Penn's Cave – Spring Mills, Pennsylvania - Atlas Obscura

Penn's Cave

Spring Mills, Pennsylvania

Sail through this subterranean show cave that is home to a legend that would go on to name nearly everything around it. 


Boats take visitors through Penn’s Cave, a quarter-mile subterranean waterway with ornate limestone formations and a bat colony, all underneath a working farm. It is also said to be the final resting place of the ill-fated suitor of a Lenni-Lenape chief’s daughter whose name has been adopted by everything from a lake to college athletics.

Penn’s Cave was opened as a show cave in 1885. An inlet of Lake Nitanee runs underground to a wide entrance where boats are moored. Tours use these boats to traverse the waterway into a cave with ceilings that are up to 55 feet above the water. Visitors will have to keep their heads low in some areas and watch for resting bats right above them. The tour highlights limestone formations like “the Statue of Liberty,” “Garden of the Gods,” and “the Angel’s Wing.” The tour will also explore Lake Nitanee if weather permits. Aside from the astounding rock formations, the cave is also home to a legend that has spread its name all around the area.

A local legend has a young French trapper, Malachi Boyer, exploring the area until he met Nita-nee, a Native American chief’s daughter. Wishing to marry her, Malachi could not get permission from the chief. One night, they tried to escape, but were captured by her seven brothers. Malachi would be thrown into this cave and guarded until he died. The brothers weighted down his corpse and sank it to the bottom of the cave’s waters. Nita-nee’s name lives on as the namesake of the lake, the nearby Mount Nittany, and Penn State’s athletic teams, the Nittany Lions.

Penn’s Cave also has a working farm, so tourists can watch the cows graze in a nearby pasture or see blooming sunflower fields once they experience the sights and slightly uncomfortable legend of the watery cave.

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