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Casparis

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Information

by Michael D. McCumber

 

Forty-Foot Openings of the Casparis Mines
Forty-Foot Openings of the Casparis Mines

Nearly One Thousand Feet Above the Youghiogheny River
Nearly One Thousand Feet Above the Youghiogheny River

Chestnut Ridge Cut Through by the Youghiogheny River
Chestnut Ridge Cut Through by the Youghiogheny River

The mountain area southeast of South Connellsville, PA, primarily in Connellsville Township, is a combination of state game lands, tree farms, and private property along the crest of Chestnut Ridge. Besides excellent for hunting and off-road riding, Casparis hosts several features, two of which are subterranean, that makes it a popular “underground” destination. Several of the features are as follows: Casparis Mines, Lookout Point, Casparis Cave, Foley's Dam, cliffs and rock formations, and a blue hole.

Casparis Mines

Named for the founder of the mine, Kenneth Casparis, they're made up of four mines side by side. Three of the mines are estimated to be up to forty feet in height and thirty in width, while the fourth mine is only about twenty feet tall. Conflicting reports have the mines between one quarter of a mile deep to up to two miles. The air temperature inside of them is pretty stable at approximately 60 degrees year round, which makes the mines felt long before they're seen in the summer months. In the area leading up to the mines you'll find several ruins and foundations from the Casparis Community, including the Incline where mined blue limestone was sent down the mountain to the railroad.

Lookout Point

A little further along the road is one of Fayette County's most beautiful scenic overlooks, commonly referred to as Lookout Point. The overlook is on top of a cliff that is nearly one thousand feet directly above the Youghiogheny River. It offers a great view of where Chestnut Ridge is sliced through by the river. From the lookout one can see the windmills lining Laurel Ridge, over fifteen miles to the east. Below Lookout Point is a common tradition of ending your car's life with a bang, for the base of the cliff is littered with old vehicles that were sent sailing over the cliff's ledge.

Casparis Cave

Sometimes referred to as Opperman's Cave, it's arguably the most interesting non-commercial cave in Fayette County. The cave's opening is marked by a crack in a rock face with water coming out of the bottom. Once overcoming a thin opening, the cave opens up to a series of large rooms with the deepest room of the cave containing a remarkably tall waterfall. The cave is home to bats and care should be exercised in not damaging the delicate cave environment while exploring.

History

Casparis was once a fairly settled area during the early 1900s. The forest was clear-cut and several farms dotted the landscape along with a mining community. Connellsville School District even had a bus stop at the fork for the road leading back to the mines.

In 1916, Kenneth Casparis purchased “Joyce's Tipple” (stone at the opening of the mines) and the Charles Hampshire Farm where he started the Casparis Quarry. A community of eighteen houses was created near the quarry to house the families who worked in the quarry. Some years later, the Vang Crushed Stone Company purchased the quarry and began drilling tunnels into the mountainside to obtain the stone. More in-depth information on the Casparis Community and Stone Quarries are in the History of South Connellsville (including old pictures).

The mine was operated until the 1950s. Once the mine closed, the community quickly disappeared. Soon after the farms disappeared one by one having been either sold to the state or to tree logging companies.

Location

The Youghiogheny River, Indian Creek, Route 711 and South Connellsville borough borders the area of Casparis, and is crisscrossed with quad trails and several dirt roads that make it a favorite for off-road vehicles. Though there are several ways to access Casparis, the easiest is to follow South Connellsville's Pittsburgh Street to the end, turn left onto McCormick Avenue, and follow this to the point where it curves to the right, which is Casparis Road. While Casparis Road leads directly to Foley's Dam, you'll need to take an offshoot of the road (and forge a creek) to get to the Casparis Mines and Lookout Point.

Underground Destination

Be it lack of commercial interest or a perceived liability by local officials, Casparis is not promoted or even supported as a tourist destination. Nevertheless, through word of mouth, you'll occasionally find vehicles with license plates as far away as Virginia, New York, and New Jersey.

Caution

Given the isolated nature of Casparis, and the lack of law enforcement due to the difficult road conditions, it tends to attract some bad element. I once encountered a group of drug junkies handling hypodermic needles on a visit to the mines! Doubtful they were diabetic.

Rattlesnakes occasionally get out of hand in the Casparis area, and rattlesnake hunts have been called on in the past to curb their populations. In addition, Casparis has become a popular drop off spot for unwanted dogs. If planning to hike in this area, you may want to consider having pepper spray with you.

The dirt roads in Casparis often succumb to erosion and can be extremely hazardous for low riding cars.

Be sure to obey all no trespassing signs, as not all of Casparis is public property.

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