We recently went on a daytrip to central Pennsylvania to check out a few caves and a Revolutionary War fort. Due to the 90 degree heat, hiking was out of the question, so we headed underground.
Our first stop was at Indian Caverns, one of the longest limestone caves in PA, with over four miles of passageways. The caves were fascinating, with a nice combination of tight corridors, and larger rooms. We saw flowstone, stalactites, stalagmites, and columns. Native Americans had used parts of the cave to smoke meat, and store food. Some stones were covered with soot from their fires, and many arrowheads and other tools were found in the cave. The most scenic room was the Garden of the Gods with many formations in colored lights. There were also some mineral deposits that glowed with the help of a black light. The cave is still forming, with dripping water a common presence. The tour covered almost a mile of the cave. This will be the last year the cave will be open to tours since it is being bought by the state and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy to become a bat preserve.
Arch Spring and Tytoona Cave
Our trip brought us into beautiful Sinking Valley where we stopped to see Arch Spring from the road. No trespassing signs prevented us from getting closer. Part of a collapsed cave, the arch is the only natural bridge in Pennsylvania. Here, Sinking Creek returns to the surface as a large spring. Arch Spring is a part of the same cave system as Tytoona Cave.
We turned onto Morrow Road and drove to a pull off on the left. A trail led down to Tytoona Cave and its impressive entrance located in a sink where streams disappear into the ground. In high water, a waterfall forms on the side of the cave entrance. The sink is a collapsed portion of an ancient cave. The streambed was dry, and it emerged from the base of a ledge. We entered the cave and soon heard the sound of running water, which was the underground stream of Sinking Creek. There were some small side passageways, and a few formations. It became very dark as I went deeper into the cave and I wished I brought a stronger light. The sound of water was everywhere and I just walked in the creek. The walls glistened with moisture. After walking into the cave for about 500 feet, I turned around. Apparently, it is possible to hike 400 feet further until the cave ends at a sump, where the cave goes underwater. Cave divers have explored more of the cave, which has additional chambers, including one with incredible formations, such as the very rare soda straw formations. These formations have been protected because it is completely inaccessible. Even cave diving is no longer permitted.
Tytoona Cave is a special place because it is open to the public, accessible, and not commercialized. It offers a superb illustration of karst topography and the worlds that exist beneath our feet. Please treat it with respect.
Our final stop was the re-creation of this Revolutionary War fort, built to protect local lead smelting operations. It never saw a battle. It is now a county park. I was impressed. The fort was quite large, with the logs stacked horizontally since the bedrock was too close to the surface to drive the logs vertically. The fort held over forty cabins. It is hard to imagine just how hard life was back then. The tour guides wore period dress and taught us about the fort and way of life. There was a reconstructed squared log home that represented the typical home found in the valley generations ago. A guide in her 80s explained the home to us, saying that it would be a family’s second home after establishing themselves after a few years in the valley. Despite being dressed in layers of linens and cotton, and a petticoat, she apologized for being underdressed. Summers must have been hellish for frontier families.
Location of Tytoona Cave: