Cercone Leads Field Study of Geology and Canal History in Indiana County

Posted on 4/11/2017 8:55:22 AM

Karen Rose Cercone of the IUP Geoscience Department guided the Pittsburgh Geological Society spring field trip to learn about the geology and history of the Pennsylvania Main-line Canal (Western Division). With help from IUP Geoscience alumnus Gary Ball ’78, 32 geologists from Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia were able to study the type locality of the Saltsburg sandstone and learn how the geology of southern Indiana County shaped the industrial history of our entire region.

Karen Cercone and students on the field tripThe Pennsylvania Main-line Canal was built in the 1830s to connect Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. Its path followed the valleys of the Conemaugh and Kiskiminetas rivers in southern Indiana County, a route selected because of the economic value of the salt produced in this area from Pottsville Formation salt brines. Obstacles to the canal created by the massive Saltsburg sandstone, such as the entrenched meander bend at Bow Ridge, were overcome by amazing feats of engineering, resulting in one of the earliest tunnels ever constructed in the United States.

More information about the impact of geology on local history can be seen at the Rebecca Haddon Stone House Museum in Saltsburg, Pennsylvania. A preserved section of the Pennsylvania Mainline Canal, along with two historic railroad tunnels through Bow Ridge, can be visited at the Tunnelview Historic Site, maintained by the Indiana County Parks and Trails near Tunnelton, Pennsylvania.