The Lost Sea Adventure is a guided tour through Craighead Caverns, a cave system located in Sweetwater, Tennessee. At the bottom of Craighead Caverns is The Lost Sea, the largest underground lake in North America and the second largest in the world. Guests can come at anytime and purchase their tour ticket in person or online at thelostsea.com. Each tour consists of a 0.75-mile round-trip tour along the pathways with a stop to ride a glass bottom boat and see the 800-foot by 220-foot lake up close.
The Lost Sea is a perfect family day activity, with each tour lasting around an hour and a half. When it is time for your tour, you will gather in the bright yellow tunnel leading down to the cave and meet your tour guide, who will lead you through the entire trip and give you a ton of history and facts about the caverns along the way. All of the guides are incredibly knowlegeble and are happy to answer any questions you have as you go through the tour. When he or she has completed an initial introduction and provided quick tips and safety instructions, they will lead you into Craighead Caverns and directly into the first large room of the tour. Here you will first stop at an incredible underground waterfall lit beautifully by carefully placed lighting. Then, heading back the way you came you will begin to descend into the belly of Craighead Caverns, stopping to see stalagtite and stalagmite formations as well as some of the rare formations called Anthodites, also known as cave flowers.
Along with the incredible geological significance, Craighead Caverns also has an interesting historical significance for several different reasons. It was used as shelter for the local Cherokee tribes during the days of the first nations, and there were dozens of Native American artifacts including jewlery and pottery discovered in a room now known as The Council Room when the caverns were rediscovered and first recorded in the early 1900s. Some of the artifacts are now on display at the entrance of The Lost Sea Adventure. In the 1800s settlers used the caves for storage and warmth during harsher winter conditions. The caves were also used during that time by Confederate soldiers to mine saltpeter, which they used for the production of gunpowder. There are markings that read "1863" in the cave that have been carbon dated and are in fact from 1863; these were likely left by a Confederate soldier's torch.
As your tour continues you will wind down to the bottom of the caverns and into a steel walkway built to safely trasport guests from the last large room to the lake. Before The Lost Sea Adventure came around in the mid 1900s, the opening was only big enough for a small child to fit through. Ben Sands, the man credited for discovering the lake, was only 13 when he found it back in 1905. The walkway leads you to the dock where the electric glass bottom boats await you. As you tour the lake your guide will give you even more history as he feeds the massive carp that now live in the lake. They were put there by The Lost Sea after guides said they were running out of things to talk about and do on the boat section of the tour!
When you return to the dock and head back up to the entrance you will be faced with a pretty steep hike back up, but every tour has two built-in stops to catch your breath and hear more about the caverns and their rock formations. All in all you will have just had an hour and a half experience most likely like none other in your life. The Lost Sea is an incredible sight to behold, and exploring the caverns on your way there and back is a great bonus!
The next time you find yourself in East Tennessee and cant make it out to the Smoky Mountains or need a change of scenery, head on over to Monroe County and check out one of the coolest caving tours you can ever do! If you're really feeling bold, look out for one of their less-frequently scheduled Wild Tours, which offers a more challenging, hands-on adventure through some incredible routes in the nooks and crannies of the caverns.