Hiding under a mountain in East Tennessee is the Lost Sea, waiting to wow visitors with its vast expanse of never-ending water. It is not only huge; it has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest underground lake in America. It is also part of the Craighead Cavern cave system.
Travel here and you will be amazed with one eye-opening experience. These caves were used by the Cherokee Indians, which they access through a small natural opening. They used the big rooms inside, as evidenced by all the Indian artefacts found in the series of rooms. Now you can see the arrowheads, pottery, weapons and even jewellery.
The history of the cave goes even way back up to 20,000 years ago. The bones of a giant jaguar from the Pleistocene era were discovered back in 1939. Even its tracks remain after all these years.
After the Indians, white settlers discovered the cave around 1820, utilizing the 58 degrees Fahrenheit temperature as an early refrigerator system so they can keep their potatoes and vegetables fresh longer. It also played a role during the Civil War by the Confederate Army, which mined it for saltpeter. This is used for manufacturing gunpowder.
The lake itself was discovered by a 13-year old boy named Ben Sands in 1905. He squeezed in through a muddy hole, going down 300 feet underground. His light could not show exactly how huge the room was, and wherever he threw mud balls, he just heard water splashing.
Nowadays, even with a lot of divers using modern equipment, no one knows how huge the Lost Sea really is. What is known is that the lakes visible part is about 800 feet long and 220 feet wide. The best thing about it is, you can visit this wonderful place by going on tours on glass-bottomed boats.
The Lost Sea is truly one-of-a-kind because divers can only find more and more water as they continue to explore it. Presently, more than 13 acres worth of water has been discovered, without any sign of the end to the water.
Beyond going on a glass-bottomed boat, the cave offers the public more. In 1915, development on some of the portions of the cave began, so that you can even go on the dance floor at one of the upper rooms. Other activities include cockfights, and there is even a very popular brew produced in the mountains. Visitors can shop through the stores, eat and also enjoy some ice cream. For those who prefer to bring their own grub, there are lots of picnic spots where you can hang out and eat.
Getting to the cave is not as difficult, but going to the Lost Sea will be a little more complicated. You can expect to walk about ¾ mile going down 140 feet underground, so less mobile tourists might find this challenging. But along the way, you can see a lot of very rare crystal-like structures named anthodites, also called cave flowers.
This is a one-of-a-kind destination not to be missed, even for claustrophobics, because you will never feel like you are in an underground cave. Trace thousands of years of history when you explore the caves and the Lost Sea and discover this hidden world under the mountains of Tennessee.