Pennsylvania Stories and Tips

Indian Caverns, Tour for the Senses

Indian Caverns  Photo, Pennsylvania, United States

A colorful totem pole greets visitors upon arrival at the parking area. Looking up the hill, the Indian Cavern gift shop is built into the mountainside. Plaques line the outside wall and share interesting stories about people associated with the cave. The big red cavern door opens, and our tour begins.

White calcium carbonate seeps through cracks of the arched "Entrance Hall," the caverns grey limestone foyer. We wind our way through narrow passages that twist and turn. Smooth edges of round holes in the walls curve in the direction the water once flowed, like waves frozen in time. Moss grows under artificial lights, adding splashes of green to the rusty-brown rock. Two tiny brown bats cling to the wall, undisturbed by our presence.

In one corridor, Tom, our guide, shows us a hollow, fractured stalactite and encourages us to examine it. Then Tom taps on a triangular rock, jetting out of the floor, and it chimes like a beautiful church bell, echoing off the cavern walls.

"Giant’s Hall," has a towering wall of brilliant creamy-white flowstone cascading from the ceiling to the floor. The gorgeous display of natural art is known as "Frozen Niagara Falls." In the middle of the room, a large sheet of brown rock leans at an angle reaching 25 feet to the ceiling. A rock dinosaur lies along the upper rim of the room, if you use your imagination a little.

In the "Jewel Room," the deepest (140 feet underground) and farthest point in the cave, Tom turns out the light and our world becomes pure darkness. After a moment, he turns on a blue light over a tiny spring full of water. When the area has heavy rains, an underground stream (six feet below the "Jewel Room") overflows. The water bubbles up this spring and water trickles over the ledge on to the fragile "Lily Pad" formations five feet below. Once the "Lily Pads" fill, the water runs back over their lips into deeper grooves resembling a miniature Grand Canyon. From there, the water runs back into the stream.

Leaning our backs against the slanted and chilly wall in the "Star Room," we stare at what has the appearance of nutmeg sprinkled on the stone above. Tom turns out the lights again and tells us to look for bright green dots glowing in the darkness overhead. The tiny dots are minute traces of Radium and haven’t been found in any other cave in the United States thusfar.

Other neat features along the way include a wishing well, a massive rick resembling a thick tree trunk with a heart cut out; thin cracks in the cavern ceiling healing themselves by filling with calcite; cedar tree roots reaching down through the Earth sixty feet in search of moisture; and stalagmites posing like prairie dogs.

Indians occupied three rooms in the cave four hundred years ago, leaving behind many artifacts. Picture writing, found in the "Indian Council Room," tells the story of an Indian who lived and died in the cave. The "Indian Relic Room" has a display of arrowheads, spearheads, hatchets, grinding stones, and peace pipes found in the cave.

David Lewis, an outlaw, and his gang used the cave as a hideout from 1816-1820. Originally known as the "Robin Hood of Pennsylvania" for stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, he changed his ways and kept the riches for himself - finally landing him in jail. Rumor has it that he buried a sack of gold inside the cave but it's never been found. In the passage where he and his gang hid out, we stomp on the floor and hear the hollow echo of another tunnel below us.

Indian caverns opened for business in 1929. It is located in Central Pennsylvania on Route 45 (midway between Waterstreet and State College) in the quiet valley of Spruce Creek. This cavern offers a great tour for children (and adults) that plays with your senses and imagination. The tour lasts about an hour. The fifty-six degree cave remains open year round. Tours being daily at 10:00 am. During May, September, and October the cave closes at 4pm. From May 30th through Labor Day the cavern closes at 6pm. Sometimes a discount coupon can be found on their website.

Indian Caverns: Indian Caverns or (814) 632-7578

Allegheny Mountains Visitors Bureau: Visit Central Pennsylvania or (800) 842-5866

Raystown Area Information: Raystown Lake or (888) RAYSTOWN

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