Trip to the Blue Hole

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.

Trip to Winslow's Blue HoleToday 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.

Trip to Winslow's Blue HoleWe 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:
Trip to Winslow's Blue Hole

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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