The analytical power of environmental DNA sequences for modeling microbial ecosystems depends on accurate assessments of population structure, including diversity (richness) and relative abundance (evenness). We investigated both aspects of population structure for microbial communities at two neighboring hydrothermal vents by examining the sequences of more than 900,000 microbial small-subunit ribosomal RNA amplicons. The two vent communities have different population structures that reflect local geochemical regimes. Descriptions of archaeal diversity were nearly exhaustive, but despite collecting an unparalleled number of sequences, statistical analyses indicated additional bacterial diversity at every taxonomic level. We predict that hundreds of thousands of sequences will be necessary to capture the vast diversity of microbial communities, and that different patterns of evenness for both high- and low-abundance taxa may be important in defining microbial ecosystem dynamics.