Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Penn's Cave

FRitW turned 9 this week. This is our first birthday so far from family and friends, so we needed to make it special. After much discussion, we decided to visit Penn's Cave in central Pennsylvania. According to their website, It is the only all water cave in America. We love visiting caves, and this one is a boat ride through a cave - sounds really cool, huh?? It is. It really, really is.

Standing at the mouth of the cave waiting for the next boat. FRitW was attempting to feed the Rainbow Trout and couldn't be bothered for a photo! Unfortunately, the trout couldn't be bothered to eat either.

My camera is just not up to the task of taking pictures in a cave, so our pictures are quite limited, but we had a great time. There were about 20 people in our boat and our guide, Dave, has been around this cave since he was a child. His dad has worked in the cave as far back as the 70's and Dave has worked in several caves over the last 10 years - starting with Penn's Cave, and returning to it a couple of years ago. He was an excellent guide - he was funny, but informative as well!

This is a boat approaching the dock to unload.

The cave has actually been a 'show cave' open to the public since 1885 - that's not as long as Mammoth Cave has been open (Did you know that Civil War soldiers - both Union and Confederate - took time out to tour Mammoth cave during the war? - but that's another story), but Penn's Cave has been open for 128 years. In that 128 years, not one guest has been in the water - no one has ever fallen overboard! That was reassuring as we started out in our boat. Even more reassuring: the water through most of the cave is 20 - 50 inches deep - unless there has been heavy rain.

A few of my photos came out ok. This is the ceiling in one portion of the cave.

The cave was pretty dark as we rode through. There was minimal lighting and our guide had a couple of spotlights to highlight the more interesting formations. Penn's Cave has lots of speleothems and was beautiful! Our guide turned all lights off twice, (once by special request, and once at his normal spot to do so). That has always been one of my favorite parts of cave tours. There is just something awesome about a darkness that you can feel. During the special request lights out, another boat was approaching and it's spotlight kind of ruined the effect.

More formations. There weren't many places a person could walk within the cave. The formations came up straight out of the water.

This is 'The Heart of the Cave' - it is a perfect heart shape from just the right angle. This just isn't the right angle... ;)
The water in Penn's Cave is from a spring and is the beginning of Penn's Creek (apparently a top Trout fishing creek here in Pennsylvania.) At one time, the cave's water moved through an underground tube (natural rock tube, not man-made) and popped up about 200 yards outside the cave to begin Penn's Creek. In the 1920's the cave's owners created a narrow opening for the water flow and built a tiny pond - just big enough to turn a boat around - between the cave and Penn's Creek. The tube filled with mud and is now blocked. The boats no longer turn around in the last room, they now squeeze through the man-made opening to the tiny pond, and ride back through the cave.

Coming out of the opening to the little pond. 

Returning to the man-made opening to re enter the cave.


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