Thursday, May 2, 2013

Voyage to a Blue Hole

I took advantage of this fine spring day to head west in search of a blue hole. Blue hole? It's a deep spring that bubbles up from a dissolved sinkhole in the underlying limestone. Because the water comes up from deep underground, it stays the same temperature year round. It has no oxygen, so the only things that can live in it are anaerobic bacteria. Blue holes have a blue appearance because of the clarity and depth of the water.

When I was a kid, we had to take Ohio history, and the textbooks always mentioned the Blue Hole of Castalia, or as I like to call it, the BHC. The BHC appeared on those maps showing local attractions - you know, the ones that show monuments, amusement parks, museums and so on. But around 1990, the BHC disappeared into the mists of history. What happened was that the land was sold to a private fishing club and was no longer open to the public. (Why would a fishing club want a body of water that cannot support fish? More on that later.)

Well, the closure of the Blue Hole of Castalia just made me want to see it more. A web search revealed that there are in fact several blue holes in and near Castalia, and one is publicly accessible! It's on the grounds of a state fish hatchery.

They certainly do not advertise this place. It's on a country road a ways out of town, and you'd never see it unless you were looking for it. Yet, they welcome the public and even post signs as part of a self-guided tour.

Entrance to the Castalia State Fish Hatchery

The hatchery uses the blue hole as a source of cold water - apparently fish are easier to raise in cold water. They have to aerate the water so the fish can get oxygen. The hatchery is essentially just a long channel emanating from the blue hole. The channel has various weirs and screens to manage the fish, and is covered by a very long shed for part of its length. When the fish are fully grown, they're taken to rivers in tank trucks.

We're getting close now!
To hell with the office! Where's the blue hole?!

Had to walk the final couple hundred yards

Here it is. I have to say this was even more interesting than I thought it would be. Until you get right up on it, it just looks like a farm pond. But when you get close, you can see the blue sheen and the great depth. A pond has muddy banks that sort of slide off into the water. But the blue hole has nearly vertical sides made of solid rock. The Blue Hole of Castalia was said to be of unknown depth (attracts more tourists that way) but I could easily see the bottom of this blue hole. I'd say it was about 30 feet deep. I did notice a small frog jump into the water as I approached, and there was a lot of algae growing around the rim. The upper few feet of the water must have some oxygen.

A blue hole. The State of Ohio thoughtfully provided a little platform so you can get 20 feet or so out over the hole. You can barely make out the bluish cast in this photo.

Looking down into the water from the side of the platform. Don't tell me that ain't a blue hole! The green stuff is algae streaming down the side of the hole.

Outlet of the hole, conveying water to the hatchery channel

8000 gallons a minute!

This long shed covers much of the channel. A sign said this is to protect the fry from sunburn. Huh.

Sunburn protection for fish

And the payoff. I think these are trout, but I never was much of a fisherman.

So that's it. Not The Blue Hole, but a blue hole. I can see how Indians or early settlers would have been fascinated by these things, not knowing why they look so different from ordinary ponds. Probably there was some lost blue-hole-worshipping cult 5000 years ago.

After the excitement of the blue hole, I needed sustenance and ventured into downtown Castalia. Nice little quiet town. I had a fine turkey club and lemonade at the Cold Creek Cafe. The sign at the city limit advertised Castalia as the home of Cold Creek (emanates from one or more blue holes and can be seen meandering around town), which never freezes. But wouldn't you name a creek that never freezes Warm Creek?
Love the sign. Reminds me of the bumper from King of the Hill where they say a diner is "now serving sandwiches"

Castalia has a very Midwestern, flat feel that you can't find east of the Cuyahoga. In the cafe, I heard a cigarette-voiced woman on the phone to a relative, saying that mom's service would be tomorrow morning, but don't worry if you can't make it because you haven't seen her in years. Ouch! Outside, there was an electronic carillon that tinkled out an old-timey song I thought I recognized, but didn't. Heading out...what's this?

Geez, what an eyesore. Looks like the entrance to a derelict cemetery.
This is the old entrance to the original Blue Hole of Castalia, from when it was a tourist attraction. It's in pretty bad shape, and that KEEP OUT sign seems really unnecessary. It's bad enough the original Blue Hole is closed to the public, but at least the new owners could have kept the gate in decent shape.

I remark that if I'd taken a picture of everything interesting I saw on this trip, I wouldn't be home yet. But then I find a lot of stuff interesting that most people don't even notice. I did not stop to take a picture of the Slovene, Polish, Slovak and Puerto Rican clubs I saw in Lorain, or of the nun in full habit gassing up her Camry wagon in Avon, or of a number of other things.

On the way back I stopped in Berlin Heights. Here's another town, like Denville, New Jersey, that doesn't know its past. There was a historical society (not open, but they had a couple of display windows) that gave absolutely no indication that Berlin Heights was the setting of a famous essay by 19th-century humorist Artemus Ward.  Maybe they just don't want the publicity. Their neighbor a few miles south is Norwalk, home of the Norwalk virus. Not something you'd want to advertise.

Then I passed an abandoned greenhouse that has big trees growing clean through the roof. I wonder if the trees grew from seedlings that were left in the greenhouse?

Next stop: Lorain. Foolish Doings can't pass a beaten-up steel town without taking pictures. This one is beaten up, down and all around. The roads are beaten up, the houses are beaten up, the buildings are beaten up, and the people are beaten up.

This short-line railroad is still hauling coke and scrap in, and finished tube out
Here's the USS-Kobe steel mill. I count five Cowper stoves. A guy at the far end of the parking lot where I took this picture yelled something, but I couldn't tell if he was yelling at me to move on, or yelling to someone I couldn't see.

The red brick building is the office of the Republic Steel tube mill - it says "National Tube" on the arch. This plant must be over a century old. The Republic name used to be huge in Ohio, but was bought out by LTV, In fact, Republic Steel invented the triple-diamond "Steel" logo that appears on the helmets of the Pittsburgh Steelers (!) But the name is now back. I am not sure why Lorain is still such a dump. Supposedly, these tube mills are running gangbusters making pipe for the fracking boom.

This logo was gone for years

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