The cave name is Craighead Cavern and the lake inside of it is known as the Lost Sea.
This was one show cave we really wanted to hit on our way through Tennessee. It looks great, and it has a very interesting history.
I like how some show caves actually have an entrance through their main building/gift shop. I think it is kind of cool how you have to go inside of a place to get to the cave. There is a tunnel from the main gift shop/ticket area into the cave that reminds me of something out of Stargate, or some other cool sci-fi show.
Jaguar remains were found here in 1939. A nightclub was also in operation during the 1940s.
There is a lake here, which was once considered the largest lake in a cave in the world. I believe the guide told us that it is now the second largest, as a bigger one was discovered outside of the US (so it is still the biggest cave lake in the US).
During your cave tour, they actually take you out on the boat. There are fish in the lake.
The lake's history is pretty exciting. In fact, the legend of the lake is one of those stories that almost sounds made up. The legend makes me appreciate how big and unexplored our great country still is.
In 1905 a young boy was exploring the cave, and after climbing around, and not really knowing where he was in the dark cave, he threw some rocks. The sound that the boy heard was a clear plopping sound- the sound of his rocks going in to a body of water.
When he got out, he went around and told people that there was a lake in the cave. Pretty much no one believed him until decades later, when other explorers came across the lake.
Our tour guide told us that when the cave started taking passengers out on the lake in boats years later, that little boy, now a mature adult, was the first tourist to go.
And the legend of the lake gets even better. During the 1970s, a guy named Jim Wyatt explored and mapped out some of the underwater caverns with a team.
You must check out Jim's web site about his mapping adventures. He had access to the caverns, and to their entire underwater system.
Please take a moment to check out Jim's article. Jim is just writing a short description of what he did in the 1970s but it sounds very exciting to me.
On Jim's web site he described the bottom of the like as being very silt like, comparing it to jello. There were no rock bottoms, and in some places the silt was up to 6 feet deep.
Jim described overhead cave ceilings with caked on silt. Obviously, every time they breathed, some of the silt and rocks would fall.
One event pretty much seems to have ended their exploring the Lost Sea. During a dive, a large rock fell near the divers. The rock was described as being the size of a Volkswagen Beetle!
Wyatt notes that the bubbles they were sending up were causing debris to fall. They had little visibility to begin with, and the water was cold.
Jim's group ended their exploration. He says, on his web site, that he feels there were many more passages to be explored there.