A few days ago my two-year old Theo and I took a meandering bike trip that brought us to the charmingly-named Piney Hollow Road (alas, not quite as rustic as it sounds). We stopped on the unassuming bridge over the Great Egg Harbor River and I looked for a trail into the woods. We found one about a hundred feet north of the river, hiked in another hundred feet and picnicked along the river. When I got back home I started Googling around and discovered that our sand trail was the Blue Anchor Fireline Road and that we were on one of the main paths in to the famed Blue Hole.
The best stories on Winslow’s Blue Hole come from Henry Charlton Beck, whose folk histories of South Jersey are must-haves for any local’s library. He wrote newspaper columns profiling old-timey local characters on the back roads and deep woods of the area and his accounts have been collected in volumes such as Forgotten Towns of South Jersey and Jersey Genesis: The Story of the Mullica River. He wrote about the Blue Hole legends in More Forgotten Towns of South Jersey and one helpful fellow has broken copyright laws to scan in the relevant pages.
Today my two-year old and I set out again for the Blue Hole (well, I did: he actually napped half the way there). We started on Piney Hollow Road in Winslow Township. About 100 feet north of the very unassuming Great Egg Harbor River bridge is what the maps call the Blue Anchor Fireline Road. The picture on the left show the trailhead from Piney Hollow Road.
We went into the woods along this sandy road. It curves right, parallels Piney Hollow Road for awhile, then curves left back into the woods. There are weird metal bunker openings marked “confined space entry” in day-glow orange every so often: some water-related thing I suppose (though the conspiracy-minded might beg to differ). About a mile in there’s an intersection with the equally-sandy Inskeep Road (those wanting an alternative path could take Inskeep from Piney Hollow: it’s entry is about a half-mile north of the Great Egg Harbor River bridge).
Make a left onto Inskeep and go left when it forks. Within a quarter mile you’ll see a creek with the remains of a bridge. This is the Great Egg Harbor River. Some of the trip reports I’ve seen end here with the sad report that the washed-out bridge prevented the creek from being forded (“Since the stream was too deep and too fast moving to ford, we were forced to retreat. The Devil’s Hole was only 100 yards away, but it might as well have been 100 miles.”). Bah: it’s three feet deep in September, quit yapping and get your feet wet, okay? Just up the path on the other side is the famed Blue Hole itself.
It’s always fun to retrace Henry Charlton Beck’s footsteps but the Blue Hole itself isn’t all that exciting. Yes, the water is kind of blue, underneath the pond scum. It does look deep and it’s certainly not a normal geological feature. Some have wondered if it’s an asteroid hit, which is as good a theory as any other. Here’s a close-up of the hole in all its blue’ness:
No, I didn’t see the Jersey Devil (wasn’t really looking folks) but some sort of giant heron or crane did circle the hole overhead twice when I got there. One theory of the Jersey Devil legend is that it was inspired by sightings of the Sandhill Crane so our companion’s presence was appropriate. I didn’t swim into the hole to test out the Devil leg-pulling reports, bottomless depth or remarkable cold. I’ll leave that to more intrepid souls.
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