Summer plans to visit my mother in-law allowed us our first ever visit to the lovely southern state of Tennessee.
Never having been to Tennessee I was sort of excited about the idea of visiting a new state. The boy did his 5th grade state report on Tennessee so we got to read a lot about the Civil War, the Chickasaw, and Choctaw Indian tribes, the Predators, the Grizzlies and the Titans (the boy was sorely disappointed to learn that Tennessee does not have a pro baseball team), Elvis Presley, Davy Crockett and Billy Ray Cyrus. But nowhere in our research did we come across anything about …The Lost Sea.
Located in Sweetwater, The Lost Sea is billed as the home of “America’s Largest Underground Lake,” (are there others??) Well this was something I had to see, so on Thursday we rented ourselves a car, grabbed our GPS unit, and left our lake front lodgings and the southern hospitality of Fairfield Glade in search of…The Lost Sea.
Let’s back up a few hundred years. The Lost Sea is actually part of a very extensive system of caves known as Craighead Caverns. The caves have been in use since the days of the Cherokee, who used one particularly large cave as their council room.
During the early 1800′s, Tennessee’s first white settlers used the caverns to store potatoes and other vegetables. The caves remain at a constant 58 degrees, making for a natural and very large refrigerator.
(This was called The Devil’s Hole, or something like that. I thought it looked more like video from a colonoscopy)
(The rare Anthodite, or “cave flower,” is found in only a few caves worldwide)
During the Civil War, the Confederate Army mined the caves for saltpeter, which, in addition to being what I always thought was the anti-Viagra, apparently is used in the making of gunpowder. As time went on, residents began to find other uses for the caves. In 1915 a dance floor was installed in one of its larger caverns. Some caves were used for cockfights, and local moonshiners took advantage of its intricate system of tunnels to produce their forbidden elixir. One such elixer machine still remains in the caves.
What came to be known as The Lost Sea was discovered in 1905 by 13-year old Ben Sands. Ben apparently wormed his way through a tiny tunnel 300 feet underground and discovered a huge cavern half full of water. According to our tour guide, as the explorer credited with its discovery, Ben was given the honor of naming the future tourist attraction, and The Lost Sea was born.
Today, The Lost Sea Adventure provides guided tours and a Lost Sea boat ride each and every day of the year, with the exception of Christmas. The day of our visit it was probably close to 100 degrees, so we were quite anxious to enter the “constant 58 degree” air-conditioned caverns. However if you chill easily (or you’re my mother) you may wish to bring a sweater. Another thing to bear in mind is that the actual underground lake/boat ride part of the tour is just one small part. The majority of the tour involves close to one-mile of walking up and down the sandy paths. The lake itself is 140 feet underground, and once you walk down you must walk back up. You should take this into account when choosing your footwear that day.
The Lost Sea Adventure
40 Lost Sea Rd.
Sweetwater, TN 37874
9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb)
9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (Sept, Oct, Mar, Apr)
9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. (May, Jun, Aug)
9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (July)
Adult – $15.95
Children (5-12) – $7.45