when what is now Florida was under 100 feet of ocean.  As the more acidic surface water percolates down though the earth it dissolves the limestone underground forming caves which then collapse forming sinkholes some over a hundred feet across, which can swallow cars and even whole houses. While many sinkholes fill with water making small round lakes, some sinkholes remain dry with the best example being the Devil’s Millhopper.   

The Devil’s Millhopper is a 500 foot wide, 120 foot deep sinkhole located just a few miles from Warren’s Cave and was a popular place for students to go explore and party.  As you descend into Devil’s Millhopper, climbing down its steep sides, mostly slipping and sliding your way down, hanging onto whatever bush or tree, you can observe a million years of time in the geologic layers the sinkhole’s sides.  At the bottom of the sinkhole there was a sandy beach alongside a small pond fed by twelve small springs, some more visible than others, at different locations around the sides of the sinkhole. The water in the pond drains away mysteriously to some place still deeper still than the sinkhole, something I always found a little scary particularly with the history of Devil’s Millhopper.

The Figure