The first and last time I visited the Peekamoose Blue Hole, arguably the Catskills most famous (and recently, infamous) swimming hole, was in 2010. The crystal-clear pool in Sundown Wild Forest was a wonder to behold, but it was crowded. Not shoulder to shoulder, but more crowded than I prefer for a quick, refreshing dip in the Rondout Creek. More annoying than the other swimmers, however, were the beefy horseflies that swarmed the swimming hole. A nice gentleman loaned us some bug repellent, though, and those unrepentant biters left us alone. Overall, I enjoyed my swim, but I could see the writing on the wall 7 years ago: Blue Hole was getting too popular for its own good.
Recently, the New York Times told the Blue Hole’s story of growing popularity thanks to word-of-mouth as well as sites like Roadtrippers.com, Tripadvisor.com, and Instagram. Visitors flooded the Blue Hole and with them came their garbage, so much garbage, in fact, that the state has to patrol the swimming hole every day, dumpsters have been set up (which is essentially an open buffet for bears), and additional rules in place such as no glass bottles or campfires. While the Internet certainly made the location of Blue Hole know far and wide, Catskills residents have been swimming in Blue Hole for years and telling a friend, who in turn tells a friend, who tells a neighbor, who tells their mail carrier, who tells their cousin, and so on. It was only a matter of time before nature-seekers and partiers came a-calling.
Now that Pandora’s box has been opened, what is there to do? Organizations like Leave No Trace have been cleaning up the Blue Hole, and you can volunteer to clean up by registering with LNT. Or, you can visit the Blue Hole with a garbage bag and start picking up trash where you see it. Scold people who litter. Spread the word about keeping our swimming holes clean. And most importantly, visit our swimming holes, but please, we beg of you, leave no trace behind.