Chiming in on the Ringing Rocks

It was a whim, really.
CoTB was planning a quick day-trip to Philadelphia, and hopped on to a tourism site for other things to do while we were in town.

Among listings for places like the Swedish American museum, the Franklin Institute and the Philadelphia Museum of Art was a listing for something that sounded truly unique: Ringing Rock County Park.

It promised a unique experience: Inside this little park is a field of boulders that and when you hit them with a hammer they ring.

Most rocks just make a ‘clack’ sound when you hit them, but not here. Instead, some of the shrub-sized boulders ring like bell.

Located about 60 miles north of Philadelphia, the park is off the appropriately named Ringing Rock Road in Upper Black Eddy.
If you blink as you drive past the sign for the park, you miss the whole entrance. It literally looks like the start of a logging road, not the starting point to one of Pennsylvania’s weirdest geologic anomalies.

In fact, when CotB drove by the first time, we figured there must be some more prominent entrance. We went by, circled the whole park and resigned ourselves to what appeared to be a big disappointment as we returned this ramshackle-looking park.

Inside the parking area, we were even more underwhelmed. There’s a few picnic tables and parking spots, all darkened and grimy-looking thanks to the overhead forest.
The whole effect is really underwhelming.

At best, it reminded us more of a forgotten back-road municipal park — the kind where the swings are all broken and the picnic tables leave mildew stains when you sit on them.

Heck, even the county website for the park is understated. But we were there. We figured we’d give it a shot.

Just past a Port-A-Potty was a single sign that pointed down a nature trail. It simply said “Trail.” We were still a little leery when we spotted a couple on their way down the trail. in the woman’s had was a hammer.

Down the shadowed path, we caught a glimpse of bright sunlight ahead. A few hundred feet further and the trail opened up into a wide, unforested field.
Instead of grass, soccer pitches and playsets, there was rocks.

Lots of rocks. So many rocks we can’t describe it, so look at this picture. Notice the little guy on the right side of the picture? He was about 6 feet tall.

That sight alone was impressive enough for the 60-miles-out-of-the-way drive. It’s just an amazing view.
But CotB was prepared for more. We did have a hammer with us (two in fact), so we climbed out among the boulders and started banging away.

Now it’s true, some rocks didn’t ring at all. They just made the regular sound you’d expect to hear from a rock being beaten by a hammer.
But when you found a ringing rock, well, that was pretty neat. Especially when you discovered that different rocks made different tones on the musical scale.

Unfortunately, the CotB interns didn’t think to bring a video camera with us, so you don’t get the full effect, but you can check out  many YouTube videos on the place, including this one:

The origin of the rocks and the reason they ring is still a matter of debate.

As suggested here, the rocks look like they arrived in the field by a landslide. They entirely cover the area with no “ground space” between them. However, the landslide theory is out because there’s no hills higher than the field in the immediate vicinity.

The spooky version suggests, aliens and American Indians or a mix of the two somehow applied their mojo to make the rocks sing for them. Such theorists point out that very little plant-life is in the rock field and that animals avoid the place too. Somehow, I just doubt that.

Another version is that the rocks actually migrated upward after being buried. It’s also said that the field of rocks is actually 10 feet deep. That helps explain how there’s so little plant life creeping in through the crevasses.

As for the ringing, nobody is exactly sure what makes them do that. It would seem to PQH that it has something to do with the metal content in the rock, but looking at the rocks, they don’t look any different from any other rock, and most rocks don’t chime like a bell when you wallop on them either.
If you go … and you most certainly should, CotB offers a few tips:

  • Wear closed-toe shoes. It’s treacherous at times to climb among all the rocks.
  • Bring a hammer or some other tool for hitting the rocks. We brought hammers, but another visitor who arrived after us had drum sticks. Some videos show people using other rocks to do their “banging.”
  • Because there’s no tree cover of the rocks, it gets really hot in the field. Wear appropriate clothes and a hat.
  • Go to the bathroom before you reach the park. Sure, you can use the Port-a-Potty, but why would you want to?


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