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About Mysterious America

This column, hosted by our own Dr. Seymour O'life, goes out of its way to bring you the bizarre, strange, uncanny, and just plain mysterious places that dot this fair land. Perhaps it is a huge Buddha statue in New York or a state park in Pennsylvania, where the stones ring like bells - each month is always a peculiar jewel when it comes to Mysterious America.

Coudersport Ice Cave

176 Ice Mine Road, Coudersport, PA 16915 • Seasonal Hours - open Memorial Day

IceBikeSignSome things are etched in stone, right? Hot in the summer, cold in the winter?

This may not be the case alongside a mountain slope in the small town of Coudersport, Pennsylvania.

Let me introduce you to the Coudersport Ice Cave. Here, in a tiny man-made open-air cave, the seasons are reversed.

In the summer, when ice is a distant memory from months past, it begins to build here at the ice cave. When autumn is over and the season slips into winter, and snow covers the Endless Mountains, the ice disappears from the cave.

It is very perplexing to scientists.

Although this odd geological mystery has probably been going on for thousands of years it was only discovered in the summer of 1884.

Local tribes were trading for goods and supplies with raw silver. Some locals believed that this silver had to be mined locally and, for one reason or another, they chose this particular mountain as the source of the native silver. The story has it that a divining rod was used to locate this supposed ‘Mother Lode’ and when the stick got a strong hit a couple of guys started digging. But silver is not what they found.

Curiously they found a shaft full of … ice, ice baby.IceDoor

To this day the Coudersport Ice Mine is a fascinating and puzzling geological anomaly.

As I said, in the spring, as the rest of the Northern Hemisphere thaws, ice begins to form in this 40-foot-deep cave, increasing in volume as the temperature outside gets hotter and hotter.

It is truly bizarre.

If you ride to the Ice Cave on·a hot summer day and stand outside of the mine you will feel a cold breeze from the ice that forms inside the rocks.

IceMineHoleThen, in the fall when the temperatures begin to drop, the ice starts to melt, dwindling down to nothing over the course of the winter.

Come spring the cycle begins anew as it has for as long as the mountains have been there.

Scientists from various universities and reporters from the Science Channel have studied the Ice Cave for years and still no one has a definitive answer.

The current main theory states that cracks and crevices along the mountain draw in cold air during the winter, then slowly release this chilled air in the summer.

Because of the unusual patterns of these fissures, the discharge of this superchilled air is channeled directly into the Coudersport Ice Mine. This cold air draws moisture from the humid outside air and the ice is created. Over the summer warmer air fills these fissures and come the winter the process begins to reverse itself and the ice slowly disappears.

IceSignBikeToday scientists and geologists constantly monitor the temperature – keeping a close eye on this geological peculiarity.

There are other ice caves like this, particularly in other geologically similar places in Pennsylvania as was well as West Virginia and New York, but the Coudersport Ice Mine is the largest such cave east of the Mississippi.

For a time the cave was used to store food and other materials shortly after its discovery, but smart entrepreneurs quickly saw the uniqueness of the cave and made it a curious local attraction in the early 1900s.

The Ice Cave remained an attraction for decades, but had been closed for almost a quarter of a century before it was purchased by Gary and Diana Buschen. The Buschens set about refurbishing the Ice Cave and the attached gift shop. They have added picnic tables, lots of flowers (that the old attraction was known for) and a large seating area.

The Coudersport Ice Cave is now a wonderful and interesting attraction – well worth the short detour off of Route 6 and definitely a part of Mysterious America.

O’Life out!