A Journey to "The Blue Hole" - The Home of the Jersey Devil
Situated at the southern end of the Pine Barrens in Winslow Township is one of New Jersey's many local legends. It is an almost perfectly circular lake carved into the middle of the woods which is inexplicably crystal clear and blue while every other body of water in the area is murky and brackish. It is ice-cold even in the dead of summer, and devoid of any plant or animal life. Mysterious whirlpool currents seem to appear and disappear at random times and points around its surface. Its history is rife with tales of swimmers suddenly being paralyzed and pulled underwater to their deaths. "The Blue Hole", as it is known throughout the area, is a piece of local folklore that has endured throughout several centuries.
The Blue Hole was a very popular destination for outdoor gatherings in the early part of the 20th Century. It was easily accessed by a wooden bridge over the nearby Great Egg Harbor River, and was frequented by picnickers, hikers, and swimmers as late as the 1940s. It served as the site of the Williamstown Volunteer Fire Company's annual cookouts. The lake's unusually cold temperature and currents were well known to residents even during those times. With the renewed interest in the Jersey Devil phenomenon that occurred around the same time, it became something of a local legend, with speculation arising that it might even be the home of the creature. The degree to which this speculation was taken seriously, of course, is a matter of conjecture.
In the early 1960s, however, a storm washed out the bridge allowing easy access to the lake, and with the exception of hunters and the few people who were willing to make the trip through thick underbrush, prolonged strips of quicksand-like mud, and a nonstop barrage of deer flies, foot traffic to the Blue Hole virtually disappeared. Over the decades that followed, however, the stories surrounding the mysterious lake began to grow and spread throughout the region. For the generations of Winslow Township residents that followed, the Blue Hole a local legend.
Much of the lore surrounding the Blue Hole is, as you might expect, exaggerated and easily explained. A popular theory is that the Hole is the impact crater of a small meteorite. Even a small impact event could have forced the bog iron and tannic acid deposits found in the area further down into the ground, allowing the naturally salty sands of the Pine Barrens to tint the water a greenish-blue color, and prevent it from housing plant or animal life. The cold temperature is likely explained by the fact that the Blue Hole is surrounded on all sides by very tall pine trees, causing portions of the lake to receive only a couple of hours of direct sunlight per day. Whirlpool currents are actually fairly common in lakes that are fed by the local ground water rather than nearby streams or rivers, something which no one seems to have tried to ascertain in the case of the Blue Hole.
The Blue Hole is located off of Piney Hollow Road in Winslow Township, New Jersey. Though it is only a half-mile from the road, there's not really an easy way to get there, and it can be easy to get lost. If you have an electronic device with a GPS built-in, putting in the coordinates ahead of time can be a huge time-saver.
One thing you do want to be aware of when attempting this journey is that the section of woods that houses the Blue Hole is directly adjacent to a shotgun and archery range. While it is far enough away that there is virtually no chance of wandering onto or near it even if you do get lost, it is important to keep your bearings and know where it is at all times.
Your journey begins with a dirt trail leading northwest off of Piney Hollow Road, about a mile north of the Black Horse Pike. For the first quarter-mile, it's clear and free of obstacles. However, that doesn't last very long.
Here are the remnants of the bridge that used to span the Great Egg Harbor River, washed out some 50 years ago. This is where things begin to get tricky, as the Blue Hole is on the other side of the river.
Most visitors to the Blue Hole use this log bridge to cross the river. I've personally tried it, however, and would not recommend it if you're over 200 pounds. The river itself is not very hard to wade across at this point if you're wearing boots and don't mind getting a little wet.
After crossing the river, there is a 500-foot stretch of briar patches, underbrush, and -- if it has rained recently -- mud between you and the Hole. It's going to be slow going no matter how you try to cut through this part of the forest, but if you are properly dressed, it shouldn't pose too much of a challenge.
Before long, you will reach your destination: The Blue Hole. You can see in this picture the circular shape of the lake, and the raised edges of earth around it which slope back down to normal ground level, both of which are consistent with the impact crater of a meteorite. The blue-green tint of the water can also be made out, though it's a bit hard to distinguish it from the reflection of all of the trees around it in this picture.
I waded into the water a few feet and it was indeed ice cold in the early Fall.
My trip the Blue Hole was definitely interesting and rewarding. If you're not from the Pine Barrens, it can be really hard to grasp how rare a body of blue water is in the area. That picture of the bridge across the river above? That's how most of the naturally-occurring bodies of fresh water look in South Jersey. Being from the area myself, it was fun to get to see this local legend firsthand. If you have the time and proper clothes for the occasion, you might want to consider taking the excursion yourself when you're in the area.
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