Friday, August 18, 2006

Tytoona Cave


Tucked snug in a deep ravine out in Tyrone's "Sinking Valley", there is a cave, a mere 15 minute drive from my house. They call it Tytoona, as it is located between Tyrone and Altoona, in Sinking Valley. Sinking Valley is full of sink holes, a direct result of it's underground cave structures and hollows. Tytoona is without a doubt, one of the most beautiful however, as a stream of cold spring water flows from within it creating a diverse ecosystem of plant and animal life.

If I were to describe it, I would say that it looks like something out of Jurassic Park.


Standing in front of the caves main entrance, I felt a cool breeze push outward. It was so refreshing, especially compared to the hot and humid August air outside the cave. The interesting part is that the cave temperature only ever changes a few small degrees year round. The natural air conditioning made it easy to forget the beads of sweat on my forhead.

Tytoona cave has been noted as one of the most significant caves in Pennsylvania history, despite the fact that commercialization has failed on two attempts. I'm happy that they failed however, because there are already PLENTY of commercial caves in our region. (See: Lincoln Caverns, Indian Caverns, Penn's Cave, and Woodward Cave.) Printed accounts of Tytoona date back to 1788. In one mention, there is a story of how the "bedford Rangers" chased Indians into the cave after two early settlers were found scalped. The Indians never emerged from the entrance, giving to the belief that perhaps another way out was found. This escape seems highly unlikely however, although it makes for a great story!

Tytoona has about one mile of trunk passage, though this area is broken up with 'sumps' or, in other words, sections completely under water. One of the sump protected rooms reveals very significant and delicate formations that mother nature has hidden well. This room is well protected, and few are qualified enough to enter it. In order to visit, you must be certified in cave sump diving.


The cavern exits at "Arch Springs" a mile away, were a picturesque rock "arch" mimics the famous natural bridge in Virginia. The arch is private property however, and though I did get to see it...I didn't manage to get a picture.

I wanted badly to venture further into the cave than I did, but no helmets or lighting disallowed such a venture, so I resorted to photographing the world outside of the cave. Oaks, maples, pines, mosses and wildflowers decorate the mouth of the cave area, and huge cliffs are decorated with ferns that grow from the crevaces of the stone face.




On this particular day, the stream that runs through the cave was practically non-existent due to no rain, and I found photography a bit easier without having to wade! You could hear the section of stream within the cave, as if there was a second source of water from within the caverns...but outside, only pools and dry mossy stones. There was a tiny section of stream that cut under the cliff wall, probably part of where the water inside the cave was coming from.

I can't wait to visit the cave again. Enjoy.


Entrance two:





"Johnny Pop-ups":


Not sure what this was:


Stay tuned for more nature snooping stories and photos...