Sweetwater, Tennessee: The Lost SeaIt's been lost in a cave. See the class show cave by glass-bottomed boat. It's more of a lake than a sea, but it contains fish and helpful underwater lighting.
Visitor Tips and News About The Lost Sea
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]
I had to put my two cents in, being a former tour guide at the Lost Sea. The tour is quite interesting, with something for everyone. Geology and cave nuts will appreciate the anthodites ('cave flowers') - rare cave formations which are in abundance here. The underground lake is the largest known in the US, and in fact it's the second largest in the world. (Some believe it may actually be the largest, but this is unconfirmed as much of the lake has never been explored or mapped.)
The fish came to be in the lake in an attempt to find the waters' outlet. It was a fruitless venture, though -- they never left. The fish are not white nor are they eyeless; they lose only a bit of color and vision in the dim artificial light. A rare species of cave salamander has been spotted there, but not in quite some time I'm sad to say.
History nuts will also enjoy the visit -- the Cherokee used this cave, as did soldiers during the Civil War. It also housed a Cavern Tavern speakeasy during prohibition, housed military supplies (still there) and served as a local bomb shelter in later years. The lighting of the caverns spawned the first attempt to bring electricty to this area. That pleistocene era cat that was found in the cave is kept at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan.[lisa, 02/29/2004]