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June 1990

Cranberry Iron Mine

Here's a view of the entrance to the mine. This is at the bottom of a large bowl shaped pit where the ore was first surface mined. A tunnel was then dug in, and eventually the two merged and the beginning of the tunnel was open to the outside. This is one of the support legs that helps hold up the ceiling just inside the tunnel. Here, the tunnel exit to the Cranberry side is to the left and the main mine runs to the right, close to a mile back into the mountain. Where the explorers are standing is where they backed trucks into the mine in the last operation here in the 60s. You can see the road where they're standing and to the right of the leg. It's really pretty steep, but made of crushed rock, so it doesn't get real slippery. This photo doesn't do it justice, it's a grand sight to see this huge wall of black rock with these giant holes in it, and all of this leading off into the dark unknown. Once you've been in and seen it, it's very easy to figure out the layout, basically a straight line. There's no getting lost as long as your batteries don't fail you. Talk about midnight in the coal mine, those black walls, high black ceilings, and a bit of a fog from the cold, moist air, combine to swallow up any light. In many places you can't see the top of the mine because of the haze and the blackness. At the far end of the tunnel, it's another story. The ceiling occasionally gets down to head height and you have to duck a few times. Also the top end of the mine is muddy from dirt washing down from ventilation shafts far overhead. If one were so inclined, one could also pick bats off the ceiling. We had no one who was so inclined.

The mine is now fenced off and a "bat friendly" steel gate has been erected a little ways inside the mine to protect over-wintering bats from the people that would disturb their habitat. There are 3 more bat gates protecting the old hillslope entrances several hundred feet up the hill from here.


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