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McClure Cave Tours

Pictures below were taken during early tours of the McClure Cave.

Smith, conservancy work tirelessly to restore McClure Cave - Lewistown Sentinel (Greg Williams - July 17, 2023)

McCLURE — Like any lifelong love, there have been ups and downs. That’s certainly true with Rick Smith’s relationship with the McClure Cave.


Smith was about 8 years old the first time he snuck into the cave. Fascinated by the crystals and sparkling minerals throughout the cave, he was hooked by the caving bug.

Nearly 40 years later, Smith is a member of the Mid-Atlantic Karst Conservancy which not only purchased the cave in January 2022 but has been working tirelessly to restore much of its natural beauty.


“I always told my wife I wanted to buy a cave,” quipped the now 44-year-old Smith, who lives in Burnham. “It’s my de-stressor. You get to go inside and really see Mother Earth.

The mission of the conservancy, which owns six caves in Snyder, Mifflin, Huntingdon and Clarion counties in Pennsylvania, and Pocahontas County, W.Va., is in cave conservation, preservation and education. The MAKC also bought the Penn Aqua Cave in Alfarata, Mifflin County, in November 2020.


The McClure Cave measures about one-half mile long and has three different rooms, with the largest being 300 feet long and 15 feet high. There are stalagmites and different formations throughout a small pool of water that glistens with calcite rafts, or crystals.

The natural beauty of the cave is what draws Smith to the bowels of the earth. “Every time I visit, I see something new,” he said.


What he hasn’t seen lately is the years of graffiti that has been painted on the cave walls. Smith and others have worked carefully to remove trash and spray paint from the inside of the cave, restoring the natural rock as much as possible.


“Getting back into the cave, it was really sad to see the damage that had been done,” Smith said. “There were formations that were broken. It took about two days worth of work, but we removed all of the spray paint, batteries, glass and trash that was in there.

“It gives me a ton of joy to get that cave cleaned, conserving it and preserving it for future generations and a sense of giving back to the community,” he added. “It was really important to me to protect what was within it.”


The MAKC will be holding a celebratory gathering in McClure on Saturday and Sunday to commemorate the restoration of the cave. Several events during the weekend are free and open to the public.


That includes a talk by Smith at 6 p.m. Saturday at Cold Springs Grove, home to the historic McClure Bean Soup Festival at the intersection of Jackson Street and Ohio Street, about the work cavers did to restore the McClure Cave and efforts to create a new map of the cave’s passages.


There’s also talk of adding a parking area for visitors, along with a kiosk to provide information about the cave.


The cave was gated several years ago by the previous owner due to extensive vandalism of the cave formations and spray paint graffiti.


“It took hundreds of thousands of years to make these,” Smith said of the cave formations. “Even touching them with your bare hands can affect. They’re not going to sparkle even from the oil on your hands. There’s a large stalactite that’s five or six feet tall and four feet around, a lot of it has been heavily damaged from people touching it or spray painting it. One side sparkles.”


Following his talk, the public can interact with cavers and share their recollections or photos about McClure Cave or other caves in the area.


Limited tours will be offered. Those who sign up should be in good physical condition as you have to wiggle through a two foot by 1½ foot opening to enter the cave. Starting today, registration for the 90-minute tours is open at https://bookeo.com/mcclurecave.

Smith’s wife, Kacy, and teenage children, have no interest in cave exploration, so he shares his hobby with other enthusiasts.


“It’s just worked out beautifully,” Smith said of the MAKC purchasing and restoring the McClure Cave. “People ask me if it’s worth protecting? Every cave is worth protecting.

“I’ve always joked that it’s one of my favorite caves because of my childhood,” he added. “I’m old school and it’s located on my old stomping grounds.”


For more information, email mcclurecave@karst.org.


McClure Cave tours will be held Saturday - Daily Item

Marcia Moore - July 17, 2023

McCLURE — A year after purchasing property containing the entrance to McClure Cave in Snyder County, Mid-Atlantic Karst Conservancy (MAKC) members are organizing a special event next weekend to include guided tours for the public.

The western Pennsylvania nonprofit, which manages more than 5,000 acres of land that features more than 40 caves, sought to purchase the one-acre property land containing the McClure Cave a few years ago.

Landowner Dori McKnight was willing. Learning the cave was on her property in 2015, she contacted a caving group. The group gated and locked the entrance and maintained it.


The sale was complete last year after MAKC members raised much of the $18,000 goal with donations from the residents of McClure borough, according to conservancy member Rick Smith.

“Cavers from around the area and many local residents donated,” he said. To express its gratitude, the MAKC will hold tours of the cave, which is locked and maintained by the conservancy, and a presentation of the history of the cave.

The McClure Cave was the first Smith explored as a child. The cave is about one-half mile long with three chambers, the largest being 300 feet long and 15 feet high.

Since purchasing the land, Smith and other members of the MAKC have been exploring and mapping it out.


On Saturday, six separate public tours of about 75 minutes each will begin at 8:30 a.m. and conclude at about 4 p.m. Online reservations will be available beginning this morning at bookeo.com/mcclurecave.


There will be two tour guides, and helmets will be provided. Tour-goers are asked to bring their own flashlight or headlamp and “get ready to get muddy,” Smith said. The entrance of the cave is 2 feet by 2 1/2 feet so visitors will have to either enter on their back or crawl on their stomach.


“We will be able to stand up when we get in, but there will be some areas where we’ll be crawling on our hands and knees,” Smith said.


The second chamber is about 100 feet back from the entrance and “if they’re still daring, we can go into another hole to access a third chamber, called the keyhole,” he said.

After the tours, a presentation about the cave and its history will be held at 6 p.m. at 7 E. Ohio St. in McClure.


The MAKC plans to add a parking area and a kiosk on the property, but otherwise will maintain it as it is.


“To know that the cave is going to be preserved for generations to come thrills me to the core,” Smith said.



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