Chattanooga, Tennessee – Come for the hills, explore the holes.
-Our suggested new motto for the city
The Toy Hauler crew loves hilly or mountainous country, so northwest Georgia and Tennessee are much to our liking. As hardy midwesterners, it is south enough to be shorts and t-shirt weather, but not hot enough to sweat… perfect.
With Peg feeling more chipper, we stopped for two nights at Chattanooga to do some sightseeing and spelunking. Our goal was to explore the natural attractions on Lookout Mountain, a 2400 foot ridge across the Tennessee River from the city. Several sites at the top provide awesome panoramic views of the area… and if we could see through fog it would have been impressive.
With our visual stimuli blocked, we went underground to Ruby Falls. Discovered in the 1920’s by Leo Lambert, the falls are named after his wife. While drilling an elevator shaft to a known cave farther below, Leo happened on a series of passages that led to a 145 foot underground waterfall. The new caves and falls quickly became a popular attraction.
Trivia: If the elevator shaft had been drilled six feet from its present location, both caves would have been missed entirely.
Entering through a welcome building part way up the mountain, you take an elevator down 26 stories into the mountain. From there you walk 1/2 mile through tight, twisting passages to the waterfall chamber, gaining 10 feet of altitude but ending up 1100 feet below the higher part of the mountain.
Along the way the passages are filled with various stalactites, stalagmites and other mineral deposit formations.
The formation below is the only one a guest is allowed to touch.
Several formations and the falls itself had dramatic lighting added.
The Leaning Tower formation is estimated to be 3 to 5 million years old.
Everything is better with Bacon… even caves.
The falls cave is impressive, especially when you realize there is over 1,000 feet of rock overhead.
One last note: the guide specifically warns guests not to drink water from the falls. The water is pure, but contains very high levels of magnesium. With such a strong natural laxative, people that have sampled the water don’t make it the 1/2 mile back to the elevator without leaving, er, deposits of their own.
As our guide, Dustin, said: “Cave jokes are the lowest form of humor… and cave puns rock!”