Penn`s Cave - Visit Penn State

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Penn`s Cave - Visit Penn State
02 November | Outdoors, The Alleghenies | Jim Cheney
TOURING PENN'S CAVE: PENNSYLVANIA'S ONLY ALLWATER CAVERN
If you’ve driven anywhere around the State College area, you’ve no doubt seen the
small billboards for Penn’s Cave and Wildlife Park. Located in Centre Hall,
Pennsylvania, Penn’s Cave is one of nine show caves in the state. However, it is the
only one that takes visitors through the cave entirely by boat. In fact, Penn’s Cave
claims to be America’s only all-water cavern.
The cave has been long-known to the local Seneca Indians that lived in the area. There
has been evidence found in various parts of the cave that show that Native Americans
and European explorers used the dry parts of the cave for storage and shelter.
Looking up from the entrance to Penn’s Cave.
The cave is also connected to the local legend surrounding the Indian maiden Nita-nee,
for whom the nearby Mount Nittany was supposedly named. Nita-nee fell in love with a
French fur trapper from Lancaster County, and they decided to run away together to
marry. Nita-nee’s brothers caught up to the pair and brought them back to the village.
The Frenchman was thrown into the cave, and the entrance was guarded by Nita-nee’s
brothers to prevent his escape until he died inside the cave.
Looking down at the entrance to the cave and the boats that take visitors through it.
Penn’s Cave has been open for visitors since 1885, when Jesse and Samuel Long built
a hotel on the site and a boat to guide visitors through the cave. Over the years, the tour
has changed, highlighted by a man-made opening on the far end of the cave into Lake
Nitanee which was constructed in 1927. This opening now allows visitors, when water
levels allow, to exit the far side of the cave and take a brief boat tour around this manmade lake.
Entering the cave after taking a short trip around Lake Nitanee.
Today, tours of the cave last roughly 45 minutes and are conducted entirely by boat
along John Penn Creek. While depths vary based on water conditions, the average
depth of the creek is only about one meter, and it is often possible to see the bottom of
the creek while on the tour.
The tour guide sits at the front of the boat and guides it through the cave. Along the
way, the guide stops the boat and points out cleverly named rock formations and makes
the requisite cave-related puns before moving on through the cave. Of course, there is
also a lot of fascinating information about the cave’s history and geology that is included
in the tour.
Our guide piloted the boat through the cave and told us what we were seeing.
The unique boat-based tour of Penn’s Cave makes this a really great destination, even
for people who’ve visited many of the other caves in Pennsylvania. However, it’s not just
the cave itself that makes Penn’s Cave a fantastic place to visit. The Penn’s Cave
property is also home to a large wildlife park, a 5,000 square-foot maze, and an offroading adventure.
In addition to the cave, I had a chance to check out parts of the wildlife park when I was
on-site. Most of the animals are housed in large, natural enclosures, and many of the
grazing animals can come right up to the bus visitors ride in. Other animals, like the wolf
pack, are housed in a giant enclosure that separates them from visitors, but still
provides them with a great habitat and allows them to be seen.
A pack of wolves roams an enclosure at Penn’s Cave and Wildlife Park.
The wildlife park is also home to two mountain lions and a bobcat. While their
enclosures are much smaller than the other animals’ enclosures, they seem to be on
par with most zoos in Pennsylvania.
The maze at Penn’s Cave sits directly behind the gift shop and looked like a lot of fun
from my quick look. I’m told that the paneled walls allow them to change it from time to
time, so it’s a fun activity that you can do again and again without getting bored.
Overlooking the large maze at Penn’s Cave.
Overall, I was really impressed with my time at Penn’s Cave and Wildlife Park in Centre
Hall, Pennsylvania. With the multiple attractions available, you could spend an entire
day there with the whole family. Of course, the cave itself is worth the visit if you just
have a couple of hours to spend onsite before heading to the many other attractions in
and around Centre County.
Note: My visit to Penn’s Cave and Wildlife Park was hosted by the site. However, the
opinions expressed are my own.

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