Castalia Sings the Blues

From the Grand Canyon to the Grand Coulee Dam, the earth's great pores and puddles have always owned a special place in mankind's heart.

It's no wonder, then, that a "bottomless" pool of stagnant water drew lines of enamored onlookers (and more than a few divers, who failed to hit ground) for decades. Such was the popularity of The Blue Hole in the northwestern Ohio town of Castalia, which drew 165,000 sightseers a year during its heyday from the 1920s to the '40s. Postcards from the era proclaimed that the never-ending Blue Hole, just south of Cedar Point amusement park, was "world famous," but fame never guarantees immortality. Its ornate stone gateway on Route 269 just south of Sandusky is now only a chipped, gray remnant of a bygone America that resolutely declares: "Private. Keep Out."

Castalia itself, however, is not so devoid of charm. The town's main street boasts a village hall, a single gas station, the popular Duck Pond, and the Cold Creek Cafe, a diner with teddy-bear-stenciled walls that houses a four-foot saw-blade centerpiece, ably painted in a pastoral scene. Nearby, birds squabble and children play. And that innocuous Duck Pond the kiddies are squealing beside? It's actually another blue hole.

"It's not blue, though," Bob Wolfbrand, the mayor of Castalia, sagely points out. "It's clear water--just a typical pond."

Regardless, the Duck Pond, like its more famous predecessor, is a natural azure spring of iridescent water; devoid of free oxygen, it contains no life. But rather than turn it into another tourist attraction, the people of Castalia created a park.

Much of Castalia, including the Duck Pond and the Blue Hole, is owned by the Castalia Trout Club, a private fishing group that has owned the land since 1898. The city even leases the Duck Pond from the club. "We used to pay one dollar, but I'm not sure we even do that any longer," explains Mayor Wolfbrand.

The Blue Hole closed its gates for good in 1990. According to one story, its owners didn't want to compete with Cedar Point. But Wolfbrand spins a different yarn, one of small-town America being left in the dust of progress and code restrictions.

"They would have had to upgrade it to make it accessible to the public," he explains. "It just wasn't worth it."

Then the Ohio Division of Wildlife bought some of the Trout Club's land to house the Castalia Fish Hatchery, and rumors started that the Blue Hole would reopen with state money. Ken Schenk, a fisheries management technician in Castalia, quickly quells that tale.

"We don't own it," he says, though a map of the hatchery denotes the "Blue Hole water source" as a point of interest. "We do have our own blue hole, and it's bigger than theirs."

The tale Schenk offers is an echo of old lore. The third blue hole is full of dead water, 52 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, unaffected by droughts and floods. A steel pole jabbed into the water came up short at 140 feet.

"Actually, there are four or five blue holes around Castalia," Schenk admits, and his claim makes sense: The town was named after the ancient Grecian fountain, for its abundance of natural springs.

But the truth behind the "Keep Out" signs appears to be that Americana hasn't vanished or been closed down; people simply don't go there anymore. Those who want to gaze at one of the enigmatic blue holes and wonder how deep it really is can still head to the Duck Pond--or to the Castalia Fish Hatchery, with its idyllic, well-tended walks. Though the "world famous" Blue Hole may have been left behind, the springs' anomalous existence lives on.

--David Powers

Castalia is a straight shot west from Cleveland down Route 2 to Route 101; the Duck Pond lies on the left on the east end of town. Just past it on the right is the Cold Creek Cafe; the original Blue Hole gateway, next to Cloud's Antique Mall, is just around the corner. The Castalia Fish Hatchery lies north on Homegardner Road; call 419-684-7499.

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