Mount Nittany

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Mount Nittany
Mount Nittany2.JPG
Southern terminus of Mount Nittany ridge, looking east from the Bryce Jordan Center near State College
Elevation 2,077 ft (633 m)
Location Centre County, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Range Appalachian Mountains
Coordinates 40°49′40″N 77°46′23″W / 40.8277°N 77.7731°W / 40.8277; -77.7731Coordinates: 40°49′40″N 77°46′23″W / 40.8277°N 77.7731°W / 40.8277; -77.7731
Topo map USGS State College Quadrangle
Easiest route White Trail

Mount Nittany is the common name for Nittany Mountain, a prominent geographic feature in Centre County, Pennsylvania. The mountain is part of a ridge that separates Nittany Valley from Penns Valley, with the enclosed Sugar Valley between them. On USGS topographic maps, Nittany Mountain is generally shown as the lower ridge line that runs below Big Mountain on the west and Big Kettle Mountain on the east side, coming together to form a single ridge line at the southern terminus. This nomenclature is not always consistently applied to the same geologic formation, and there is a shorter Nittany Mountain ridge shown above the Sugar Valley as well, its well known in the United States.

The word Nittany is derived from the Algonquian language word Nit-A-Nee meaning "single mountain". According to the Penn State folklore, Nit-A-Nee is also the name of an Indian maiden whose actions caused Mount Nittany to be formed. The original inhabitants of the area used Nit-A-Nee to describe the mountain, and it likely became commonly known as Nittany by the first Europeans to settle the area in the 18th century. The word Nittany was already in use by the time Pennsylvania State University was founded. Some sources cite the word Nit-A-Nee as meaning "barrier against the wind", which is not as likely.[1]

In 1945 the landowners of Mount Nittany were preparing to sell the mountain, allegedly to use timber rights. The alumni of the Lion's Paw Senior Society who heard of this bought an option to buy the mountain. It took the Lion's Paw alumni until May 1946 to raise the money needed to buy the mountain. In 1981, Lion's Paw established the Mount Nittany Conservancy, an organization intended to raise money from the general public in addition to the money raised by Lion's Paw members. Since its establishment, the Mount Nittany Conservancy has purchased hundreds of additional acres on Mount Nittany.

In 2013 The Nittany Valley Society published Conserving Mount Nittany: A Dynamic Environmentalism, a book by Thomas A. Shakely on the history of local conservation efforts in the 20th century that incorporates other histories of the mountain and valley.[2]


View of Beaver Stadium from Mt. Nittany
The Bryce Jordan Center (left), Beaver Stadium (right), and Medlar Field at Lubrano Park (right front) as seen from Mt. Nittany
Views from the summit of Mt. Nittany

The following origin story is of unknown date and authorship, but is believed to be based on Henry W. Shoemaker’s original folklore concerning Mount Nittany and Princess Nita-Nee. The story, quoted roughly below, is available with the permission of the Mount Nittany Conservancy:[3]

Nit-A-Nee, which means "barrier against the wind," was an Indian princess whose lover, Lion's Paw, was killed.
Nit-A-Nee took him into her arms and carried his body back to a place in the center of the valley. She laid the strong brave in his grave, and built a mound of honor to commemorate his strength.
On the last night of the full moon, after she had finally raised the last of the soil and stone over his high mound, a terrible storm began unleashing itself, with thunder, lightning and the wailing of a horrendous wind from the depths of the earth. Every Indian in the valley shuddered, and all eyes looked toward the Indian brave's high mound. There the strong Princess Nit-A-Nee stood, with arms outstretched, to touch the sources of the lightning bolts in the sky.
Through the night they watched with awe as the Indian brave's burial mound grew into a mountain, penetrating through the center of the big valley between the Tussey and Bald Eagle ridges. When dawn finally came, a new mountain was found standing in the center of the valley.
A legend had been born. The burial mound and Princess Nit-A-Nee had been replaced by a mountain; standing on its summit was a lion surrounded by eleven orphaned male cubs, each of whom had the courage of the fearless Indian brave, and the heart and strength of the mysterious Indian princess. Since that day, every place in the valley was safe, and the wind plucked nothing from the fields on which these lions strode, as fearless heroes, from the mountain. The people of the valley, from that date forward, knew only happiness and bounteous plenty.
In the fullness of time, men and women came from across the farthest seas to build a college at the foot of this mountain. The strength and courage of the students of this college became known far and wide.
As each student learned the destructive power of the North Wind across the fields. Each also learned the strength of the Princess known as "barrier against the wind," Nit-A-Nee in her language, and the courage, until death, of the Indian brave known as Lion's Paw.
As long as this strength and courage is known in the valley, Mount Nittany will stand as a breaker against the wind.
This is the legend of Mount Nittany. May it stand forever, high and strong in our midst, our breaker against the harsh winds of destiny and fate, which sweep down from the north.
May Mount Nittany ever rise above us, as the guardian, before the gates of Old Penn State. May the mysterious Indian princess ever stand in our midst as breaker and shield against the destructive power of the winds of fate. And may the Nittany Lion's cubs forever join in the games which are the guarantee of the life of the land we love.


Aerial view of Mount Nittany as seen from State College

"Mount Nittany is part of the Ridge and Valley province of the Appalachian Mountains."[4] The neighboring Bald Eagle, Tussey and Shriner Mountains are part of the same sedimentary formation consisting of, from youngest to oldest, Tuscarora Formation Quartzite, Juniata Formation Shale, and Bald Eagle Formation Sandstone. These layers were folded during the Appalachian orogeny.

Nittany Mountain is part of a synclinal depression of the anticlinal Nittany Arch, which originally formed a huge mountain, since eroded, that towered over what is now Nittany Valley. The present Nittany and Big Mountain ridges were originally a valley in this ancient mountain. The Nittany ridge line is topped by the erosion resistant Bald Eagle Sandstone. The more durable Tuscasora Quartzite formations are found exposed on the higher ridges of the northern end of the same syncline: Big Mountain to "Riansares Mountain" and Big Kettle Mountain to "The Winehead". The more easily eroded Juniata Shale forms the depression between the lower and higher ridges, and the drainage from this area cut small ravines in the Nittany ridge line. The same three rock layers are exposed in the neighboring ridges.

Beneath the sedimentary layers is a formation of Dolomite and Limestone. The Bald Eagle Sandstone topping Mt. Nittany prevents the erosion of the underlying limestone to the same level as the surrounding limestone valleys.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Buchignani, Christopher. "The Legends of the Nittany Valley (Introduction)". The Nittany Valley Society. Retrieved 9 July 2013. 
  2. ^ Shakely, Thomas A. "New Book Tells the Story of Our Mountain". The Nittany Valley Society. Retrieved 9 July 2013. 
  3. ^ "The Legends of Princess Nittany & Lion’s Paw". Mount Nittany Conservancy. Retrieved 7 May 2013. 
  4. ^ Pennsylvania State University - Nittany Mountain

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