Sweetwater, Tennessee: The Lost SeaIt's been lost in a cave. See the sea by boat. It's really a lake, not a sea, but it has hungry fish and helpful tour guides.
Visitor Tips and News About The Lost Sea
A year-long drought in eastern Tennessee has reduced the water in The Lost Sea -- a cave lake turned into a tourist attraction -- to its lowest level since it opened to visitors in 1963. The lake has been around a lot longer than that, of course, but the Indians didn't have to worry about lengthening the dock (so that the tour boats don't get beached) or lowering the underwater light bulbs (so that they remain underwater).
The attraction notes with delight that attendance is actually up this year, often from people curious to see what the mini-Sea looks like, and that the 20-foot drop in the water level has made parts of the cave visible for the first time ever. The 300 rainbow trout that live in The Lost Sea can't be very happy, although visitors now have a much better chance of spotting them.
Lemons into lemonade, in aptly named Sweetwater, Tennessee.[RoadsideAmerica.com Team, 10/02/2007]
My brother and I first visited The Lost Sea as young teen-agers in the 1970s. We liked it so much (for very different reasons) that we revisited it last week. We were very disappointed in our trip, as the lake is 15 feet low and the water so murky that you couldn't see anything. The "glass bottom" boat provided no visibility at all. We advise others to ask about the lake's water level and the clarity of the water before visiting.[Sarah Morgan, 07/17/2007]
The caves were very interesting, and the guide very knowledgeable and amusing. We took many pictures with our digital camera, but because our camera did not have a setting for taking pictures at night, most of them were not usable.
The lake itself was ten feet low and has been that way since last October, according to the guide, due to lack of rain (since the lake is fed by ground water). Because the lake is low, the lights that are usually several feet under water (making it possible to see the fish) were just above water level leaving the water itself very dark and murky looking. The few fish that we saw were dim shadows nearest the lights. We did hear them splashing and jumping out of the water, but we could not see them.
Several visitors mentioned that the boats stank like an old nasty aquarium (because of wet carpet in the boat bottoms).
On a whole we enjoyed the adventure, even though we were disappointed in the lake itself. When we go again we will call beforehand to ask the water level of the lake -- and if it is still low, we will wait until another time.[Suzan Curtis, 08/13/2006]
We just visited the Lost Sea and loved it! My fiance and I were looking for a "cheesy" tourist attraction to complete our road trip, but instead we found one of the coolest, most interesting roadside adventures.
The Lost Sea is very accessible, just off of I-75 and well worth the hour or so spent on the tour. Apparently it gets quite crowded in the summer season, but our visit today had only a few people on the tour, which made for an intimate experience.
The tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and had a lot of interesting anecdotes to share. The cave is gorgeous, and at a constant 58 degrees, it's a nice escape from the February chill. Not only are the caves and lake beautiful, but the recent history is fascinating as well: Native Americans, Confederate soldiers and even a BAR has taken up temporary residence in the caverns and have all made their mark.
I definitely recommend this attraction! Forego Ruby Falls and Rock City, and visit Lost Sea instead![Laura, 02/20/2005]
The Lost Sea
The Lost Sea is in the Craighead Caverns cave system, which was used by Cherokee, local settlers, the Confederate Army and miners in general. Unlike most cave systems, one of its geological features is anthodites (rare, spiky crystalline structures also known as cave flowers). If you're into geology those are cool.
They don't actually know how large the Lost Sea is, because the visible portion of it is connected to some completely submerged rooms that nobody's been able to fully explore. The visible portion of it is 800 feet long by 220 feet wide. We took a glass-bottomed boat with an electric motor out on it. The glass bottoms sounded really snazzy in the tourism info, but turned out to be kind of a bust since the water was really murky from all the recent rainfall. We saw quite a few of the trout the lake is stocked with, though, since our guide fed them.
I'd recommend this for anybody in good health. It's quite easy walking in, but the return trip is uphill, and fairly steep, so not a good place to take your elderly relatives.[Joanne Merriam, 04/19/2004]
The Lost Sea
The Lost Sea
- 140 Lost Sea Rd, Sweetwater, TN
- I-75 exit 60. Turn east onto Hwy 68. Drive a little over seven miles. You'll see the Lost Sea entrance sign on the left.
- Open daily 9 am, closing times vary with seasons. (Call to verify)
- Adults $20.
- RA Rates:
- Major Fun