Get ready to check “boating on America’s largest underground lake” off your bucket list. Well, first put that on your bucket list because you probably didn’t know that was a thing, then get ready to check it off:
The Lost Sea Adventure
Just a little over an hour’s drive from Chattanooga, the Lost Sea Adventure takes you deep into the Craighead Caverns to The Lost Sea, America’s largest and the world’s second largest non-subglacial underground lake.
The tour begins with the descent down a bright yellow tunnel and into the surrounding rooms of the caverns. The caverns are large and open, and there aren’t the spectacular rock formations like you would find at Ruby Falls or in the Cathedral Caverns. The caves have a long history of usefulness and have entertained a wide array of tenants: they were formerly used by the Cherokees as a meeting place; later Confederate soldier mined them for saltpeter to make gunpowder; in 1939 explorers found remains of a Pleistocene jaguar; the cave housed a mushroom farm from 1939 to 1940; and in 1947 a wooden floor was installed for the Cavern Tavern nightclub, which didn’t fare well as it’s harder to get drunk underground but it will hit you as you go up the steep cave steps and you’ll come tumbling back down.
The underground lake is the highlight of the tour. The lake was discovered in 1905 by a young boy who often played in the caves. But when he went home to tell his parents, they were skeptical. When he was finally able to bring his father back to the caves, the water level had risen and obscured the entrance. The lake was left undiscovered again for years. The tour takes you on a partially glass-bottom boat out into the 4.5 acres lake. There are several rooms connecting beneath the lake, but those rooms are completely underwater and explorers have yet to reach the end of the caves. The Lost Sea Adventure management has introduced rainbow trout to the lake in hopes of finding where the lake flows out to, but the fish are content to stay inside the caves where they are well fed and undisturbed.
Will you be checking America’s largest underground lake off your bucket list? Let me know in the comments!