Sweetwater, Tennessee is a lovely town nestled in the rolling hills between Chattanooga and Knoxville. It is a peaceful place; a respite from the hustle and bustle most of us have to deal with in our everyday lives. But people don’t only come to Sweetwater to chill out; they come for the rich history and to explore nature, for the unique shops and eateries, and for the wide variety of attractions, including The Lost Sea, the largest underground lake in America. Located deep within the Craighead Caverns, The Lost Sea was discovered in 1905 by 13 year old Ben Sands while he was playing in the cave. This year, it was awarded the number 5 spot in USA Today’s Top Ten Caves in America!
The cave tour was a bit crowded when I went – the wait can be over an hour during the busy season – but if you plan it right, you can spend the wait time browsing the shops in Old Sweetwater Village, have some lunch at the cafe, watch a glass-blowing demo, or stop at the Ice cream parlor for a cool cone on a hot day. (I highly recommend the chocolate chip!)
My guide was not only knowledgeable but very entertaining. I learned a lot about the cave’s history: for example, how it was used by the Cherokee Indians, and later by Confederate soldiers who mined the cave for saltpeter to make gunpowder. I also learned that one of the cave’s first visitors was a giant Pleistocene jaguar, whose bones were found inside the cave.
If you tend to feel claustrophobic and are leery about visiting caves, I think you’ll be fine here. The cave rooms are the largest in any cave in America; as a matter of fact, you can fit a 2 story building in most of the rooms. Definitely take a ride on the glass-bottom boat; you’ll get to really experience the lake and the fascinating cave formations all around you. Also, if you tend to feel the cold, the temperature in the cave is a cool 58 degrees year round, so dress appropriately. I found it very comfortable, especially this time of year. And, be sure to wear good walking shoes. It’s not a difficult walk for most, but the trail can be a bit uneven at times so skip the flimsy sandals.
After your Lost Sea Adventure, you can experience even more natural wonders hiking the beautiful nature trail which winds though the Appalachian Mountains. Here you can explore a wide variety of trees, plants and wildlife.
I really enjoyed spending time at The Lost Sea Adventure…and I was also glad to be back in the charming town of Sweetwater, where I got to relax and take in this beautiful area of East Tennessee.