Take an incredible boat ride in an underground lake


If you’re making your 2022 bucket list, put the Lost Sea in Sweetwater, TN on it. It will be an experience that you really don’t want to miss. Kristina took her kids to the Underground Lake and Caves in Tennessee and tells us why it should be on your to-do list.

Still looking for my next adventure, when I heard about the Lost sea just outside of Knoxville, Tennessee, I knew I had to go. I actually keep a list of all the cool things I want to do and places to go and this one has been on my list for a few years as it is rightfully a crystal clear and cold lake 150 feet below the ground among spooky and cool caves. An underground lake.

Did it meet my expectations? Oh yeah, it’s done.

The lost sea

The Lost Sea is the largest underground lake in the country that you will be able to see when you visit the vast caverns. And take a boat ride!

The caves are huge and have been in use since the days of the Cherokee Indians, who often used the caves to hold councils. Many Cherokee artifacts have been found that point to this story.

During the Civil War, Confederate soldiers extracted the caves from saltpeter, which was used to make gunpowder. Before that, the settlers used the constant temperature of 58 degrees in the caves to store their products.

It wasn’t until 1905 that a 13-year-old boy, Ben Sands, set out in search of the alleged cave lake. He eventually found it, but no one believed him until decades later, when explorers found the same lake. To this day, no one knows the size of the lake. The visible portion that you see on the tour is 800 feet long by approximately 200 feet wide and approximately 75 feet deep. Divers attempted to explore underground tunnels protruding from the lake, but were unable to determine the size of the lake.

The Caverns

The majority of the tour takes place on solid ground among the vast cave system that is part of the Craighead Caverns. There are all kinds of rare formations in the caves that your guide will show and point out to you. Many of these formations took thousands of years to reach their present size.

Some parts of the caves have massive rooms and ceilings. If you like geology, you will definitely enjoy the visit. The prevalence of the rare “anthodites”, which we have learned more commonly known as “cave flowers” are abundant in these caves. Most caves do not have these anthodites and for this reason these caves have been designated a registered national monument by the United States Department of the Interior.

One story in particular that I found quite funny was about how a giant cave room was a bar and dance hall in 1947. Guests were given moonlight and because of the depth of the caves (or whatever). thing like that), the effects of the moonlight were not felt by the people who drank, leading them to believe that they were drinking watered down drinks and drinking even more Moonlight. They would feel the effects once they got out of the cave and open the tunnel to leave. Then it was chaos. The bar only lasted two months.

Underground waterfall

I had seen pictures of waterfalls in caves before, but had never seen one in person until this visit.

Crystal Falls is the name of the small underground waterfall in these caverns that pours down somewhere in the cave ceiling over the formations below. Our guide said it was the only known water source entering the caves. It was super cool and flowed into a little stream next to the lake.

The boat tour

Getting to the lake was therefore as exciting as I imagined it to be. The caves open onto this huge dark room except for the lights that shine under the water, illuminating the perfectly clear water. I really wanted to take my kayak or paddle board and take a ride.

The fish all start swimming to the dock once you reach this area. Now, these are no ordinary fish. These are all rainbow trout (no you can’t fish here) that are stored here every two years and are huge. These are some of the biggest trout you will see anywhere. Why? Because they are fed with each visit that enters the caves.

The lake is so clear and unspoiled that no microbes or algae grow for the fish to feast on. They can’t even reproduce here. Hence, they live a fairly sweet life being pampered and fed several times a day. Bending over the boat to get a good look at them was really cool. Part of the boat has a glass bottom so you can see them that way as well.

It was our favorite part of the tour just because it was so unique. Our group was also quite small and not very chatty so the boat tour was very quiet. In fact, the whole time we were in the caves it was very quiet when our guide was not speaking. In a world full of constant noise, it was just a different and noticeable feeling.

Visit of the wild cave

If you’re up for even more adventure, Lost Sea offers the Visit of the wild cave that includes all the cool stuff of the normal tour and the boat ride, as well as rock climbing in unfinished rooms and seeing all the interesting things you don’t see on the regular tour.

These tours are for groups like Boy Scouts, Camps, Churches, or people who just want to explore more. A minimum of 12 seats must be reserved for this tour and reservations must be made at least two weeks in advance.

Eat nearby at Sweetwater Valley Farm

The Lost Sea restaurant and general store were not open when we went so I had to find something else for lunch. And that’s what we’ve done.

We went 20 minutes from Freshwater Valley Farm, a dairy farm set on green hills, for their grilled cheese sandwiches, milkshakes and cheese samples. It was one of the best grilled cheeses and milkshakes I have ever had.

The farm also makes tours of their dairy and cheese farms if you wanted to make it a longer day trip to the area. I’m already dreaming of when to go back for a milkshake.

What you need to know about Lost Sea + tickets

  • The tour is a walking tour and you will be walking approximately three-quarters of a mile in total with the last quarter-mile being all uphill.
  • The boat tour lasts approximately 15-20 minutes and the total duration of the tour is one hour.
  • Parts of the trail in the cave are slippery so wear appropriate footwear.
  • Children must be supervised at all times.
  • Tickets are $ 23.95 / adult, $ 13.95 / age 4-12, and children 3 and under are free.
  • The Lost Sea is open year round except Thanksgiving and Christmas.
  • Animals are not allowed in the caves and on the circuit.
  • There’s also a glassblower, trail, picnic tables, and ice cream shop on property if you want to explore during your stay.

Home school days

Home school days are offered every Monday (except statutory holidays) from August to May and tickets are at the educational rate of $ 11 / student and $ 20 / adult.

The lost sea
140 Lost Sea Road, Sweetwater, TN 423.337.6616


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