Caving in Pennsylvania

Wednesday September 10

Caving—also occasionally known as spelunking in the United States and potholing in the United Kingdom—is the recreational pastime of exploring wild (generally non-commercial) cave systems. No matter what you call it or where you want to do it, has a wide choice of locations and degree of difficulty to explore.

The challenges involved in caving depend on the cave being visited. It can often include the negotiation of pitches, squeezes, and water (although actual cave diving is a separate sub-specialty undertaken only by very few cavers). Climbing or crawling is often necessary, and ropes are used extensively for safe negotiation of particularly steep or slippery passages.

One of the more popular caves to explore in Pennsylvania is the Crystal Cave deep in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country. It has been visited by millions of people since its discovery on November 12, 1871. It was found by Gideon Merkel and John Gehret. Greenwich Township farmer Samuel D. F. Kohler bought 47 acres of land, including the cave, for $5,000 in 1872. The next year he began charging 25 cents admission. The cave was used, at one time, for crop storage and dances were held in the largest room. In modern times, it is a popular site for cavers to visit, examine, and navigate.

Another popular caving destination is Tytoona Cave. This cave’s entrance is located in an approximately 100-foot deep sinkhole. One stream emerges from the base of a sheer wall of the sinkhole opposite the cave entrance. This stream flows about one hundred feet or so before entering the Tytoona cave entrance. An above-ground stream enters the sinkhole and joins the stream emerging from the cliff. The flow of the above-ground drainage is very dependent on the amount of rainfall, so the flow of the stream emerging from the base of cliff also varies greatly.

In Tytoona cave, the first few hundred feet of the cave can be explored. A number of formations of flowstones, stalagmites, and stalactites can be seen in this section. There are also several decayed wooden beams which can be seen; remnants of the early attempts at commercialization. The cave is walkable for about 900 feet total before a sump is encountered. Past this sump lies several more rooms connected by more sumps, the first of which contains magnificent formations and is apparently airtight - no matter how high the stream is, the rooms will never fill with water.

Whichever caving spot strikes your fancy, you have all the information you need to have a spectacular caving adventure when you search for all the safe, qualified options contained on our web site. Geology has truly never been so much fun.

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