123 Cavern Street, Manns Choice, PA 15550.
Mann's Choice, PA, 11 km west of Bedford, PA. PA Turnpike exit 11, Rte 30 west 7 km, Rte 31 west 5 km to Mann's Choice. Turn left into Cavern Street, signposted.
MAY to SEP Sat, Sun 10:30-15:30.
Adults USD 15.
|Classification:||Karst cave Devonian Helderberg limestone|
|Light:||Incandescent Electric Light System Coloured Light|
|Guided tours:||D=35 min.|
Kevin Patrick (2004):
Pennsylvania Caves & other rocky roadside wonders,
Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, Pa, USA, 248 pp, illus.
p 10, 17, 29, 44, 47, 63-64, 75, 76, 139-40, 167, 168-69, 173-75, 225.
Ralph W Stome (1932): Pennsylvania Caves, Pennsylvania Geological Survey Fourth Series, Bulletin G3, p 13-18, survey, 4 photos.
Deborah Painter (2017): The only show cave known to boast a Palaeozoic reef, GeologyToday, Volume 33, Issue 4, July/August 2017, pp 138-141. online DOI pdf
|Address:||Coral Caverns, 123 Cavern Street, Mann's Choice, PA 15550, Tel: +1-814-977-9570.|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|1928||discovered by blasting during quarry operations.|
|1932||stairways and light installed by Philip Hughes, opened to the public.|
|1966||15 m tunnel drilled into rear of cave making the tour a through-trip.|
|1985||owner Steve Hall closed the original entrance to avoid the liability of the steep steps leading down to the cave.|
|1992||new owner Bill Van Deventer.|
|1999||reopened after renovating the entrance to the cave.|
Coral Caverns is unique, while other show cave owners moved their website to facebook, they actually abandoned all that modern stuff. There is only one way to see this cave: go there at a weekend afternoon during summer. This is actually unique, "there is no website, no advertising, no gem mine, no concessions, and no souvenirs for sale!" That's actually quite refreshing, and even better, the owner guides his cave very knowledgeable. During the pandemic, it was more complicated, send an SMS to a certain phone number with the date and time and the number of participants and wait for the response. This is still possible if you want to visit outside the regular open hours.
The entrance building is a wooden hut with a small museum, showing fossils, minerals and speleothems from the cave. It also has dioramas of Late Silurian/Early Devonian reef habitats, a reconstruction how the reef might have looked when the limestone was deposited. And it shows mining tools from the abandoned quarry and there is a mine cart at the turnoff to the cave.
The place where the visitor center is located was once a limestone quarry, and the cave was discovered during quarrying. It was developed as a show cave and a few years later opened to the public. The next major development was a second entrance in the sixties, which allows a one way tour. But in the 1980s the owner closed the cave for security reasons. Some say it was because the entrance was unstable, others say because he feared liability issues in case of an accident because of the steep staircase.
He soon sold the cave to Bill Van Deventer, who owns and operates it with his wife Kris and his son Max. They constructed a new and safe entrance and reopened the cave in 1999.
The cave was operated under the name Wonderland Coral Cave, and "corals" was often omitted. The new owner renamed it and called it Coral Caverns, because that's actually the special thing about the cave. The limestones were deposited in an inland sea 420 Ma ago during the Upper Silurian/Lower Devonian, and there was a coral reef at this place. The animals of the reef left their traces in the limestone, which is full of fossils. There are stromatoporoids, brachiopods, crinoids, trilobites, and horn corals. The fossils were discovered by Boy Scouts in 1928 when they climbed through the newly discovered entrance. They used ropes to lower themselves into the cave. Stromatoporoids were calcareous reef builders during the Silurian and Devonian, belonging to the Porifera (sponges). Only a few species survived to the Holocene. And so the name coral reef is actually wrong, it was a sponge reef.
At one time in the history of the cave, it was completely flooded and massive calcite crystals, which only form under water, were formed. These were later covered with a stalactite flow giving rise to some unusually shaped formations. The highlight of the cave is the 10 m high Cathedral Room, full of speleothems and limestone pendants. Practically no wall or ceiling is free of speleothems and many areas are coated with calcite to a thickness of 15 to 45 cm.
Text by Tony Oldham (2005). With kind permission.