Death and Destruction at the Devil’s Tea Table
Perched 365 feet above the scenic Delaware River, on a rocky wooded hillside in the town of Kingwood, stands a geological anomaly known as the Devil’s Tea Table. It’s a twenty-foot-tall pillar of reddish colored siltstone capped by a massive flat boulder. The towering pedestal stands at the very precipice of a steep shale cliff face, looking reminiscent of a piece of Warner Bros. scenery from an old Roadrunner cartoon. Hundreds of feet below cars speed past on Route 29 as it winds its way along the river.
If you view the Devil’s Tea Table from the side, you may notice that it appears to resemble the profile of a man’s head with a flattened skull. That image is the inspiration for the origin story of the stone in its mythology.
According to legend, the Devil’s Tea Table was the favorite place of a powerful Indian Chief named Big Mountain. It was a place where he could rest while looking out his domain – the mountains, the river and its islands below.
One day a band of the Chief’s rivals, resentful of his power over them, pushed a heavy boulder down the hillside from above, crushing Big Mountain’s head. As he lay dying, the Chief vowed that his spirit would guard this sacred place for all eternity.
Its breathtaking views of the river and its islands have made the site a popular destination for hikers and sightseers for more than a century. In the 1970s and 1980s the Tea Table became a popular party place for teenagers, more than one of whom would fall to their death from the Tea Table and down the cliff. There have been at least two known fatalities and many more people injured that would require rescuing. The capstone on Tea Table bears the graffiti tags of those who were brave enough (or perhaps foolhardy enough) to climb to the top of precariously placed platform.
The existence of this unique and storied New Jersey landmark is currently in jeopardy, as a proposed NJ Department of Transportation plan called the “Rockfall Mitigation Project” is underway that would almost certainly mean the destruction of the Devil’s Tea Table. The project has raised a variety of concerns among people… Read the full story in issue #60 of Weird NJ magazine.
Aerial photos by Richard Smith Jr./Reckless Pixel Images.
The preceding article is an excerpt from Weird NJ magazine, “Your Travel Guide to New Jersey’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets,” which is available on newsstands throughout the state and on the web at www.WeirdNJ.com. All contents ©Weird NJ and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.
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